Triple Play - Cassie Cole
I stood in front of the baseball stadium with a feeling of awe and excitement. This was Surprise Stadium, in a suburb of Phoenix, Arizona. The stadium where the Texas Rangers played all of their spring training games in the Cactus League.
I couldn’t believe I was an employee of the Texas Rangers. It was literally a dream come true for me. The early March air was cool, but with warm sunshine on my cheeks and neck. I took a few moments to savor the feeling before I approached the entrance to the home team.
“Identification, ma’am?” the security guard asked.
“Oh! Sorry,” I said while fishing my badge out of my bag. “Here you go.”
The guard frowned as he compared the photo to my real-life likeness. “Assistant pitching coach?”
He made another face, then handed the badge back to me. “Go on in.”
I took two steps into the tunnel and paused. “Do you know where I’m supposed to go?”
“You’re the assistant pitching coach. Don’t you know?”
“Today’s my first day.”
His already skeptical expression deepened. “How’s it your first day? We’re almost a month into spring training.”
I struggled to hide my frustration. “I’m replacing someone. Are you going to help me or not?”
Before he could answer, a familiar face came walking up from the parking lot. Not familiar because I knew him, but because Bobby Schultz was a famous pitching coach. He was in his seventies, and had helped develop pitchers for the Mets, Dodgers, and Rangers throughout his career. His skin was leathery and well-tanned, and he wore khaki shorts and a blue polo shirt with the Texas Rangers logo over the heart.
“Bobby,” the security guard greeted amiably. “This girl says she’s your new assistant.”
“I’m the new assistant pitching coach,” I corrected. I didn’t want anyone thinking I was a personal assistant. “Sir, it’s an honor to work with you.”
He shook my hand and blinked. He had small, beady eyes and a bulbous nose. “So you’re the girl Theo sent me,” he said in a thick Georgia accent. Theo Parker was the General Manager.
“Yes sir. Natalie Betts.”
Coach Schultz continued walking down the tunnel into the stadium, and I had to rush to catch up. “What are your qualifications again?”
“I was the pitching coach for Colleyville Baptist High School for the past nine years.”
“Don’t mean much to me,” he grumbled. “You coach anyone higher than that?”
I hadn’t, but I didn’t want to say that out loud. So instead, I said, “Two of my pitchers were drafted last summer. Including the number two overall pick, Adley Witt.”
“Don’t give a damn about teenagers. Big difference between them and boys who can pitch in the show.” He suddenly stopped walking and looked at me. “Colleyville Baptist? Coached by Cory Betts?”
“Yes, sir.” I knew what was coming next.
“He your daddy, or is that just a coink-e-dink?”
“He’s my father, yes. He taught me everything he knows since I was—”
Coach Schultz started walking again. “So that’s how a girl like you got this job. Fantastic.”
“Sir, I promise to be a valuable member of the staff. I grew up in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, so I love the Texas Rangers more than any other team. I’m excited to help lead the team to a championship.”
“We’re at least three years away from a championship,” he replied. “Only have two starting pitchers we can rely on, and a dozen minor league arms who can’t throw for shit.”
“All the more reason I’m needed, then.”
“If you say so,” he said skeptically.
I clenched my jaw to avoid saying something I would regret. I had expected things to be difficult. I had practiced what I would say in the mirror to defend my qualifications and competence in front of people who doubted me. But I expected that from the players and other staff. Not from Bobby Schultz himself. It stung to immediately be dismissed because I was a woman.
We emerged from the tunnel into the stadium, and all of my frustrations with my new boss disappeared. The grass on the field was the greenest I had ever seen in my life, and had been mowed in alternating directions which made the outfield look like it was striped. Dozens of players were on the field, stretching and tossing baseballs back and forth. Above us the sky was deep blue, marred by only a single picturesque white cloud. The sight took my breath away.
I was here at spring training. The big leagues.
Coach Schultz took a deep breath and admired the sight too. Then he seemed surprised that I was still