Mayfield Magic

Chapter 20-The Yard Goats are Here

<Orange County, California>
Several of the passengers on the plane wished the Goats good luck as they disembarked. A couple of passengers remarked that they should have matching shirts to identify them as a team. The boys nodded and politely thanked them.  They had all worn their Yard Goat hats onto the plane, and those who weren’t already wearing them had slapped them on their heads when they shouted out their landing slogan.
Aiden, Gordy, Mason, Nolan, Lenny, Lance, and Riley wore Mayfield Yard Goat t-shirts that they had purchased. All of the players had Yard Goat practice shirts, but they had been told to pack them rather than wear them. A few of the players had groused about not being able to wear them and were told the shirts were for practice only until after the season was over. That had been the policy since the season started, but the complainers felt that this would have been a great time to suspend the rule.
The Goats agreed that one of the best things about disembarking was not having to go through TSA. They could go straight to baggage claim without having to ask for permission.
Coach Hallion called Rita Emerson to ascertain the location of their rented bus. She told them it was in the bus loading area, and they should find it if they followed the signs. She described the bus, and they broke their connection.
After they had claimed their luggage from the baggage carousel, the Goat players followed their coach to the bus loading area, where they saw their 24-passenger bus waiting for them. There was just enough room for their luggage in the baggage compartment. Anything other than their suitcases had to be carried on the bus.
Rita gave some paperwork to Larry and he and Martha Hallion left for the rental car pickup area where they would catch a shuttle to Avis where they would pick up the van that Rita had reserved. Larry and Martha would be the authorized drivers. The boys saw Skip and traded fist bumps and high fives with their newest teammate, who had flown south with his grandmother.
As soon as Larry and Martha were off the bus, Rita closed the door. She turned to face the team and, in her best school bus driver voice, told them that the bus would be their method of travel for the next week and to treat it kindly. “Treating it kindly means to clean up your mess or, better yet, don’t even make a mess. Garbage bags are attached to the seat backs and will be taken care of by me, the coaches and escorts, and one or two volunteer Goats as needed. Since the resort is within the proper distance of the rental outlet, sweeping and dry mopping the floors is covered by our rental contract. That said, you gentlemen are responsible for making sure they have a minimal amount of work to do. Now, we will head for your home away from home.” Rita could have used the bus’s PA but felt her school bus act carried more authority. She knew all of the boys and they knew her.  As far as she was concerned, they were all good kids (‘even though Max could use a good kick in the ass on occasion’,) and knew she really didn’t need to establish her authority since the coaches ran a tight ship.
The boys were quiet the entire trip. In a matter of a few hours they had gone from the familiar to the totally new. They were now in a different state, and from what they could see it may as well have been a different country. Yes, everything was in English, the cars looked the same, they still passed everything from McDonald’s to Pizza Hut, but this was a place none of them had ever seen. They concentrated on the scene outside the windows, as if expecting to see Godzilla leaping over the buildings, crushing cars and houses in the process.
But something did end up generating oohs, and aahs, and that was the appearance of the ocean and the beaches. Now things were looking up as they started to digest the fact that they were where they belonged.
When the bus turned left off the highway, it went past a sign reading “Carlsbad Inn Beach Resort.” As soon as they saw the sign the Goat players ramped up the noise with a big cheer. They were home.
<Carlsbad Inn Beach Resort>
The Goats were awestruck by what they saw. “Wow, I know they said we were close to the beach and everything, but I never thought it would be across the street from us,” Cal said.
“Well, it is, and I can’t wait to go there and swim,” Miles said.
“The picture I saw of the swimming pool looked pretty awesome, too,” Scott said.
“After flying for a couple of hours, I wish we could go swimming before we have practice just so we can chill out,” Lenny said.
“We’ll get our chances,” Aiden reminded everyone as the bus pulled up to a stop at the main entrance. Coach Hallion was the first off the bus and went inside to get the team checked in. Eric was second off to supervise unloading the baggage compartments.
Coach Hallion returned and explained what the process would be. The most important announcement as far as the players were concerned was that lunch would be in forty-five minutes and they were to meet in the lobby at that time. Coach Hallion knew that the boys had been nagged to death about their deportment as representatives not only of the team but of the town of Mayfield. He didn’t think they needed another reminder at the moment, and even if he did mention something, chances were they’d tune him out.
Soon the players were off the bus, had all of their luggage, received their keys, and followed two resort attendants to their rooms. Martha Hallion had arranged for the Goats to check in early. As a result, their rooms were ready for occupancy when they arrived. Coach Hallion told the players to take their luggage to their rooms, unpack, put on their practice gear and report to the lobby in half an hour.
“Do we need to bring our gloves?” Mason asked.
Coach Hallion shook his head. “One less thing to keep track of. Just enjoy your lunch and go back to your rooms for them after you eat.”
The rooms looked even more impressive in reality than they did in the pictures. Each room had two queen beds and a double size rollaway bed. The players occupied six rooms: 201 to 205 and 202 to 206. The three even numbered rooms faced the courtyard and the occupants oohed and aahed and drooled at the size of the courtyard, with its lounge chairs laid from the pool to the large grass expanse between the two wings of the resort. Each room had a balcony from which to enjoy the view. The beach could be seen in part from all six of the rooms. Rooms 201 and 203 had a connecting door as did 202 and 204.
The boys were restricted as to what they could order for lunch. “We don’t want you bogged down on greasy hamburgers,” Coach Hallion said.
“What if we order lean meat?” Max asked. His question elicited a few groans from his teammates. As far as they were concerned only Max would ask a stupid question like that; even the three newbies knew better.
“Just follow directions, or you can sit and watch practice as well as the first game.”
Max thought he was being funny. What he didn’t realize was that since he rarely joked around, his teammates misread him and thought he was serious.
Wearing practice gear for their tournament workout meant wearing their team practice shirts (t-shirts with Mayfield Yard Goats prominently displayed on the front) and either sweats or shorts. They were assured that they wouldn’t be doing any sliding, so wearing shorts would not be a problem.
During lunch, they learned that three other tournament teams would be staying at the resort: St. George, Utah; Tucson, Arizona; and their friends from the Federal Way tournament, the Surrey, British Columbia, Mounties. The Goats were the first of the four teams to arrive at the resort.
As they ate, Larry received a phone call. It was a brief one and consisted mostly of Larry nodding before saying, “Thanks for the heads up, Robert. I’ll tell him as soon as the boys finish lunch.” After ringing off, he turned and faced the table to his right. “I need to talk to Mason as soon as you’re all finished with lunch.” Mason was one of the six boys sitting at the table.
“Oh, oh, what did you do now Mason?” Miles asked.
“We’ve only been here a couple of hours and already Mason is in trouble,” Mac chuckled.
“They’ve probably learned his reputation and are trying to prevent him from causing trouble,” Aiden said,
Mason’s face was a bright red as he tried unsuccessfully to put a bite of mac and cheese into his mouth.
“Give him a break, guys, Mason is not in trouble,” Larry said. “Although this does have to do with his reputation, but not the reputation you low lifes are thinking of.”
Nolan burst out laughing. “Your dad just called you a low life,” he said as he gave Aiden a light punch on the shoulder.
Larry knew he should have waited until after everyone had finished eating to get Mason’s attention, especially in front of this group of jokers. He got up from the table and beckoned Mason to follow him. When they got a few tables away he stooped down to get his head down to Mason’s level and said, “My apologies, Mason; I didn’t mean to open a can of worms. What the phone call was about was the audio-video specialist at the Sports Park wants to do a sound test with you for when you sing. Getting your attention for that could have waited. I did intend not to disturb your lunch.”
“It’s okay, Coach. We’re all friends and I know everybody was having fun. Are you going to tell them what it’s about?” Mason said calmly.
“Whether I tell them, or you tell them, is up to you, but I’d prefer it was me.”
They went back to the tables the Goats occupied and Larry asked for their attention, which he instantly received. “I meant for all this to wait until after lunch, but I wanted to make sure Mason saw me before he left the dining room. Anyway, what the call was about was simply that while we are at the Sports Park they want to do a sound test for when Mason sings ‘America the Beautiful.”. 
“They didn’t do that when he sang in Centralia did they?” Grant asked. “And it came out okay.”
“This just shows that the Mission Sports Park is way more big time than little old Centralia,” Trent pointed out.
“It means we get to have a preview of Mason’s performance,” Riley said. “How awesome is that?”
Most of the boys ate mac and cheese, but some had a sandwich instead. Max went the mac and cheese route, staying as far away from eating a hamburger as he could. Dessert was not included with their lunch, leading to minor grousing.
Eric said it was a matter of timing since they had had the field reserved for a set time. “You’re welcome to order a dessert to go if you’re willing to pay for it,” he said. That ended the grousing. What the players and coaches didn’t know was that a treat would be part of their session at the Mission Sports Park.
After finishing their lunches, the players went back to their rooms, took pisses if needed, grabbed their gloves and equipment bags, and headed down to the lobby. As they gathered in the lobby a tour bus rolled up to the loading zone. It didn’t take long to ascertain that the bus had brought one of the baseball teams since a line of boys exited the bus.
“Hey, that’s the Mounties,” Aiden said as he saw their Canadian friends Warren and Tommy.
“Awesome—my favorite Canadians,” Mason smirked. Following Tommy was a tall, skinny boy with brilliant red hair. “That redhead looks new.”
“He must be a pickup pitcher,” Aiden said.
Aiden, Mason, and Gordy traded hugs with Tommy and Warren.
Tommy introduced the ginger to them. “This is Asher. He’s one of our pickup pitchers. He’s from Australia.”
“You brought a guy all the way from Australia?” Aiden asked incredulously.
“Not quite, he moved to Canada last year. He lives in White Rock and beat us twice during the season. He’s good.”
Aiden introduced Nolan to the three Canadians. “He’s even cuter than his pictures,” Warren grinned.
“Oh, and by the way, Asher is like Warren and me, and you guys except for Gordy.” What Tommy had just told Aiden, Nolan, Mason, and Gordy was that Asher was gay. “We’ll need to get together before the week is over.”
The socializing came to an end when the Mounty coach told the team to gather together, and Rita Emerson drove the Goat bus into the driveway loading zone a couple of minutes later. It was time for the Goats to head to practice.
“It’s bleeping hot out there,” Miles said loudly as he took his seat on the air-conditioned bus. The temperature outside at 12:30 was 81 degrees. “And it’s only gonna get hotter the rest of the afternoon.”
“Well, it is Southern California,” Mac reminded him.
“And it could be worse. We’re close to the ocean which will keeps things cooler,” Gordy pointed out.      
“Well, then be sure to remind me not to play baseball where it’s a long way from the ocean,” Miles said. “It would be like playing in an oven.”
“Yeah, like Arizona,” Aiden said. “I bet that team from Tucson will think they’re playing in a refrigerator.”
“I guess the moral to the story is to stay out of the kitchen,” Scott grinned.
“Besides, the average August temperature in San Marcos is just over 80, so we won’t be much warmer than average. And the average August day in Mayfield is around 77, so it’s not like it’s that much different.”
“Leave it to Aiden to know this stuff,” Max said.
“Well, it’s hotter than Clark Pass gets up in the mountains. I’m glad the coaches are letting us wear shorts,” Cal said. “They’re not only cooler, but they show off my sexy legs.”
His comment brought laughter throughout the bus and the topic turned away from the temperature to asking Trent what practice would be like. Since Trent was the coach’s son as well as a team captain, he had the inside scoop and was happy to share it. Everyone was relieved that it wasn’t going to be a grueling workout. It would be what Coach Hallion had promised; a way to get the kinks out.
Mason sat alone in the back seat, quietly doing some voice warmups. His teammates understood what he was doing and knew enough to leave him alone.
The boys on the right side of the bus didn’t know that when they arrived at the complex in twenty minutes they would see two boys standing inside the gates who they had not expected to see.
<San Marcos, Mission Sports Park>
The main complex of Mission Sports Park contained eight baseball fields on the north end. Designated Fields 1 through 8, they all had skin (dirt) infields which allowed baseline and pitching distances to be adjusted based on the level of baseball being played. To the south were two pairs of soccer fields and south of them were two more baseball fields designated Fields A and B. These fields had grass infields and could only accommodate teams using the professional-sized 90-foot baselines.
There was a ticket booth at the main gate and two men were standing near it. The younger man, Quinn Murphy, was in his mid-twenties and was the audio-video technician for the complex. The older man, Manuel Gomez, was 40 and a member of the BaseBrawl Committee. He was there to greet and guide the teams entering the complex for practice. Gomez was reviewing the paperwork showing the teams scheduled to practice that day and noticed the Mayfield Yard Goats were scheduled to practice on Field 2 at 2:00 pm.
“What the hell’s a Yard Goat?” Manuel asked Quinn.
“Got me,” Quinn replied with a shrug. “Why?”
“The Yard Goats from up in Mayfield, Washington, are slated to practice at two.”
Manuel then proceeded to tell Quinn about the fact that some members of the tournament committee had discussed turning down Mayfield’s request to enter the tournament. They were concerned about a small-town team from a remote area entering the tournament and getting knocked out in two games decided by the mercy rule, and then having the same thing happen in the consolation tournament. They felt it wouldn’t be fair for the losing team to suffer such humiliation or even for the winning teams for being denied a chance to play top-tier competition.
But the committee ended up voting 7-3 to allow the team to enter. If the Mayfield team had a losing or even mediocre record their application might have been rejected. But the team had had a second-place finish in an invitational tournament that included teams from large metropolitan areas and won the championship of a league that covered the southeast quarter of the state. That added up to a 22-7 record on their resume and there was no way the committee could justify denying them entry into the tournament.
“To make matters worse,” Quinn said, “one of the Yard Goat players was selected by Carol to sing ‘America the Beautiful’ to open the Friday games. I like and respect Carol, but she based her decision on a video not on a live audition. That makes me nervous. When they get here, I have to take the kid up to the Field 1 booth to do sound tests.”
“Good luck,” Manuel responded as a car approached the gate. “Looks like we have a visitor.”
Jaden’s mother, Glenda, stopped her car in front of the main gate of the Mission Sports Park. Jaden and Alex clambered out of the back seat of her car. Alex turned and picked up the canvas bag that had been sitting in the middle of the back seat between him and Jaden. Once he lifted the bag out of the car, Alex told Glenda they would call her when they were ready to be picked up and followed Jaden toward the gate. Glenda drove off to do some shopping until they called her to be picked up.
As they entered the complex, Quinn stopped them. “Do you have business here?” he asked rather brusquely.
Jaden, who was the more diplomatic of the two boys, answered. “We’re here to meet the Mayfield Yard Goats who have a practice here soon.”
“The Yard Goats are scheduled to practice at two,” Manuel said.
“What the hell is a Yard Goat?” Quinn asked. “Pardon my French, boys.”
“I’ve said way worse,” Jaden informed them.
“Ditto,” Alex said. “I know it has to do with trains. You’ll have to ask one of the players if you want to know more.”
“Are you two from Mayfield?” Manuel asked.
“We live in East Harbor,” Jaden answered. “My cousin lives in Mayfield and plays for the Goats.”
“And I used to live in Mayfield,” Alex said. “My best friend from when I lived there plays on the Goats.” Alex used term “best friend” relatively since their relationship had been a volatile one. He also didn’t mention that his best friend happened to be Jaden’s cousin.
“Do you know a boy named Mason?” Quinn asked Alex.
“I know who he is from school and stuff, but it’s not like he was a friend or anything.”
“He’s supposed to sing ‘America the Beautiful’ on Friday, so I was just wondering if you had any idea how good of a singer he is.”
“Everybody says he’s good, but I never heard him sing much except on a couple of school programs. I guess he sounded okay, but I don’t know much about music.” Alex fought down the urge to say that Mason did have the reputation of being an excellent skin flute player.
Quinn considered Alex’s opinion of Mason’s musical ability to be what was known as “Damning with faint praise” variety.
Quinn decided to change the subject. “What’s in the bag?” he asked Alex.
“Do you get the idea we’re getting the third degree?” Alex asked Jaden.
“It’s no big deal. I’m just curious,” Quinn said.
“Well, in that case it’s four dozen chocolate chip cookies for the Goats to snack on, and a few others from a new recipe I tried. Would you like one?”
“Did your mother bake these for you?”
Alex shook his head. “Nope, I baked them myself. Would you like to try one?”
“His cookies are radical,” Jaden said. “And his chocolate chip are his best.”
Alex reached into the bag and pulled two cookies out of one of the tins he had used. “Give them a try.”
Both men were skeptical of that, but they each grabbed a cookie and bit into it. Quinn took the first bite. “Wow, this is an outstanding cookie. Not only the taste but the texture. I mean, it’s like professional. My name is Quinn, and you can bake me cookies any time, kid.” The man stuck out his hand and Alex took the hint and shook it.
“My name is Alex and I’m glad you like them.”
“This is one outstanding cookie. But four dozen is quite a few cookies,” Manuel said.
“You figure they got more than fifteen players plus a couple of coaches. At two cookies a person that’s around three dozen,” Alex explained. “And then we’ve got to pay bribes to the dudes at the gate so we can enter the ballpark, plus feed me and Jaden, and that’s getting up there in cookies.”
“And, it’s really hard to eat just one,” Quinn chuckled.
Alex took the hint and handed him one more. “The rest are for the Goats,” he said.
“Not a problem and thanks for sharing them.”
The discussion between the boys and the two men was interrupted by the arrival of the Goats’ bus. “Here come the small-town boys,” Quinn said. “That little bus gives them away, but then so does the field schedule.”
“They might be small-town boys, but they got a really good baseball team,” Alex said defensively.
“And they earned that reputation playing who, other small-town teams?”
“A win is a win is a win,” Jaden chimed in.
“Mayfield high school has, like, four state championships,” Alex muttered under his breath. Jaden was able to pick up what Alex said and gave his friend a smile and a wink.
“Well, they’re all wearing the same t-shirts and hats, so at least they look like a team,” Manuel said with a sense of relief. They weren’t as decked out as some of the big-time California teams were, but they didn’t look like a total ragtag outfit.
Jaden and Alex turned and looked directly at the bus to watch the boys exiting. They knew some of the boys and didn’t know others, but the boy they were looking for was Grant—the rest could wait their turn. Grant was the ninth boy off the bus. Jaden and Alex yelled out, “HEY GRANT!” simultaneously as soon as they saw him. 
Grant had been sitting on the left side of the bus and hadn’t seen the two boys until he stepped off. As soon as he saw them, he heard them call out his name and knew instantly who they were. “JADEN! ALEX!” he screeched as he dropped his bag on the ground and ran for the gate.
“I get the feeling those three know each other,” Manuel chuckled.
“I have a feeling that the cousin and the best friend are one and the same,” Quinn said.
“Only in small-town America.” Manuel surveyed the team entering the Sports Park and was amazed by how small they were.  “And only small-town America could send a team of little boys to a big boy tournament in California.”
“They’ve got a couple of big kids,” Quinn observed.
“Yeah, probably big and slow and can’t hit,” Manuel said dryly.
The two men’s attention then turned to Grant who was now face to face with his two “friends”. He gave his cousin the first hug and then turned to Alex, who was waiting patiently. Patience was a character trait that Grant was not familiar with as far as Alex was concerned. The two boys’ long, complex relationship had led to a series of misunderstandings when Alex suddenly left Mayfield for East Harbor. Neither one was sure which of them should initiate the hug they each wanted to share.
By this time all the team members had stepped off the bus and walked as far as the gate with Aiden and Trent in the lead. They stopped to see how the uncomfortable stalemate would be broken. Aiden and Trent knew of the near tragic history between Alex and Grant, and they wondered if and when a fight would break out.
Lance, on the other hand, knew the recent history between them that had unfolded since Alex left for East Harbor. He wasn’t surprised at all when Grant and Alex stepped to each other simultaneously and exchanged a long hug that found them both smiling and laughing.
“Oh, damn, it’s great to see you, and even better to touch you,” Alex cooed.
“Thank you for sharing how you’re doing since you moved,” Grant said. “You don’t know what your calls and text and videos mean to me.”
“It goes both ways. By the way, you’d better go back and get your bag,” Alex said with a smile. “You left it lying by the bus.”
“Oh, shit, I forgot all about it.” Grant raced back to the bus, grabbed his bag, and ran back to rejoin his friend.
Manuel and Quinn were watching all the hugging when they saw three men making their way through the crowd of boys and approaching the gate.
“I’m James Hallion, the coach of the Yard Goats,” Hallion said. “These are my assistants, Larry Sanders and Eric Simmons.” Quinn had observed that most of the teams had at least three assistants and thought that having only two was indicative of the smallness of Mayfield.
Manuel and Quinn introduced themselves and handshakes were exchanged. “Field 2 is all yours at two,” Manuel said.
As the Goats waited for everyone on the team to enter the complex, the San Diego Force, whose practice had ended, was leaving the field. Aiden knew that Tim Whalen played for the Force and looked for him in the group of players. “This is Tim’s team,” he told Nolan.
“I know, but I don’t see him,” Nolan said.
“He texted me a couple of days ago that he had a noon practice.” Tim was the thirteen-year-old brother of Wade Whalen, a player on the Mariners. Like Marty, Wade was gay, but unlike Marty he hadn’t come out publicly, mostly because he had just come out of the closet and admitted it to himself.
Aiden was about to ask a player if Tim had been at the practice when he heard somebody call out his name behind him. He turned and saw Tim and another Force player running to catch up with their team.
“Tim!” Aiden grinned. The two boys exchanged a quick hug. “I thought I missed you.”
“Sorry, but our coach wanted to talk to me and Gene about something.”
‘Ahh, so that’s Gene, the boy Tim jerks off with,’ Aiden thought.
Tim turned to Gene and said, “This is Aiden, the kid I met at the Mariner game when I went to watch Wade. He’s Marty’s ‘little bro’. And Aiden, this is my best friend, Gene.” Aiden and Gene exchanged a fist bump. “And that big kid behind him is Aiden’s boy…Aiden’s…um…”
“It’s okay, you can say it,” Aiden grinned.
Tim nodded. “This is Aiden’s boyfriend, Nolan.” he finally spit out.
“Wow, boyfriend? So, you guys are like Marty and gay?” Gene asked.
“Yep, but we’re not married yet,” Aiden grinned.
“That’s our coach coming,” Tim said. “We gotta get going. I want to get together with you and Nolan while you’re here. I’ll text you or you text me. We’ll figure something out.”
“Gene can join us too, if he wants.”
“Sure. Tim said he had a good time when he met you guys at the game. He said you were smart and fun to be around,” Gene said.
“Gotta go,” Tim said. He put his mouth close to Aiden’s left ear. “I got a lot to say about sex,” he whispered. Then he and Gene ran to catch up with their team.
“Do you think we’ll get together?” Nolan asked Aiden.
“I doubt it, but it doesn’t hurt to try because you never know.”
“Tim is cuter than the pics you showed me, and Gene is totally hot. Too bad those two aren’t gay.”
“They’ve got no problem jerking off together. And Tim whispered in my ear he wanted to talk about sex. So, who knows what might be going on between those two. I mean you and I taught Tim a few sexy things when he was visiting his brother.”
“I guess we’ll have to see what he learned,” Nolan grinned.
As the Goat Players started for Field 2, which was the field they had been assigned to practice on, Quinn asked which boy was Mason. Mason raised his hand and stepped up to him. Quinn had a tough time hiding his disappointment. The boy was one of the smallest of the small boys on the team and probably had a voice that lacked punch and couldn’t stay on key. It was his experience that getting a small sounding boy’s voice to come over the system sounding even halfway passable would take all his skills as a sound technician. Outwardly he looked enthusiastic about meeting Mason.
“Hi, Mason, I’m Quinn, the chief technician for this complex.”
Mason surprised him by holding out his hand. “Pleased to meet you, Mr.,” he said as the two shook hands. Quinn left his surname hanging. He was surprised by the strength of the young boy’s handshake. “Coach Sanders said you wanted to do some tests.”
“That’s right. If you can get one of your teammates to take your equipment bag to the dugout, we can head up to the press box and get the tests started. They shouldn’t take more than ten minutes.”
‘Unless I have to work on creating a sound engineering miracle or two,’ Quinn thought.
“I’ll take your bag to the dugout, Mason,” Miles offered. “You’re gonna kick ass on that sound test.”
“We all know what a great singer Mason is,” Aiden added. “Now he’s gonna show everyone else.”
“Thanks guys,” Mason grinned. Hearing the encouragement helped settle the butterflies in his stomach. He and Quinn left for the Field 1 press box.
Meanwhile, Trent noticed Alex and Grant still talking.  “I hate to break up this little love fest, but Grant needs to join the team for practice. Better I tell you instead of the coaches.” He noticed Alex was carrying a canvas bag. “What’s in the bag, Alex?”
“Snacks for when your coaches decide you need to stop for a snack,” Alex replied.
“Which I hope is real soon,” Grant said as he picked up his equipment bag and headed for the field. “I hear your snacks are pretty good.”
“You’d better believe it, cuz,” Jaden said.
As the Goats left for Field 2 to get practice started, Lenny was heard to say, “From the way that dude was looking at Mason, I got the feeling he’s gonna shit his pants when he hears Mason sing.”
As Quinn started for Field 1 with Mason, Manuel called him over and asked if he had found out what a Yard Goat was. “Nope, I forgot to ask. But we could ask Mason.”
“No biggie. Take care of your business with Mason. I’ll ask the team when I officially greet them before they start practicing and let you know.”
<Mason’s Sound Test>
Quinn ushered Mason into the Field 1 press box which also contained the central equipment room for the audio and video systems controlling all eight fields.  From there he followed Quinn into the communications room. Mason was impressed by the number of computers and monitors. All of the computer systems were off except the system that controlled Field 1.
“Have you ever sung into a microphone?” Quinn asked.
“Yeah. I’ve even done it at a baseball field,” Mason said with a touch of pride.
“Oh? What did you sing?”
“’The Star-Spangled Banner.’”
“Impressive.” Quinn wondered how the little runt handled that assignment. The National Anthem was not easy to sing even for an experienced singer.
“I guess the lady who asked me to sing here saw a video of me singing it and liked it,” Mason said proudly.
That lady had to be Carol Novak, Quinn thought. He totally respected Carol and the work she was doing for the tournament. If it was Carol, then there must be more to Mason than he thought, because there was no way she would embarrass the tournament committee by foisting a mediocre performer on them.
Wanting to speed the process up, Quinn did a mic check and asked Mason if he wanted to do any warmups before starting to sing. Mason replied that he had warmed up on the bus and was ready to sing.
Quinn had Mason sing a couple of notes so he could adjust his volume levels and then switched on the Field 1 speakers. “Okay Mason, go for it.”
“O beautiful for spacious skies,
For amber waves of grain,
For purple mountain majesties
Above the fruited plain!
America! America! God shed His grace on thee,
And crown thy good with brotherhood
From sea to shining sea!”
From the first two words, Quinn was hooked. He could tell right away that the kid was good. His high, but rich, voice soared over Field 1. He made a few adjustments to enhance the timbre of Mason’s voice while keeping its natural beauty. Quinn knew that the park’s PA system was not built for musical performance, but it was an outstanding system and gave a reasonably accurate portrayal of the young boy’s voice.
When Mason reached the last line, he added a little bit of his own enhancement to Quinn’s “enhancement” before stretching out “sea” to finish off the song. Even though Mason’s ideas for presenting the completion of the song were spot on, his voice missed the exact notes he wanted to sing by a smidge. It was something he and Quinn noticed instantly.
“Mason, that was incredible,” Quinn said. “I don’t know what I was expecting, but it wasn’t what I just heard.”
“I didn’t quite hit the pitch I wanted at the end,” Mason said, sounding like a baseball player as much as a singer. “I didn’t have much time to practice the finish, but I’ll get it by Thursday.”
Quinn was pleased that Mason noticed his shortfall; that told him a lot about Mason’s state of mind and the thoroughness of his training. He wondered if Mason might have missed his perfect note because the onrush of puberty could be doing its damage to the clear, beautiful tone. “You can get it right in less than a minute.” Quinn flipped a couple of switches and adjusted a couple of dials. “Okay, I have the system set up to broadcast over all eight fields. On my signal, I want you to sing the song from ‘America’”.
Quinn held up his left hand and when he dropped it, Mason went right into the song.
“America! America! God shed His grace on thee,
And crown thy good with brotherhood
From sea to shining sea!”
This time he hit his last notes perfectly and he and Quinn broke into broad smiles. “Perfect!” Quinn called out. Mason’s finish had sent chills down his spine. The boy was not only very talented but had also been well taught. “Now you know you can do it and don’t have to practice it.”
After the slow start between them, Mason was starting to like Quinn, but he had to comment on Quinn’s little mistake. “That’s not how it works Mr. Quinn. What it all means is that I have to practice it harder, so the same mistake won’t happen again.”
“I like your attitude, Mason. I bet you think the same way on the baseball field. How about you head back to Field 2 and rejoin your team.”
“I will,” Mason grinned. “And thanks for being so helpful on the test. You made it really easy to do.” Before Quinn could react, Mason was gone.
<Yard Goat Practice>
While Mason was preparing for his sound test, the Goats had arrived on Field 2 and were preparing for their practice. They put on their cleats, stuffed their cups into their jocks, and got their gloves ready. Some grabbed a ball from the ballbag to warm up with.  
Aiden was sitting next to Grant in the dugout as they put on their cleats. “How is it you and Alex suddenly like each other again?” Aiden asked.
“Why is it you couldn’t say hi to him or even nod your head at him when you came into the ballpark or when you just passed him on the field?” Grant responded. Grant liked and respected Aiden as much as anybody on the team but felt he could be very opinionated at times which tended to piss him off a little bit.
“Because he treated me and a lot of our friends and teammates like crap when we were all trying to help him.”
“How do you think he treated me?” Grant snapped.
“That’s my point. I see no reason to be nice to him.”
Grant cinched his right shoestring tightly and stomped out of the dugout to the ballbag where he grabbed a baseball. Aiden shook his head and followed him. ‘A guy’s gotta earn forgiveness,’ he thought as he also took a ball from the bag. Lance and Gordy had both overheard the conversation but knew this wasn’t the time to say anything.
As the team prepared to run out to the outfield to warmup their arms, Coach Hallion told them to hold up. “Mr. Gomez, who is on the tournament committee, would like to talk to the team briefly before we start practice.”
The boys took seats in the first two rows of the first base stands. “Hello, everyone,” he said as soon as Coach Hallion quieted them down. “My name is Manuel Gomez. I would like to welcome you to San Marcos and the SoCal BaseBrawl. I have seen from your record and your scores that you have an excellent ballclub and I look forward to watching you play.” He was fudging the truth a bit when he said those last words, but it was his job as a welcomer to be diplomatic.
Suddenly, the words “testing…testing” came over the Field 1 PA. Manuel stopped, knowing the Goats would be listening to their teammate sing in a few seconds. Mason’s distinctive voice carried over to Field 2 and the Goats, along with Manuel, listened to a fine performance by the little twelve-year-old. Even though they didn’t know if Mason could hear them, the Goats stood up and cheered as soon he had finished. Manuel and all three coaches could tell that Mason had just missed on his closing, but of the Goat players, only Aiden, Scott, Grant, and Riley could tell that it had been very good but not perfect.
With murmurs of approval regarding Mason’s performance, the players turned their attention back to Manuel. But he held up his hand and asked the team to wait for one last test. They didn’t have to wait long for Mason’s voice to broadcast again, singing the last stanza of the song. Quinn had activated the speakers for Field 2 and this time  Mason hit his finish perfectly and even those who didn’t realize he had been off a little the first time could tell the difference.
Manuel finished by showing a championship t-shirt. “Who knows, maybe the Mayfield Yard Goats will be the team to wear these shirts out of the ballpark on Sunday.” Manuel didn’t believe that for a second, but it was part of his spiel in his greeting for all the teams. He had already talked to the ten teams who had scheduled earlier practice time and one thing he did believe about the Mayfield team was that so far they were the team he had enjoyed the most. They had shown themselves to be sweet, polite boys, and the fact that Alex the cookie maker had gone out of his way to bake four dozen cookies and bring them to his former teammates said a lot to him. Of course, he had no idea that they were not former teammates, but it sounded good in his mind.
“Before I go, could one of you please tell me what a Yard Goat is?” Manuel asked.
Almost every player raised his hand. “How about the blond kid to my left,” Manual said, pointing to Aiden. “Give me your name and the answer, please.”
Aiden pointed to the circle on the left breast of his t-shirt which had a drawing of a locomotive inside of it. “My name is Aiden, and a yard goat is a railroad locomotive usually called a switcher and some call it a goat. It works in a freight yard switching cars, so it’s known as a yard goat. A minor league team that used to play in Hartford, Connecticut had the name, and because one of our sponsors is a short line railroad that goes through Mayfield, we got the Yard Goat name.”
Manuel saw he lucked out and called on a very articulate boy.  He thanked the boys for their attention and encouraged them to enjoy their practice.
A huge cheer went up when Mason came running onto Field 2. High fives were exchanged as though Mason had just hit a grand slam home run.
“You sounded awesome,” Miles said. “I knew you were going to kick ass.”
Even though their concentration level was down some because of their early morning wakeup time, the excitement of the flight, the hot weather, the unexpected meeting up with Alex and Jaden, and plain all-around tiredness, the practice went reasonably well. Because his chief goal for practice was to get some of the kinks out and remind the team that their chief goal on the trip was to play sound, fundamental, winning baseball, Coach Hallion wisely kept the drill work to simple fundamentals.
The practice was slated to be an hour and fifteen minutes with a ten-minute break around the halfway point. A plastic keg of water had been set up in the first base dugout. As soon as Coach Hallion called the break, the players asked if they could each eat one or two of Alex’s cookies. Coach Hallion nodded and said, “But just one.”
“Eating just one is going to be harder than they think,” Jaden said quietly to Alex.
All seventeen active players along with Rusty and the three coaches enjoyed a cookie, and they all raved about Alex’s chocolate chip cookies. “Is there enough for us to have a second cookie after practice?” Miles asked.
“If you wish,” Coach Hallion said. “Alex, I think everybody agrees that your cookies are amazing. As hard as it sounds, though, I suggest you keep them for an evening snack,” he then told the team.
“I think if we want the cookie later, we leave it in one of the tins”, Scott said. “I know that if I wrapped mine up in a napkin and carried it with me for later it wouldn’t make it to the hotel.”
“Do you just bake cookies, Alex?” Eric asked.
“Nope. I also bake bread, pies, cakes, and am working on donuts. Cookies are my favorite to make, especially chocolate chip and oatmeal raisin,” Alex replied.
Whether it was the cookies or the fact that they could see the end of practice looming near, the second half of practice had a little more zip to it. When practice ended, everyone but Max, Emmett, and Cal left their second cookie in its tin. The other two took theirs, but when Cal saw that they were the only three to grab another cookie, he wrapped his in a napkin and placed it back into the tin. Emmett wasn’t sure if he wanted his cookie now or later, but finally went for later and followed Cal’s lead. Max took his cookie because he was Max and liked to be different.
The water keg, paper cups, and napkins were supplied by the BaseBrawl committee. A keg and cups would be placed in each dugout during a game.
Before dismissing the players, Coach Hallion announced the starting lineup for the first game, including the starting pitcher. Coach Hallion and his two assistants had discussed all the possible permutations as far as winning and losing went in the first three games and decided to limit announcing the starting pitcher for the opening day game only. After that the starting pitcher would depend on the outcome of the games. Trent would be the opening starter. The Goats, who discussed the pitching a great deal amongst themselves, liked the idea of Trent, their ace, being the opening starter as opposed to Nolan, their pickup ace. They knew Nolan would get his chance to shine, maybe in Game 2.  
“Please note that it is unlikely a starter will pitch more than three or four innings,” Coach Hallion said. “It will all depend on their pitch counts, of course. Think of them more as openers than as starters. Our bullpen pitchers are going to be very busy in this tournament. And on that note, get your cleats off, grab your bags, and head for the bus.”
The players changed from their cleats to their trainers and yanked their cups out of their jocks with sighs of relief. Grant, Lance, Lenny, Riley, and Gordy sat with Alex and Jaden in the front row of the first base bleachers and chatted as they changed their shoes.
“Thanks again for the cookies, Alex. They were beyond awesome,” Grant said.
“Thank Doc Meijer,” Alex said. “He got me into baking stuff. I ended up really liking it and everybody says I’m good at it.”
“From everything you’ve told me Doctor Meijer’s really helped you a lot.”
“Grant told me you’ve got a boyfriend,” Riley said.
“Yep, I do, and I think we like each other a lot—probably even love each other.”
“You think you do? You mean you’re not sure?” Lance asked.
“I’m still getting used to this idea of liking and loving somebody and figuring what it’s all about. I know your boyfriend’s told you about how things were between us.” Grant and Lance were now boyfriends. “Doc Meijer says I gotta unlearn a lot of shit at the same time I’m figuring out the really good stuff.”
Grant, who had his cross trainers laced up, grabbed Lance’s hand and squeezed it. “I’ve had to go through some of the same stuff, but I’m positive I love Lance,” he said.
“And I’ll grant you I love my boyfriend,” Lance said, enjoying his little pun.
Lenny and Riley were holding hands as they listened in. They looked at each other and nodded, which they felt was all they needed to say.
“Hey, this idea just popped into my head and I haven’t said nothing to anybody else, but I’m gonna ask it and we’ll see what happens,” Grant said. “Do you guys think you’d like to spend the afternoon at the resort with us?”
“Whoa, that would be wicked,” Jaden grinned. “What do you think, Alex?”
“I think I could handle it. But we gotta ask your mom first,” Alex replied.
“How about you guys ask Aunt Glenda first and then if she says yes then Jaden and me will do our best poor little puppy dog act on the coaches,” Grant told them.
Jaden called his mother, who told him that she was fine with Alex and him spending some time with Grant and his friends. Since Alex would be staying with them until Alex’s mother got off work at seven, she felt her permission was good for both boys. She would let Alex’s mother know about the decision when and if Grant’s coaches approved. She said she would be at the ballfields in five minutes in case the coaches needed to talk to her.
While that conversation was going on, teams were arriving for a 3:30 practice as the Goats were leaving the field. One of them was the Surrey Mounties, which led to a larger round of verbal greetings, high fives, and hugs between them and the outgoing Goats than had occurred at lunch. Coach Hallion, Larry, and the Mounties coaches had to hustle their teams along.
After the Goats exited the park and walked to where their bus was waiting, Grant sidled up to Coach Hallion. He gave the coach his best puppy dog look and, using his pleading for permission voice, asked if Jaden and Alex could come to the resort with them as a reward for providing the practice with cookies. “Jaden’s mother said it’s okay and she would talk with you if you need her to.”
The coach said he would consult with Coach Sanders and Coach Simmons and be right back to them. He walked to where Eric was herding the Goats onto the bus but didn’t see Larry.  Eric was thinking of how it might actually be easier to herd actual goats than to herd a team of pubescent boys when Hallion asked him about the request regarding Alex and Jaden.
“It sounds good to me as long as you set some hard and fast rules for them,” Eric told Coach Hallion. He felt he his answer sounded very coachlike.
Larry showed up with a young man wearing a Huntington Beach t-shirt and the look of a coach about him while Coach Hallion looked for Grant. The coach found him standing with Jaden, Alex, and Lance at the end of the disorganized group of boys milling around while waiting their turn to board the bus. “I’ll give my okay once I’ve talked to Jaden’s mother,” he told Grant.
“You should be able to do that right away, because here comes my Aunt Glenda now,” Grant said.
“What’s the big discussion about?” Larry asked.
“Grant is asking permission for his cousin Jaden and friend Alex to spend the rest of the afternoon with the team at the resort,” James Hallion answered.
“Sounds good to me as long as the proper permissions are granted.”
“Here’s Jaden’s mother to do just that,” James said.
“Once you get all that straightened out, come see me at the front of the bus and I’ll introduce you to this young man.” Larry and the young man walked past the line that was getting shorter as the boys made their way onto the bus and stopped just past the door. The two men watched as Eric herded the remaining players to the bus with Lance, Grant, Alex, and Jaden being the last four. Coach Hallion stopped to find out who the man with Larry was.
As soon as Eric got a good look at the man, he recognized him. Eric stepped over and clamped the man into a quick hug. “Dallas, this is beyond amazing. I simply can’t believe this.”
The two young men broke their hug and looked each other over, each wearing a shit-eating grin. “The feeling is mutual,” Dallas said. “I knew I’d see Coach Sanders but no way I was prepared to see a fellow Mustang grad.” Dallas Baker was referring to the Mustangs of Mayfield High School.
“Dallas wasn’t surprised to see me, but I admit to being surprised to see him,” Larry said. “I had to bring him over so you two could see each other.”
“What’s the story with you being here at the BaseBrawl?” Eric asked. “I mean, I don’t think anybody’s heard from you since you graduated.”
“It’s a long story, one I don’t have time to tell right now. But, that group of ballplayers over at Field 1 is patiently waiting for their coach, who happens to be me. But that is another long story,” Dallas said.
“We’re staying at the Carlsbad resort. Why don’t you join us for breakfast tomorrow and tell us all about your long stories.”
“I’d love to. What time are we talking about?”
“We’re going to give the boys a chance to sleep in at least a little bit tomorrow, so how about nine in the banquet room.” James and Larry nodded in agreement and Dallas said he would see them then.
“What a surprise that was,” Larry said. “For James’s information, Dallas is a former Mayfield boy, but, for several reasons, was not much of a baseball player. I’m sure he has quite a story to tell as to how he ended up here at the BaseBrawl.”
“Let’s go get those restless boys on the bus home and into the swimming pool,” James said, and the three coaches boarded the bus.
<Carlsbad Resort>
The Goats’ players welcomed Alex and Jaden onto the bus. Many had met Jaden when he was in Mayfield visiting his cousin Grant. Some even knew him intimately. All of them except Cal, Emmett, Skip, and Nolan knew Alex. Through his friendship with Aiden, Nolan knew about Alex, and his opinion of Alex was like his teammates          —not very favorable. They all knew how badly Alex had hurt Grant because of his drugging and drinking and the behavior that went with it. But they also knew that over the past few weeks Grant, who had been in frequent phone contact with Alex, had been talking up the improvements his friend had been making in his life and that it was Grant who had invited Jaden to join them at the resort. The Goats all liked and respected Grant, so if the “new” Alex was good enough for Grant, then he was good enough for them.
Alex took a seat next to Grant while Jaden sat with Lance. “I guess I should have asked what you guys were gonna be doing before I agreed to do this,” Alex said. “So, I’ll ask it now—what do you guys plan on doing the rest of the afternoon?”
“Swimming, I guess,” Grant said. He was a bit disappointed that Alex wasn’t bubbling over with enthusiasm.
“I got no swimsuit with me, as you probably figured, but I’m wearing tight-fitting boxers and it wouldn’t be the first time I’ve taken a dip in a pool wearing nothing but boxers. I’ll go commando going home—won’t be the first time for that either,” he smirked.
“For real? You’d go into the pool in your boxers?”
Alex surprised Grant by putting his left arm around his shoulders and hugging him close. “Dude, I don’t think you’ve got close to a clue how happy I am to be sitting next to you on this bus right now after all the shit you and me have gone through.”
Grant found himself holding back tears. For a moment he had regretted inviting Alex to come with him, but he shook off that horrid thought and latched on to the fact that Alex wanted to be with him.
“I don’t know about anybody else who’ll be at the pool, but everybody on the Goats have probably either seen somebody in wet undies or gone swimming in them,” Grant chuckled.
A couple of seats back Jaden asked Lance what he thought Alex and Grant were talking about.
“Sex,” Lance replied matter-of-factly.
“For real?” Jaden asked.
“For mega real. Grant’s been hoping real bad he’d get a chance to be with Alex while we were here and even asked if it was okay if they had sex together. I said I didn’t have a problem with it. Then he said it probably wasn’t going to happen, but he just wanted to know in case the chance to do it happened.”
“Don’t you feel jealous of Alex?”
“Nope. Me and Grant have talked about Alex a lot and I know what they meant to each other. And I’m talking both the good and the bad, and I’m sure you know there was a lot of bad between them.”
<Alex and Grant>
The bus pulled into the Carlsbad resort and stopped in the drop-off zone. While the scramble off the bus may have looked chaotic to outsiders, it was in fact almost choreographed. Larry had been around kids long enough to know the Goats had everything under control. James Hallion figured if Larry was okay with the chaos that apparently wasn’t chaos, then so was he. As for Eric, he could only wonder how the mob of teens and tweens made the unloading of the bus look disorganized at the same time it worked with near precision, without the expert help of the coaching staff. He figured he had a lot to learn about dealing with kids. He also found himself thinking about what a beautiful young man Dallas had grown up to be.
Eric couldn’t help but wonder if he and his teammates behaved the same way when he was playing ball for Mayfield at that age. That thought was quickly answered. Mrs. Emerson had noticed Eric’s discomfort with the apparent chaos in the unloading process. “They’re not that much different than your team was back in your middle school days,” the bus driver grinned. “Only your crew tended to be a bit raunchier at times.”
The players headed for their rooms. Alex and Grant followed Jaden and Lance to their room. As Grant changed to his swimsuit he felt flattered by the attention that Alex showed him as he undressed, especially after he pulled his boxershorts off in an obvious display of his nakedness. Once Grant had his swimsuit on, Alex stripped down to his yellow and light blue striped boxers.
Lance loaned Jaden the extra pair of swim shorts he had in his dresser drawers. “My mom made me and Lenny bring three pairs between us. She always figures one of us is gonna screw up and lose or damage something so she’s always making us take spare somethings when we’re on a trip away from home,” Lance said. “I’m not talking, like, overnights. I mean when we’re traveling with a suitcase or something.”
Max, who was Lance and Grant’s roommate, was conspicuous by his absence. All Lance and Grant knew was that Max told them he would come up to the room soon. When they left for the pool, he hadn’t arrived yet.
Except for a couple of adult guests, who had been warned when they booked their room that there would be a gaggle of teen and tween baseball players staying at the resort during the week, the Goats had the large swimming pool to themselves. Of the other three teams staying at the Carlsbad Resort, Surrey was at Mission Park for practice, Tucson was away for a beach field trip, and St. George, Utah, hadn’t arrived yet.
Max was the last player to arrive at the pool. He was wearing board shorts decorated with images of palm trees. Nobody asked where he had been since they knew he wasn’t going to tell them.
“Why are the Arizona dudes going off on a trip to a beach when there’s a pretty nice one right across the street?” Jaden asked a group of Goats at the middle of the pool.
“I dunno,” Aiden answered. “Maybe Arizonans are weird or something.” Jaden nodded as if Aiden had said something extremely profound.
The players loved Alex’s “swimming trunks”. Because the thick stripes were vertical, they didn’t show off Alex’s wares like horizontal stripes would have. Even so, there was no doubt that Alex was a generously endowed thirteen-year-old.
About ten minutes after Max arrived, Alex noticed Max and Grant engaged in what looked like a very serious conversation, at least until the two grinned and traded high fives. Alex didn’t have to wonder what the chat had been about for very long, because Grant paddled over and told him.
This time it was Alex and Grant who were grinning. They traded fist bumps, climbed out of the pool, grabbed the beach towel they each had brought down, dried off some, and headed into the wing where Grant’s room was located. Everybody knew where the two friends were going and had no doubt they would be doing something sexual there. The only question in their minds was how far the two planned on going in bed.
“Aren’t you a bit jealous?” Aiden asked Lance.
“I am a little, but when Grant asked if I’d be okay if him and Alex went all the way, I said, yeah, I was cool with it. I just told him that he better not go falling in love with Alex or something, but I was, like, joking.”
“I’m totally surprised Grant will even give Alex the time of day, let alone invite him to come swimming with us considering all the shit Alex put him through,” Aiden said. “But then, maybe Grant is teaching me a lesson on forgiveness. I’ve been learning from a few peeps how important it is to forgive. That’s something I kinda forgot earlier today when I first saw Alex at the sports park.”
“I’m no expert on shit like this, but I think those two need something like that to help them get over all the bullshit that built up between them.”
Aiden nodded. “That sounds pretty grown up to me. Sounds like what guys like Sammy and some other older guys I know would say. And I think you’re right and I think I gotta made                  amends to Alex before we head home to Mayfield.”
Aiden pointed to the shallow end of the pool where Jaden and Lenny were talking. “I wonder what Jaden and your brother are up to.”
“I happen to know. They should be getting out of the pool…oh, there they go.” Lance and Aiden watched Lenny and Jaden walk up the steps and out of the pool. “And here I go to join them.”
“You mean…”
“I mean that exactly. How about you join us.”
“What about Skip and Riley?” Aiden asked.
“I told them I’d give each of them some private time before we head home to do stuff together or bring somebody else to the room to mess around with.”
“Lead the way. I think I’m going to really like joining you guys.”
When Alex and Grant stepped off the elevator on the second-floor wing that held the Goats rooms, Alex was naked. He’d stripped out of his wet boxers and wrapped them in his towel on the elevator.  Grant had taken a look to make sure the hall was clear before signaling Alex he could step out. Alex wasn’t concerned since he planned on whipping the towel around his waist and holding his boxers against his waist if something had been in the corridor.
As soon as they entered the room, Alex dropped his towel wrapped boxers on the floor and yanked Grant’s wet swimsuit down to his ankles; Grant quickly stepped out of it. Both boys had semis that were quickly growing into more. Even though the two hadn’t said a word to each other about sex the entire afternoon, they both sensed that something sexual was going to occur between them.
“You probably guessed that Max told me he wouldn’t come in the room until we said it was okay,” Grant told Alex.
“It was epic of Max saying we could come up here and mess around and he wouldn’t come into the room until then,” Alex said.
The naked, horny boys stared silently at each other’s body.  “What do you want to do?” Grant finally asked.
Alex took a deep breath. “I want you inside me. I’ve wanted that for, like, forever. I want to feel you there. I need to feel you there,” he said in a voice filled with emotion. He took another deep breath and was obviously fighting tears.
“Are you okay?” Grant asked.
“Yeah, I’m okay.” Alex unashamedly wiped away a few tears. Not that long ago he would have hated himself for crying, let alone crying in front of somebody. But this time, tears felt right, because they were tears of happiness. “I love you so much, Grant.”
“I love you, too, Alex. It sounds weird to say it after all that’s happened between us, but I love you, too.” This time it was Grant’s turn to wipe away tears. “But what about Josh? Isn’t he your boyfriend?”
“He is. But I can’t figure out if I love him or not.  And this might sound weirder than what you said was weird, but I’ve believed this for a little while now. I want to give Josh every bit of love I have without holding back and I haven’t been able to do it. But having you cum inside me and leaving part of you in me—maybe that’s what I need to have happen. It’s all so confusing, because I still love you.”
“Dang, you really have thought hard about this. You’ve got what my mom calls ‘deep thoughts.’”
“Most of it isn’t original. It’s stuff Lars…Dr. Meijer says to me. He says you and me need what he calls closure where we put our friendship and love on good terms. He never said nothing about making love and cumming in butts—that part comes from me—but I can’t help but feel if that happened it will erase any bad feelings we have left and make us best friends forever. I mean, look what it’s done for you and Lenny. Anyway, if we get rid of our bad feelings maybe then I can figure out things with Josh. Right now it’s like my mind is mush.”
I like what you’re saying, except I would be turning to Lance and not Lenny,” Grant chuckled.   
“Oops, I’m sorry. I’m really fucking sorry.”
“Hey. Their mom mixes them up and when they’re not naked even I’ve done it. Don’t worry about it, because we both know you meant Lance. Now that we know what we’re doing and why we’re doing it, why don’t we turn our brains off and quit thinking and just fuck, or what you said, make love.”
Hanging around the twins had helped Grant learn a lot about sex—both how to do it and how to feel comfortable and right doing it. Aiden was another one who helped him. And now, in his own way, the boy in his life who often turned sex into something dirty, was telling him how good it could be.
Their talking stopped and their lips went from forming words to forming kisses; deep, wet kisses. Soon Grant was lubing his cock and then Alex’s ass. Grant slowly entered the dark, damp, colon of the boy he had gotten drunk with, and stoned with, and professed to love without knowing what it meant. He started the ancient motion of intercourse and was soon making love fast and hard and deep. Alex’s insides made Grant feel fulfilled, just like feeling Grant’s lips and body and, most importantly, the cock inside of him left Alex feeling fulfilled.
If the boys were a bit older and more mature, they could have made the love making last close to forever, but they were young teens whose juices were flowing hard. And so, despite their “grown up” feelings, it didn’t take long for the inevitable to come.
Grant slammed Alex deep. “Fuck shit, I’m gonna cum Alex…I wanted to take all night…but…shit fuck, I’m cummmmmmmmmmmming.” Grant shot his young teen cum into Alex’s innards as Alex coated himself with his own emission seconds later. Grant dropped down onto Alex’s semen covered chest and lay on top of his friend as he tried to regain his breath.
“Grant?” Alex finally had enough energy to utter his friend’s name.
“Yeah, Alex,” Grant whispered back.
Alex paused for more breath. “I hope Dr. Meijer was right,” he finally said. “I love you as the best friend anybody could ever have and I’m not just talking about today. But I need to figure out how to love Josh as a boyfriend. But I’m glad we did what we did because maybe it will help with that closing stuff doc Meijer talks about.”
“Me, too. Lance was worried this would backfire and we might get all confused again. Well, I think it worked out really good. And I hope I get to meet Josh before I go back home.”
“I have a feeling that won’t be a problem,” Alex said. “Now I gotta figure out how to settle things with Aiden.”
“Aiden? Why Aiden?”
“I think he hates me.”
“Trust me, he doesn’t hate you. He was kinda upset with you though.”
“One of the reasons I made chocolate chip cookies was because you said they were his total favorite. You know, it’s like a way for me to make amends without talking to him. Whatever, I think if Lars…Dr. Meijer…knew how we closed things he’d be happy. And if he knew how I felt about Aiden, he’d say go solve things between you.”
“Maybe you just need to plain old fuck him,” Grant laughed.
Alex nodded. “Who knows, that just might be the right thing to do…only I would top him just because I don’t want it to be the same as it was with you. You and Josh are the ones I want inside of me; at least for now.”
“How about we wash up and go down to the pool?” Grant suggested.
“How about we just go down to the pool,” Alex grinned.
“Hey, you still have a little nasty boy streak in you.”
“It wouldn’t be me if I didn’t.”
Alex pulled on his wet boxers, Grant his damp swimsuit, and the two friends went down to the pool area. Grant wondered how things went with Lance and Lenny. He wondered about things even more when he learned Aiden and Jaden had gone to Lenny’s room as well.
When they returned to the pool, Grant and Alex saw Max on a chaise lounge chatting with Rusty and walked up to them. Both were shirtless and soaking in the sun.
“Hey, Max, thanks for the help with the room,” Grant said.
“Hey, whatever I can do to help my roomies,” Max said. “I hope everything worked out okay.”
“It worked great.”
“Thanks for giving us the time alone,” Alex said. “It helped us both with a lot of problems.”
“Hey, I know all about having problems, right Rusty?” Max responded.
“Don’t we all,” Rusty answered.
“Well, we’re done there, so thanks again.” Grant and Alex scooted to the pool and jumped in feet first.
<Aiden, Jaden, Lenny, and Lance>
“I hope things work out for those two,” Jaden said as Lenny turned the deadbolt. “Alex has been going nuts about how this would work out. He’s been so worried that talking live to Grant would be different than chatting on the phone and that when Grant saw him, he’d go back to hating him.”
“It sure isn’t looking like it’s happening that way,” Lance said. “I know Grant as good as anybody and all I can say is he was hoping to get everything face-to-face, like.”
“After seeing how friendly those two have been since the moment they saw each other, I can see that I need to make some amends to both of them—especially to Alex,” Aiden said. “As much as I’ve seen it happen, I forget that when peeps get sober, they usually change. It sounds like that’s what’s happened to Alex.”
“Maybe you need to do what I think Grant is doing,” Lance said. “You know, showing you’re serious by going all the way.”
“Come on bro, fucking doesn’t solve everything,” Lenny reproached.
“I think things didn’t get that serious between us, although Alex is a pretty cute dude,” Aiden chuckled.
“Like I said…,” Lance grinned and the group broke out into loud laughter.
“Speaking of doing stuff, me taking care of Lance while his boyfriend takes care of the business of being a friend while you two pervs watch is the reason we came up here,” Lenny pointed out.
“What if the two pervs use one of the other beds to, you know, get off while we watch?” Jaden asked.
“Just don’t do something that would leave a mess on the bed.”
On that note the four boys stripped naked. Lenny pulled the covers off his bed and he and his brother cuddled up and started kissing. The kissing quickly spread from their lips meeting to kissing all over each other—boy boobs, bellies, necks, dick, balls, asses, grommets, until Lenny finally entered the ass of his twin and started fucking him…hard.
Aiden and Jaden played with each other’s hard pubescent cocks until the fucking began. Aiden then pinned down Jaden and started dry humping. Aiden wanted badly to fuck Grant’s cousin, but, hard as it was, he refrained to keep from leaving a possible mess on the bedspread of what was Riley’s bed. Any cum they shot out would be on their partner.
The three tweens in the group were so worked up they didn’t last long, nor did Jaden, the one teen. The only mess made was the combined cum of Aiden and Jaden on Jaden’s belly and pubic region. Aiden licked up some of the cum before rubbing what he could over his chest and around Jaden’s belly. Lance and Lenny went into the bathroom to take of whatever cleanup they needed to do.
“Those two dudes are such a hot pair. I never thought watching a couple of identical twins go at it could be such a turn one, but I’ve been thinking about them a lot since I got back home from Mayfield.” Jaden looked at Aiden and said, “And you are still the sexy guy you were then. I think it’s beyond epic that you and Nolan are not only still together, but that he lives in Mayfield now.”
“You mean I’m still sexy even though I’m the only guy without pubes?” Aiden asked.
“Hell, that makes you look sexier. I know guys who shave their pubes off because they think it makes them look sexier.”
“I’d rather have the pubes.”
“You’re still twelve, right?”
“Almost thirteen,” Aiden corrected.
“When do you turn thirteen?”
“On September first.”
“Hmmm, less than month away. Hey when you get your first full pubic hair you need to have a pubic hair coming out party. I don’t mean getting peach fuzz, I mean a hair or three or six. It would be fun. I know I’d come to it if I lived up there.”
“I’ll think about it.”
The twins came out of the bathroom and the quartet was soon at the pool cleansing whatever was left of their sex.
<Banquet room>
Alex and Jaden stayed for dinner with the Goats. Coach Hallion said the team would pay the tab for one dinner for the pair. After that, they were on their own. The room was full since all four teams were now checked into the hotel.
Aiden, Nolan, Gordy, and Mason sat with Tommy, Warren, and Asher the redhaired Australian, from the Surrey Mounties. The four Mayfield boys found Asher sexy cute, with his red hair, freckled face, and quick smile. They also found him to be friendly, talkative, and full of laughter and good humor.  “Now all we have to do is find out how good he is in bed,” Nolan confided to Aiden after dinner.
During dessert Asher came up with one of the funniest lines of the tournament according to his tablemates. They were chattering about kissing, particularly the art of the French kiss.
“I don’t know very much about French kissing because I’m Australian,” Asher said.
“What does being Australian have to do with French kissing?” Gordy asked.
Having heard Asher tell the joke, Tommy and Warren tried unsuccessfully to suppress their giggles.
“Well, the French invented the French kiss where they put their tongues in each other’s mouth,” Asher explained. “But in Australia we have our own kiss and I’ll let the Americans guess what we call it and why since the Canucks already know.”
After a few moments of silence, Gordy ventured a guess. “I think it’s called the kangaroo kiss because you have to kiss while jumping up and down.” That brought loud laughter from Tommy, Warren, and Asher.
“That’s a great try, but it is not the right answer,” Asher was finally able to say, as if he needed to. The other Goat players, not to mention the players on the Utah and Arizona teams, wondered what was so funny at the table with all the laughter. “Anyone else want to give it a go?”
Aiden and Nolan were enamored with Asher’s accent and wished he would talk on. Nobody wanted to venture a guess, so Asher revealed the secret.
“What we have is the Down Under kiss because our tongues go where do you think?
“Down under to the backside, and Australia is known as Down Under,” Aiden laughed. Mason, Nolan, and Gordy joined the laughter.
“I think you need to teach us how to kiss like an Australian,” Mason said.
“Like none of you has ever tried it,” Asher said.
“But you’re the expert from Down Under and can show us all the tricks,” Aiden said.
“We’ll have to see how our schedules go, but I’m willing.”
After they finished their dessert, Aiden, Nolan, and Mason rose from the table and headed for their room. Aiden saw that they would pass close to Alex, who was sitting with Grant, Jaden, Lenny, and Lance.
Aiden stopped at Alex’s chair. “I think I owe you an amend…,” Aiden started, but he was interrupted by Alex, who stood and looked down a bit to make eye contact.
“I know what you owe me, cuz I been there and been doing it a lot,” Alex said. “I accept your amends and I’d really like to talk with you before you head home.”
“I don’t need to be told I acted like a jerk today, that’s what….”
Alex interrupted Aiden again. “Sorry if I’m the one being the jerk this time. But what I want is to forget about today and talk about us being friends when you leave.”
Aiden thought about the chat he’d had with Lance, earlier. “If we both work at it, we can make it happen,” Aiden said, wondering if Lance was right and sex was the answer. Then he thought about something else possibly being the answer. “Hey, thanks for baking the chocolate chip cookies. I don’t know if you ever knew this, but they’re my favorite and yours were the bomb. Nice and doughy, just the way I like them.”
“Thanks. I had fun baking them.” Alex wasn’t ready to tell Aiden he baked chocolate chip cookies as a peace offering after Grant told him they were Aiden’s favorite. “Did you try my other ones?”
“Sorry, but no. They were gone before I had a chance. But I was happy with my chocolate chips. Anyway, I hope we get the chance to talk over the next few days.”
“I’ll be around the tournament as much as I can,” Alex said, “especially since I’ve now got two teams to root for: the Mayfield Yard Goats and the Force,” Alex said. Alex said referring the San Diego Force. Matthew played for the 18 and over Force team and was the high school boy who had sent the BaseBrawl invitation to Larry.  
“And what if we end up playing each other, who will you root for then?”
“I’ll decide when the time comes. But I will say this—as rough as things got for me in Mayfield, there were some good times, too. Right Grant?”
Grant nodded. “There just wasn’t enough of them.”
“Amen to that.”
Alex and Aiden bumped fists and Aiden left to join Nolan and Mason, who had continued on to the room. The rest of the night the Goats were on their own, with certain restrictions. They had to be in their rooms by eight and it was lights out at nine. They had to be at breakfast in the banquet room by nine in the morning, although the staff would start serving as early as eight. Coach Hallion had scheduled a team meeting for nine-thirty in one of the resort’s conference rooms. He told them it could start late depending on how fast breakfast was served.
After the meeting the players would have free time in the morning. After lunch the Festival would begin, starting with the tournament draw which would be held on Field 1 at the Sports Park. After that there would be baseball clinics, many of them taught by retired pro players, midway games, food trucks, and various forms of entertainment. The climax of the day would be a concert by At the Majestic, which would be free for the tournament players and coaches. The day before the baseball games started would be an event all to itself.
Next: Chapter 21 (BaseBrawl Day 2) The Festival.