Mayfield Magic

Chapter 10-PhD Time

Aiden slept in late with late being eleven o’clock. Larry felt that with all the baseball going on, Aiden needed the extra sleep more than anything and so he let him sleep in until the crack of noon. Aiden woke up feeling refreshed after his emotional day. He felt ready for the game that evening.
The Goats would be playing Clark Pass with first place at stake, and he would be the starting pitcher. That fact, more than any lecture from his dads or from Marty, showed him what a whining loser he had been when he got into his funk about not being given a big game to start. The fact was that at this point of the season all the games were big games, just like he had been told. He was also told he should be ready to be his best and he wouldn’t reach that threshold if he whined about who was starting what game.
He decided it was time for him to quit thinking and to get out of bed and eat. Sleeping in had been a good thing, but it left him hungry. He needed breakfast or lunch or whatever immediately if not sooner. He rose from his bed, moved Horace to the side of the bed, knelt and said his morning prayer. He stood up, went to the bathroom to piss, and then went downstairs to eat. He found Larry watering the plants in the botany room.
“Good morning, pop,” Aiden said.
“Good morning, son,” Larry responded. “I see you have your expensive pajamas on this morning.”
“Huh? What expensive pajamas?”
“Those expensive pajamas—the ones you have on. You know, the ones designed to look exactly like a naked tween boy.”
Aiden examined himself for a moment and then said, “That’s not true. If I had pajamas like that I would have pubic hair on it and I wouldn’t look like a skinny boy with hardly any big muscles. Because of that, I have to tell you that this is really me totally in the flesh.”
“Are you hungry?”
“Duh, do ducks quack? Feed me and feed me now!”
“Do you want breakfast or lunch?”
“Breakfast and I want cereal with toast, which I am going to fix myself. What’s for my pregame meal?”
“Well, since the game is at Clark Pass it means we’ll have to leave early. Your dad has some mac and cheese ready to heat and some sandwiches to take to the ballfield should hunger strike again.”
“You guys are the awesomest dads ever. Now I’ll go eat. Have fun with your flowers.”
Aiden ate a breakfast of Raisin Bran, toast with strawberry jam, and a bowl of sliced cantaloupe. He was busy exchanging texts with his teammates as he ate. Everybody was pumped for the big game that evening. Two weeks ago, nobody on the team had dreamed they would be battling for first place on the last day of the season; it had looked like Clark Pass was going to run away with the division.
After eating, Aiden sat out on his seat on his balcony and jerked off. He then took care of his morning showering, washing, and brushing. He wasn’t going to dress until he had to don his uniform for the ballgame. After cleaning and straightening his room, he checked if Larry had any chores for him to do. Larry told him he could empty out the wastebaskets and recycle bins into the garbage and recycling cans in the garage. Once he finished his tasks he went outside and jumped into the pool.
While Aiden was a gregarious boy, he liked having alone time on occasion. Today was one of those times. He spent the afternoon swimming, reading, and shooting baskets. He even spent a half hour playing catch and chatting with Larry.
At four o’clock he ate his mac and cheese and then went up to his room to dress. As soon as he was ready, he grabbed his sports bag, stopped to place Phil’s sandwiches in it, and hopped into the Odyssey. Before getting on Highway 12 for Clark Pass, Larry stopped to pick up the twins, Miles, and Riley. Larry was prepared to listen to nonstop chatter, but the five boys said very little after they exchanged greetings.
<Clark Pass Middle School Baseball Field>
Aiden and Cal exchanged waves when they saw each other in the parking lot but didn’t exchange words. Their minds were on their upcoming pitching duel, not on each other.
All the Goats were at the field at least fifteen minutes before their reporting time. Max and Rusty might drag their feet when it came to getting to practice on time, but that attitude changed on game days. It didn’t hurt that Max’s father arranged to leave work early on game days and made sure Max was at the game location at least fifteen minutes before the stated time. He knew about Max’s practice time philosophy. He told Max he was a member of a team and he should follow the lead of his teammates. He also knew that they always arrived at practice before the scheduled start time.
Coach Hallion held a team meeting in the third base dugout as soon as everyone arrived. He started the meeting by giving the starting lineup. Batting leadoff and playing shortstop was Gordy, then came Scott batting second and playing second, Trent at third base, Muddy (DH for Mason who was starting in right), Aiden pitching, Miles in left field, Mac catching, Riley in center, and Max at first. After Coach Hallion finished, Trent and Scott led the team in their signature yell: “Play hard, play smart, play to win, and above all have fun. GO YARD GOATS!”
During team warmups, Aiden warmed up with Mason. After those were completed, he went to the bullpen with Mac to do his pitching warmups. Coach Hallion liked having his starting catcher warm up the starting pitcher and had one of the backup catchers participate in infield practice. That was usually done by Lenny. Either Eric or Kevin usually went to the bullpen during the pitcher warmup. But because of work, Kevin would probably be arriving a few minutes before game time and Eric wouldn’t be there until sometime in the second inning.
“Okay dude, the coaches are heading out to meet with the umps. Put on your hoodie and let’s go to the dugout,” Mac told Aiden. As they walked to the third base dugout, Mac wondered what Aiden’s reaction would have been if he had proposed the starting catcher fucks the starting pitcher litany that he and         Trent performed the night before a Trent pitching start. He decided Aiden would have agreed and would have been a tight fuck. Then he shook his head as if to clear it. ‘Don’t need the distraction,’ he told himself.
Since both of Coach Hallion’s assistant coaches were going to arrive late for the game, the coach had asked Larry to coach first base, which Larry was happy to do. The Goats thought it was big time to have the high school head coach as their first base coach and Aiden felt a shot of pride pass through him as his father ran out to the first base coach’s box.
As the visiting team, the Goats batted first. Cal tossed a quick 1-2-3 inning, striking out Gordy and Aiden who were the two hardest batters on the team to strike out. “He’s not throwing real hard,” Trent said as he grabbed his glove from Grant, who had brought it out to him. Trent had hit an easy pop fly to center for the third out. “But, damn that fastball of his moves a lot.”
Aiden also threw a 1-2-3 first, getting two fly outs to left and a ground out to third. After another 1-2-3 inning by Cal, the Goats ran into serious trouble in the bottom of the second. Aiden walked the leadoff batter and gave up a single to the second batter in the inning. That put runners on first and second with no outs. Cal, who was batting sixth in the lineup, was the third batter in the inning. He dropped a perfect bunt on a 2-1 pitch which Aiden fielded cleanly. He checked the runner heading for third, saw that he had no play, and threw the ball to Scott who was covering first for Max, who had charged in as soon as Cal had turned to bunt. The sacrifice bunt moved the runners to second and third with one out. Cal had done his job of advancing the runners perfectly and received numerous high-fives as he returned to the Bisons’ dugout.
It was on the next play that the roof caved in for the Goats. Coach Hallion did not have the infield playing in. The Bisons’ next hitter rapped a hard ground ball to the right of Gordy at shortstop. Gordy cross-stepped to his right and made a nice play on a tough in-between hop. He saw the runner on third sprinting home and made a throw home on the run. Had he given the batter-runner a glance he would have seen that it would have been an easy out at first, although the run would have scored. Instead, he made the hard play and uncorked a high throw that sailed over Mac’s head, allowing the sliding runner to score. The trail runner made a turn at third and ran 12 feet down the third base line.
Mac chased the errant throw down after it rebounded off the backstop and turned to face home. On a play where the catcher has to chase down a throw or a pitch to the backstop, it is the pitcher’s job to cover the plate. Mac saw the runner breaking for home and Aiden covering the plate exactly as he was supposed to do. Mac gave a quick sidearm flip to Aiden which sailed out of reach to Aiden’s right. All Aiden could do was watch the runner slide past him and score. Amid all the chaos the batter-runner made it to second base but had to stop there because Trent had done what he was supposed to do which was back up the catcher’s throw to home. He stood in the middle of the infield holding the ball and asked for time out. Seeing that the runner wasn’t going anywhere the plate umpire granted the time out.
The Goats returned to their positions wondering what had just happened. Two of their best fielders, and perhaps two of the best fielders in the Southwest League, had combined an error in judgement with two throwing errors, allowing two runs to score on the play without the benefit of a base hit. To top it off, the Bisons also had a runner on second and only one out. The runner had reached base on a fielder’s choice.
Coach Hallion called out for the team to shake the play off and get back to doing what they knew. “You know you’re better than this,” he said. “Now show it.”
Gordy, Mac, and Aiden felt the worst. Even though Aiden had done everything right he still felt bad because he had been in the middle of the fiasco and must have had something to do with its occurrence. Aiden had a hard time shaking off the play, and the roar of the Clark Pass fans didn’t help matters any.  He walked the next batter on four pitches.
“You need to slow things down, coach,” Larry said to Coach Hallion. Larry wanted to yell at Aiden to get his head back in the game, but since he was assisting Hallion he knew he shouldn’t be yelling at a player even if that player was his son.
Coach Hallion asked the umpire for time and went to the mound with Mac. After telling Aiden to slow down, concentrate on the batter at the plate and not on what had just unfolded, he gave his pitcher a quick pat on his shoulder and returned to the dugout. Mac, who may have felt the worst of anybody on the field, simply said, “We’ll go with the sinker and get two. Let’s do it, dude,” gave Aiden a pat on his rear, and returned to home plate. Aiden’s fast ball had a natural sink to it when he eased off on it some which made it great for inducing ground balls.
The count was 2-1 when Aiden threw a pitch that, while it didn’t affect the final outcome of the game, was a big pitch as far as the rest of the season was concerned. It showed the team what could be done if a player slowed the game down and concentrated on what he did best. Aiden threw one of his best sinkers of the year and the batter hit it on the ground to Scott, who flipped it to Gordy covering second, who then fired it to Max at first for an inning ending 4-6-3 (second to short to first) double play. The players ran off the field feeling good that they had only given up two runs in the inning. The Bisons had a 2-0 lead.
Cal threw another perfect inning in the top of the third, Aiden matched him in the bottom of the inning. After getting Gordy to ground out to third to start the fourth inning, Cal gave up his first hit of the game, a ringing one-out double by Aiden, who now had his head fully in the game. He scored on a single by Muddy to make the score 2-1 which was the score until the bottom of the fifth when Clark Pass scored in a more conventional manner, turning two one-out singles and a two-out single into a run to give the Bisons a 3-1 lead. The inning ended Aiden’s pitching stint for the day.
Riley warmed up with Lenny in the bullpen under the supervision of Eric.  Cal pitched another scoreless inning, giving up a harmless single to Gordy. Riley then came into the game in relief of Aiden. With Riley moving from center to pitcher, Coach Hallion moved Aiden to second base, Scott to shortstop, Gordy to center, and had Lance replace Mason in right.
Riley gave up two harmless singles and learned a little about pitching out of a jam as a result. The Bisons lead was 3-1 after six innings. The Goats wondered if Cal was going to finish the game. The question was answered when Cal came out to the mound to pitch the seventh inning. He tossed another 1-2-3 inning and the Clark Pass Bisons ran out of their dugout to celebrate finishing first in the Mountain North Division. It was the first time Clark Pass had finished in first place in baseball in any division of school ball or summer ball from middle school level and up in eighteen years.
Clark Pass finished 13-3 in league play and Mayfield was 11-5. They had lost two games to Clark Pass by scores of 2-1 and 3-1. Drew Pointer had pitched the first win against the Goats. Understandably the handshake line was very organized, but Aiden and Cal managed to meet up once the Bisons’ on field celebration quieted down.
Cal was soaked from having had the contents of the team’s water cannister dumped on him during the celebration. “I’m just glad it was water and not Gatorade or something,” Cal giggled.
“Well, congrats on your big win. You guys earned it,” Aiden said.
“I can’t believe that play in the second. It’s usually us throwing the ball around like that. You guys are always so smooth.”
“It can happen to anybody,” Aiden reminded Cal. “I guess it was our turn to turn into a circus act.”
“Well, I hope we see you guys on Sunday. If we do, it could be me against you on the mound again.”
“We’ll be there as long as we play smarter and don’t run into a pitcher as good as you are.”
“Aw, you say the nicest things. And no matter what happens I can’t wait to play with you guys in California,” Cal said.
Drew Pointer came by and grinned. “Hey, Cal, way to show those dudes they made a great choice picking you up to help them kick ass in California. Dude pitched a three-hitter against one of the best teams in the league. No offense, Aiden, but he made you guys look helpless.”
“You won’t get any argument from me,” Aiden said. “We’ll see if we can change that if we see you guys on Sunday.”
“Oh, I’m sure we’ll play each other. You guys are better than Winton and as for Kentburg….”
Drew wasn’t able to finish. Alan Becker, a Bison outfielder came by and gave them a score. “Winton barely beat South Centralia, but they beat them, so you’ll be playing them on Saturday,” he told Aiden. “You should kick their asses.”
“Well, you know what baseball can be like,” Aiden said. “Look at how we played in the second inning.”
“I predict Saturday will be all you,” Cal said.
“And I agree,” Drew said.
“And I predict the team that scores the most runs on Saturday wins.” Right after that statement Larry called Aiden to head for the parking lot so they could start the ride home.
<Aiden and Nolan>     
“Way to pull it off, dude,” Aiden gushed.
“East Olympia went from a league favorite to a league schmuck,” Nolan said. Nolan’s East Centralia Scrappers had walloped the Senators 12-4. Combined with West Centralia’s 8-6 loss to Tenino the Scrappers had moved past West Centralia into first place. Instead of a one-game playoff to determine first place in the Mountain South, the Scrappers would get the first-round bye and the Broncos, who had lost their last two games, would have to play Tenino in the first round of the league tournament. The Scrappers would play the winners. 
“We’ll have to beat Winton to play Clark Pass again,” Aiden pointed out. “I couldn’t believe the score when I heard it after our game today. I mean Winton gets a 6-5 win over South Centralia and when I learned they did it by scoring five runs in the bottom of the seventh, I was, like, whoa poor South. But on the flip side, we won’t have to play Kentburg again.”
“I like the South players way better than the East Olympia guys. The South players worked their asses off all year while the Oly guys rolled over and quit the last half of the season.”
“I know that South got my respect,” Aiden said.
“It looks like there will be one play-in game tomorrow,” Nolan said. “Longview and Kelso tied for the number three spot in the Columbia South Division with 8-8 records.”
“That would be a nasty game to watch. My pop says their rivalry makes Mayfield and Kentburg look like a walk in the park. Those two in a loser out game is gonna be wild.” Mayfield and Kentburg were a little over five miles apart, but Longview and Kelso bordered each other. They were also bigger towns than Mayfield and Kentburg.
“And this, my love is our last Meadow Park and Mayfield Skype call. The movers pick up our shit tomorrow and I’ll be sleeping with you tomorrow night.” Nolan oozed enthusiasm at the thought of it. The families had agreed that instead of rushing to set up Nolan’s bed he could sleep with Aiden Thursday night and the bed could be set up on Friday or Saturday. At the time it looked like Nolan’s team might be involved in a Thursday and/or Saturday postseason game, but West’s loss changed everything. Now Nolan wouldn’t be playing until Sunday when the Scrappers would meet the winner of the West Centralia/Tenino tournament game.
“I guess that means we can do you know what tomorrow night,” Aiden said.
“It means I know exactly what you mean, and we will do it.” At one time, the boys weren’t going to have sex together until they could have it in Nolan’s new bedroom, but they ended up agreeing they would not be able to last that long. They would still have sex on Nolan’s first night as a resident of Mayfield, but it would be in Aiden’s bed rather than Nolan’s. “This will just make our first night in my new bedroom even more special,” Nolan said. “So, good night and I love you.”
“Good night and I love you too. I’ll see you tomorrow after you get your moving stuff done.”
“Dad says tomorrow is just the start,” Nolan said. “We got the model railroad to move on Friday and then tons of stuff to do getting that put together, along with baseball to be played. I have practice tomorrow evening and I’ll be at your house as soon as I get home. Dad will be in chauffeur mode.”
“I have practice, too. I’ll be here at home when you get here.”
The boyfriends exchanged air kisses and logged off.
Next: Play to Win