Mayfield Titans

Chapter 58-Showdown

<Aiden and Nolan>
“Do you think Skip is really going to show Justin how to suck cock?” Nolan asked Aiden as they prepared for bed.
“Well, Skip is excited about teaching it and Justin is excited about learning about it, how can it not happen?” Aiden replied.
“Maybe because they’re both not into puberty and are not horndogs yet,” Nolan speculated.
“If you lived in Mayfield, you wouldn’t be saying that about Skip. He’s just a couple of weeks from being eleven and he’s starting to hit the horndog stage. I told you about what I promised him.”
“Yeah, but the way I saw it when the time came, he would back out, at least for now.”
“Dude, think about my cousin Logan. When he hit eleven, he was so eager to have Chase fuck him that he couldn’t stand it—at least from what he and Chase tell me.”
“And they should know,” Nolan smirked.
“I never thought I would like it until for some reason I did it.”
“And would the reason you did like it be because your boyfriend was the one who did it?”
“Something like that. And since you’re still my boyfriend, how about doing it to me now.”
“Don’t we have some kind of bet to take care of?”
“Yeah, a ping pong bet,” Aiden said. “Let’s call it done and do some serious love making.”
“Aren’t you Mister Romance tonight.”
“You know it and having you inside me sounds really romantic, but after we do some serious kissing.”
The kissing was long, deep, wet, and definitely serious. “I love you,” dominated the conversation both ways. When Nolan entered Aiden’s rear, Aiden was ready for it.
Nolan went at his boyfriend lovingly and yet hard. Aiden moaned with pleasure, trying not to be too noisy in deference to the young boys across the hall. Aiden and Nolan never heard the patter of bare feet outside the door when Aiden cried out, “Yeah, fuck me harder cuz I’m ready to blow.” Within seconds of each other the two lovers shook from their orgasms. Nolan filled Aiden’s ass and Aiden shot his maturing semen over himself and his boyfriend.
“Okay guys, you two have to work something out between you,” Aiden told Skip and Justin after he woke them from a sound slumber.
“What?” Justin asked sleepily.
“I’ll tell you when you come back from pissing if you have to go piss.”
Both boys jumped out of bed and into the hall. They returned from the bathroom a couple of minutes later and plopped back down on the bed.
“We decided to work whatever it is out by going back to sleep,” Justin told his big bro.
“Or, you could decide who my assistant chef will be this morning.”
“Will he be naked?” Justin asked.
“That’s the only way to assist the Naked Chef.”
“Skip can do it because I did it yesterday,” Justin said.
“I was going to say that Justin can do it because I live closer than he does,” Skip said. 
“How about you do it this time and the next time we both spend the night here and can help my big bro, it will be my turn.”
“That sounds fair.”
“Is it time to go down to cook now?” Skip asked.
“Yes, it is. Wash your hands if you didn’t do it after peeing and meet me downstairs.”
“Where’s Nolan?” Justin asked.
“He’s downstairs telling the dads that we’re coming down to cook as soon as we agree who the assistant will be, so they don’t start breakfast,” Aiden replied.        
“I washed my hands good, so let’s go,” Skip told Aiden.
Aiden and Skip were soon at work making French toast and sausage. With eight people to feed it was a big breakfast. Nolan donned an apron and worked as the deputy assistant to the assistant Naked Chef. Justin helped Larry set the dining room and kitchen tables and then sat at the kitchen table watching the French toast coming off the grill and onto the serving dishes. The three boys worked well together and were soon serving breakfast to the dads before sitting down with Justin at the kitchen table.
Nolan was picked up at ten-thirty by his parents. He was wearing his church clothes, which is where the family was going next. Justin left with his dads a half-hour later.
“Thank you, big bro, I had fun,” Justin told Aiden as they exchanged hugs. He gave Skip a sly look. “And Skip is the best there is to teach you know what.”
“That’s good to hear. I’m glad you enjoyed it and learned something,” Aiden responded.
“Yep, I did both. But I want to talk to you about it.”
“We’ll see what we can set up.”
Justin and Skip exchanged hugs and said they couldn’t wait to see each other again.
After Aiden hugged Mike and Ryan, the Boyer family hit the road. Skip’s grandmother pulled into the driveway two minutes later. As soon as Skip left, Aiden was alone with his dads.
“Next weekend we go to meet my new brother, right?” Aiden asked his dads.
“That’s the plan. We’ll be heading straight to Seattle right after your turnout is done, so bring a change of clothes with you,” Larry told him.
“Oh, so I get to do my change in the backseat of the car act. I love it.”
“We’ll take the Odyssey to give you a bit more room and privacy back there.”
“I’ll be changed before we got to the freeway, so it’s no big deal.” Aiden started for his room and stopped. “Oh, and by the way, Lincoln and his family live in Kirkland, not Seattle.”
“I got us close enough,” Larry laughed. “Now get yourself showered.”
<Aiden and Grant>
Aiden had asked his dads and Sammy what they thought he should say to Grant about Saturday’s meltdown when school started up after vacation. They agreed that it would be best if he left it to Grant to bring up the topic. Larry and Phil thought the same should be true for talking about it with Lance, but Sammy disagreed.
“You and Lance have been friends for a long time, so I think you can ask him about how Grant is doing,” Sammy told Aiden.
Aiden decided to go with what his dads said and not act like a meddler. It wasn’t a decision he was completely comfortable with. Aiden was an outgoing person who cared deeply about his friends and he was worried if he ignored what had happened on Saturday, Grant would think he didn’t care.
Monday went by without Grant saying anything about Saturday during the school day. He was quiet and friendly, which was his usual demeanor, and spent his free time hanging with Lance, which Aiden thought was a good thing. Grant was his usual hard-working self at baseball practice. To Aiden, Grant seemed okay on the outside, which he hoped was a good thing.  
Grant stopped Aiden as he was walking off the field after the coach’s speech. “Hey, Aiden, I just wanted to say thanks for being an awesome friend and I’m sorry I wigged out on you.”
Aiden breathed a sigh of relief when Grant brought up Saturday, but it also made him feel a little nervous since he didn’t know where this talk was going to end up.
“Helping friends is part of being a friend,” Aiden responded.
“I wanted to let you know I won’t be in school in the morning—I’m going to see Taylor and talk about Saturday. My mom is happy you and Lance and Sammy were there for me. She says I am lucky to have such good friends.” Taylor was Grant’s drug and alcohol counselor.
Aiden was surprised by the praise from Grant’s mother. She was not a person who gave out compliments very often. He was also happy that Grant had obviously talked over his meltdown with his parents and that there was going to be follow up from Grant’s drug and alcohol counselor. One of the things Aiden learned on Saturday was how little he knew and how hopeless he felt when dealing with the problem. The Fourth Dimension and his friends involved in it were a big help keeping things steady, but when things went awry it wasn’t a bad idea to get the help of an adult.
“Thanks for letting me know, Grant.” Aiden gave Grant a quick hug, which elicited a big smile from his friend. “You’ll be back in time for practice tomorrow, right?” he asked after the hug ended.
“I’ll be back to school in time for the really important part—lunch,” Grant grinned.
Aiden thought the Titans’ practice had been a good one and he was happy that Coach Ecklund felt the same. After practice the coach told the players what time they could leave class the next afternoon and what time the bus would leave. “Remember, we wait for nobody,” Coach Ecklund reminded the varsity players. The JV would be playing Meadow Park at home.
The coach then gave his day before game talk. The word that stuck with Aiden was “showdown”. That was the word he and Nolan had used on Skype the night before. It was a showdown between a good team that had gotten off to a hot 4-0 start and a good team that was struggling some at 2-2. Coach Ecklund had simplified it to a showdown between two good teams. He knew he didn’t have to tell the team that winning the showdown was crucial if the Titans wanted to maintain any hope of winning the division title.
Aiden didn’t have much time to think about the upcoming game when he arrived home. After a dinner of mac and cheese cooked with hamburger meat, Aiden spent forty minutes completing his homework. He then sat in the Mariner watching room to catch the last few innings of the Mariners at Royals game and to catch up on his texts.
One text was from Marty. “Kick some serious ass in ur big game tomorrow. And by that I mean kick coyote ass not Nolan ass. You know what to do with that ass.” He had ten other texts to go through, all but two from teammates. One of the stray texts was from Kalie telling him he would be safe on the bus in the morning.
The other was from Justin using his Donkey Daddy’s phone. “Practice was good yesterday even if it rained a little. we practice again on thursday and Saturday.” Aiden grinned at his little bro’s attempt to write everything properly but still making two different kinds of mistakes    .
As he finished one of two texts from Gordy (the only ones other than Marty’s and maybe Justin’s that wouldn’t have given a dedicated English teacher “the big one”) Marty sliced a two-run double into the left field corner in the top of the seventh to give the Mariners a 4-1 lead.
Marty was wiping the dirt off his pants when Aiden received a video call from Nolan. “I know you want to get into your zone,” Nolan said, “but I figured you’d start doing that after the game. Nice hit by our hero.”
“Yeah, he hit that well,” Aiden concurred. “I can go upstairs and put the game on my TV if you want to chat on the computer.”
“Nah, I’ll make this quick. I want to get into my zone, too. I have some information I know you want to know and figured I’d tell you this instead of text it.”
“My guess is that you’re going to tell me that tomorrow’s starting pitcher for the Meadow Park Coyotes will be none other than Nolan Moyer.”
“Your guess is right on target,” Nolan grinned.
“Well, congratulations. And with our Coach’s new policy now in effect I can tell you that the starting second baseman for the Mayfield Titans will be none other than Aiden Miller.”
“That means either Trent or Scott will be starting for you guys. I know you predicted Trent—were you right?”  
“I was right. And I’ll be hitting leadoff.”
“I’ll be hitting sixth,” Nolan said. “Our coach likes his starting pitcher hitting lower in the order than he usually hits, unless he’s a kick ass hitter like Dominic Ward or a crappy hitter like my friend Carter.” Nolan usually batted second or third. From the way Nolan described Dominic to Aiden, he was a player who could hit like Muddy but could also play the field. Nolan called him a slick fielding first baseman plus he was a good pitcher.
“His cousin will be starting in right tomorrow but is being DH’d for.” Collin, who played for the Titans, was Dominic’s cousin. Aiden knew that Collin and Dominic were kissing cousins and more and that Rusty and/or Dominic’s girlfriend, Suzie, sometimes ended up in the middle of the fun. All but Suzie were members of the Capital Nudist Club in Olympia.
“Dom’s wanted to jerk off with me for a long time, but we just can’t make it happen.”
“Try doing it in the dugout tomorrow. It will be a great distraction for your team,” Aiden chortled. His statement had him remembering Marty’s description of boner rallies in the Mayfield dugout when Marty was in middle school.
“Yeah, right. But I am surprised I’m starting instead of him—he is the big stud eighth grader after all.”
“Yeah, but you’re the great Nolan Moyer who is the boyfriend of the awesome Aiden Miller, and that should count for something.”
“I know it counts a lot for me,” Nolan said gently. Aiden loved the smile he saw on his phone screen. “But, with you guys being 2-2 and Winton, who we play next, being 3-1 Coach must figure Friday is the tougher game.”
“Or, who knows, maybe he thinks you’re the better pitcher.”
“Damn, I love you so much awesome Aiden Miller. And…oops, home run Royals. That makes it 4-2.” The game was now in the bottom of the seventh.
“I know you figured out that the first pitch of the game is going to be you throwing to me,” Aiden pointed out.
“I did and I think it’s sick. I can’t wait until I send your sexy ass back to the dugout.”
“Yeah, after you had to watch my ass run around the bases after my homerun.” That ended the trash talk between the two boyfriends.
“Well, if we have time for it tomorrow night, I have a great fantasy for us, but since there’s a pair of ancient ears sitting in the room,” Aiden glanced at Phil, “I’ll save it for tomorrow.” Nolan breathed a deep sigh. “Good night love. Kissy kissy.”
“Night, night, and I love you,” Aiden returned.
“Hey, who are you calling ancient?” Phil asked after Aiden disconnected.
“You, old man. And thanks for letting me have my seat.”
“It’s the night before a game. I certainly wouldn’t want to upset your karma. Although, from what I overheard you say and from the nail I see between your legs, your boyfriend seems to have done that job just fine.”
“No worries, I’ll be getting in the zone as soon as the game is over.” Aiden flicked his erection with his right index finger. “And this will die down while I watch the Mariners.
The Mariners ended up winning 5-2 with Marty’s double being his lone hit in a one-for-four game with two RBI. And because Aiden was self-conscious of his erection, he pulled his emergency towel out from under his recliner and covered his crotch. The action and his concentrating on the game finally allowed it to die down to a semi.
After the game, Aiden lay on his bed with Horace sitting next to him and his train running around the room. He tossed a baseball up, caught it in his right hand, and repeated the procedure: toss, catch, repeat. It was a routine he had learned from Eric and found very relaxing. He focused on the good things he would do in the game the next day, then set the ball down and got on his knees to say his gratitude prayer and snuggled up with Horace. He fell right to sleep, which was always a good sign that he had placed himself in a good pregame zone.
<Mayfield Titans Baseball>
“Forget our records,” Everett had said in the foyer before school. “So what that they’re 4-0, we’re better. End of story.”
Aiden was surprised when he entered the foyer after getting off the bus and Mac approached him. “What I’m telling you is between you and me, at least until after the game, okay?” Mac said.
“Good morning to you, too, Mac,” Aiden grinned.
“Oh, yeah, sorry. Good morning. But that’s what I wanted to talk about. I’ve never been so nervous before a game and it’s got me kinda rattled. I mean it’s going to be my first start as catcher for us and I haven’t really done this in a while. And on top of that, we’re playing the first-place team.”
“Did you do the zone stuff you and I talked about?”
“Yeah, I worked on focusing and concentrating so much last night my mom asked me if I was sick. I said no, I was just working to get in my game zone and then my dad has to say that there was nothing wrong with me that a couple of beers wouldn’t help. So, I finished my last bite of meatloaf and went to my room and did the ball tossing thing.”
“Sounds like you were working at zoning. It’s not easy. Like I told you before, I don’t always get it right.” 
Mac went on to say he did his homework and then went down into the basement to search some old boxes. “I found exactly what I was looking for—Edgar my old teddy bear.”
“I thought you had…,” Aiden interrupted.
Mac held up his hand. “I found something I thought I might still have. I thought for sure I had thrown Edgar away after my tenth birthday. Last night, I decided just for the hell of it to look in some dusty old boxes in the basement and there he was in box number two. And yeah, I slept with him cuddled to me. I felt totally stupid at first, but holding Edgar was the best. I can’t explain it, but it felt right. And that’s one thing you can’t tell anybody EVER is me sleeping with the bear. Well, maybe Nolan, but not until you guys sleep together again.”
“Whatever you say is good enough for me.”
“I hope working out with Trent at your house helped him to trust me.” Just like I hope messing around with him in his bedroom helped too, Mac thought.
The ride from Mayfield to Meadow Park was a quiet one. Even the normally chatty JV girls knew enough not to babble. Everybody understood the importance of the afternoon’s game. One thing that the Titan boys had agreed on in their texts the night before and in their before school and lunchtime chatter that day, was that they were as good or better than the Meadow Park Coyotes.
The bus stopped in the Meadow Park Middle School parking lot and the boys started to unload. The girls, who would be playing on a field at the elementary school, stayed seated. Aiden gave Mac a thumbs up after they stepped off the bus at Meadow Park.
After the Titans finished taking infield, Scott, Coach Ecklund, and the Meadow Park coach and captain met with the two umps at home plate. Both coaches were happy to see that two umpires had been assigned to the game, since even at the varsity level middle school games often had one umpire due to a shortage of umpires who could work afternoon games. But the important varsity matchups had two umps whenever possible. JV games always had one umpire.
After the meeting at home, the Coyotes ran out onto the field and the fielders took their throws while Nolan took his eight warmup pitches.
The game started with Nolan and Aiden facing each other, something the boyfriends thought was special. Aiden took the first pitch for ball one, fouled the second one back, and hit a grounder to second on the third pitch. The second baseman fielded the ball cleanly and tossed it to first for a routine out. Nolan had done what he had boasted to do, which was send sexy Aiden’s ass to the dugout.  Gordy flied out to center, Scott grounded to short, and Nolan had a one-two-three first inning.
Trent’s first inning wasn’t quite as routine. He walked the first batter, hit the second one on his shoulder, and the Coyotes had an instant threat going. Trent got the next batter to fly out to right, but the runner on second tagged up and made it to third.
Trent fell behind 2-0 to the cleanup batter. Mac wondered if the rookie catcher should go out and talk to the experienced pitcher. He remembered Kevin telling him during his initial catching instruction to not be afraid to talk to his pitcher. And Trent had told him more than once, including a chat at practice the day before, to be willing to come out and talk to him.
“I’ve only shot two catchers for coming out to talk to me,” Trent had assured Mac. “And Muddy and Lenny have both survived so far this year.”
“Well, I’m not going to be the first, then. You pull out your gun and I’ll kick your ass. End of story.”
“Sounds fair enough. But, damn, it was only an air gun.”
“Just like you—it gives off hot air. That makes it easier for me to kick your ass.”
Mac decided to heed the advice of Kevin, Trent, Coach Ecklund, Coach Miller, Aiden, and even Muddy. He asked the umpire for time and hustled out to the mound.
“I know what you’re going to say—throw strikes,” Trent said when Mac reached the pitcher’s circle.
“I was going to say that I heard from somebody that home plate doesn’t move,” Mac responded. “That should make it easy to figure out.”
“That’s all you’re going to say? Home plate doesn’t move?”
“I could say for you to throw strikes. Same thing. Dude, you’re better than these assholes, pitch like you are. Let’s have a fastball on the inside corner at the knees.”  Mac returned and headed back for home just before the umpire started out to call him back.
Mac had watched Trent pitch. He had worked with Trent in practice, extra practices, and at the practices they had at Aiden’s house. He knew that Trent’s fastball on the inside corner at the knees was tough to hit and was what he needed on this pitch, especially since most batters are eager to hit 2-0 pitches.
Trent put the pitch right where he wanted it. The batter started to swing, then checked his swing and took strike one. He turned and gave the umpire a look that said, I don’t think so, then quickly looked back at the mound.
The next pitch was another fastball that was high, making the count 3-1. The batter fouled off a fastball knee high and just off the outside of the plate. Full count. Mac then signaled for a breaking ball. Trent shook him off. Mac signaled for it again. Another shake of the head.
Trent saw the signal for the third time and decided only a crazy rookie catcher would call for a breaking ball on a full count. He decided to throw it so he could tell Mac what a crazy rookie bastard he was for calling that pitch. He then snapped off a slider that looked like was coming in belt high. The batter’s eyes lit up and he took a vicious swing just as the bottom dropped out of the pitch, causing him to swing over it. Strike three—two outs.
The next batter grounded to short on the first pitch and the inning was over.
“Nice call, rookie,” Trent told Mac as they walked off the field.
“You’ve got one of the best ones I’ve seen, why not throw it in a tough spot?” Mac asked.
“Well, since the pitch you called worked, I won’t be carrying my air pistol out to the mound.”
“Hey, dude, I didn’t throw the pitch, you did. And you put it right where you wanted it.”
“True. Plus, home plate stayed in the same place for the whole pitch.”
Coach Ecklund was pleased at the entire catcher/pitcher sequence on the mound. Trent and Mac don’t know this yet, but I can see some chemistry building between the two of them, he thought. Not only that, but Mac was showing he could handle the tough pitches. 
The next three innings moved quickly as neither pitcher allowed a baserunner. Nolan was pitching the best game of his middle school career, allowing only one baserunner on a walk in the top of the third. Trent had settled in to throw like the ace pitcher he was. At the end of four innings the score was tied at zero and neither team had a hit.
That changed in the top of the fifth when Trent connected for a one-out double into the left-center gap. Grant was the designated runner for the pitcher and Coach Ecklund immediately made the substitution. Four pitches later, Barry laced a single to right. Knowing Grant was a speedy runner, Coach Ecklund waved him home. The right fielder had a good arm and made a perfect throw home, but it was just a hair late and Grant scored in a cloud of dust. The Titans now had a 1-0 lead.
Trent allowed two singles in the bottom of the inning, but the Coyotes couldn’t cash in and the game went to the sixth. Aiden was the first scheduled batter for the Titans. He had hit a hard line drive right to the third baseman in the fourth inning, making him 0-for-2 against his boyfriend. This time he hit a 1-1 pitch up the middle for a single, stole second on the second pitch to Gordy, and moved to third when Gordy singled.
That brought up Scott with nobody out and runners on first and third. Scott flied out to center. Aiden tagged up and scored, making it a 2-0 game. Muddy then hit into a double play ending the inning.
Coach Ecklund then moved Gordy from center to shortstop, replacing Scott.  Scott was taken out of the game and sent to the bullpen area to warm up in case he would be needed, especially since Trent looked like he might be tiring and was also approaching his pitch limit. Collin was moved from right to center and Rusty came into the game for Scott and was sent to right.
Trent struck out the first batter. That was followed by a walk, bringing the tying run to the plate with one out. Will Jones, the Coyote third baseman, was that next batter. Aiden knew he was a good hitter and fielder but wasn’t fast.  Aiden figured he would have a little extra time to make a play on a slowly hit grounder or to recover if he juggled a ball hit to him. He told Gordy that he would be covering second on an attempted steal.
He liked having Gordy as his keystone partner. While Scott was a good shortstop, Gordy was better and, even as a seventh grader, was probably one of the top two or three shortstops in the league. The reason he was playing center field instead of short was because he was also an outstanding outfielder who could cover ground faster than Scott. The combination of Scott at short and Gordy at center was the strongest defensive setup for the Titans.
Aiden shouted encouragement to Trent as he got ahead 1-2. He then threw a pitch just off the plate which Will reached for and hit hard to the right side of second base. Aiden did a crossover step and went two hard steps to his left. He took a desperation dive onto the infield dirt. The ball went into his glove—he pulled it out and shoveled it to Gordy who was covering second for the force. Gordy fired a bullet to first, his throw beating Will by half a step.
“That was ESPN!” Trent shouted as he waited to run off the field with Aiden, who was brushing the loose dirt off his uniform jersey, and Gordy, who was raving about Aiden’s amazing play. Trent’s shout was the team’s way of saying the play was worthy of being shown as a television highlight.
Mac patted Aiden on his left shoulder as they entered the dugout. Aiden turned and smiled. They heard Coach Ecklund ask Trent how he felt.
“I feel fine coach. I know I’ve got what I need to do the seventh.” Trent was sixteen pitches short of his state mandated pitching limit.
“Mac, what do you think?” Mac was surprised to be asked—he thought that topic was between the coach and the pitcher. But the coach’s question served as a reminder that he was one part of the battery: the pitcher/catcher team.
“I think he’s toast,” Mac said honestly. Coach Ecklund agreed with Mac’s assessment and was pleased that not only did Mac notice that Trent was obviously tired but had the backbone to say so.
“Hey, rookie catcher, whose side are you on? I mean, I thought you were on my side.”
Every player in the dugout within hearing range waited for Mac to explode.
“I’m on the Titan’s side,” Mac said calmly. “And that’s the side that says you’re tired.”
This time Mac waited for Trent to explode. Their relationship had been tenuous during the game. Even though Trent had only shaken off his sign a couple of times, Mac had the feeling that Trent disagreed with a lot more of his pitch calls than that.
“All I have to say to that is welcome to the team. Great job today, mister catcher.” Mac was the first catcher Trent had thrown to at any level of baseball who had taken charge like a good catcher should do. Trent went to get a bottle of water thinking he and Mac just might make a good team.
Aiden noticed that the Coyotes had a new pitcher on the mound and that Nolan was now playing third base. He wondered if a similar conversation had occurred in the Coyote dugout. Considering what Nolan had told him about their coach, Aiden decided that the coach had told Nolan he was coming out as the pitcher and to take the infield throws at third. He knew that the Coyote coach called the pitches for the pitcher, not the catcher.
Mark Fuller, the new pitcher, threw a 1-2-3 inning although two of the outs, a line drive to short and a deep fly to center, had been well hit. As the Titans started out of the dugout, Trent gave Scott a swat on the butt. “Go get ‘em ace,” he grinned. This was Scott’s first appearance in a game since he gave up the walk-off home run against Evans almost two weeks ago in the Titans’ previous game.
Scott faced four batters, giving up a one-out single to Nolan, and saving the shutout win as the Titans moved to within a game of the first place Coyotes with a 2-0 win. Everyone was sure to give Scott hugs and pats on the back for coming back in a pressure situation and performing. Trent also received kudos for his six innings of two-hit shutout ball and his first win of the season.
Aiden and Nolan shook hands in the handshake line after the game, saying the obligatory “good game.”
“You guys are right back in it,” Nolan said to Aiden. They met back up again after everyone had gone through the line. The boyfriends traded a quick hug with pats on the back.
“No thanks to you,” Aiden countered. “You held us to two runs and belted a double. Trent was on his game which was huge for us.”
“Yeah, and so was your catcher. There was no doubt he was the boss out on the field. I even saw him move your new right fielder over a few steps in the sixth.”
“I missed that. But I did see him make a couple of nice blocks with men on base. One was a pitch I don’t think Muddy would have moved quickly enough to reach. Anyway, I’ve gotta get my stuff and board the bus. I’ll talk to you tonight.”
Aiden was one of the last players to board the bus. The JV softball team won 12-8 so everyone on the bus was in good spirits.
“I didn’t see you and Nolan get a nice kissy kissy in,” Barry grinned as Aiden passed his seat.
“We didn’t want you creaming your pants on the bus,” Aiden said.
“Like I haven’t done it before.” 
Aiden gave Barry a friendly middle finger and then sat next to Gordy. Like Aiden, Gordy was in tune with the league standings and was eagerly awaiting a score or two to post on the Seamount League website before the half-hour bus trip to Mayfield Middle School ended. The score that interested everybody the most was the Kentburg-Winton score. Kentburg and Winton had both been 3-1 entering the game. With Winton being the Coyotes’ opponent on Friday, that score was huge.
Just as the bus turned off Highway 12 and toward the middle school a rumble rose from the seats. The score was the second to be posted after Mayfield’s.
“Whoa, Winton 4, Kentburg 3,” Aiden said as if he didn’t really believe the score when he saw it.
“That makes Winton and Meadow Park both 4-1 and makes Kentburg and us both 3-2. The race is REALLY tight now,” Gordy said.
“And if Clark Pass beats Gardner, which they should, that would make them 2-3 and only two games out.”
“Yeah, but don’t forget—Clark Pass is getting better, but they are still Clark Pass,” Trent said from behind Aiden and Gordy.
“Yeah, but Clark Pass beat Harborview, who is usually pretty decent,” Gordy pointed out as the bus came to a stop in the busway.
“Yeah, good point,” Trent said has he stood up and grabbed his gear from the overhead rack. “I don’t think they’re a team to take lightly.” The Titans played Clark Pass on Friday.
“And Winton plays Meadow Park on Friday. That game is going to be really interesting,” Aiden said as the girls started exiting the bus. “One of them will have first place all to themselves after they play.”
Phil was waiting in his car when Aiden stepped off the bus. Aiden had seen his dad in the bleachers at the game, which meant he would be at the school to pick him up.
“Nice game, son,” Phil said as Aiden buckled himself into the backseat.
“Thanks. That was one great pitchers’ duel.”
“That it was. And your buddy Mac looked really good at catcher—I think Coach Ecklund making that change is turning out to be a huge move for Mac and for the team.”
“Mac had no problem telling Trent what he thought. It was like they’d been working with each other for a long time.” And that they probably did more together than just talk about pitching and catching, Aiden thought.
“Too bad his parents weren’t there.”
“His dad works at the dam and his mom works at one of the antique shops in Centralia. I guess it’s hard to get off work. I mean, look at Pop. It’s not like he gets to see me play much.”
“Good point.”
“Just got another score,” Aiden said. “Monte 6, Harborview 2. Monte is still undefeated in the West Division.”
“And you just happened to draw Monte in one of your two crossover games,” Phil pointed out.
“Yep, but it’s not a biggie. We have to beat the West champion when we make the playoffs, so this will be practice.” Phil loved the confidence Aiden generated—the Titans weren’t even in first place in the East, but he was thinking ahead to the playoffs.  “We play them a week from Monday, but we’ve got Winton and Kentburg before we play them, plus Clark Pass who won’t be a pushover.”
“It’s a tough league this year.”
“It is, and I love it.”
Mac’s dad had just arrived home from work when Mac entered the house. He was in the kitchen warming up the casserole that Trisha, his wife and Mac’s mother, had prepared for dinner.
“That should be nice and hot by the time your mom gets home,” Arnold Dixon told his son. “How did the game go?”
“We won 2-0.”
“You mean a couple of middle school teams were able to play a 2-0 game? I thought they were all like 12-10 or something.”
“We had two good pitchers going. And before you ask, I got the collar, but everybody says I did good at catcher for my first start.” By saying he got the collar, Mac meant he didn’t get a hit. In this case he was oh-for-three. “We’re only a game out of first.”
“I talked to my boss today about getting an afternoon off sometime to watch you play figuring he would say no. l forgot that he not only volunteered for that baseball club that thinks it runs baseball in this town but that his son is, like, some big baseball legend and he told me he’d look at the baseball schedule and the project schedule and let me know which games I could get off for. Said I could take family leave time since I had plenty, so don’t go getting your sorry ass sick and make me take unpaid time off to be your nurse.”
“You can let mom do that,” Mac said. “She makes a way better nurse than you and is better looking, too.”
Arnold reached into the refrigerator and pulled out two cans of beer. “Want a brew?” he asked.
Mac gave his dad a gimmie-a-break look. “You know I signed a contract and an agreement with my friends, so I can’t have one.”
“Nobody’s going to know but me, and I gave it to you.”
“Mom would know because she’d smell it on my breath. And more important, I’d know. One thing I learned in today’s game is that our best pitcher trusted me as his catcher, and I don’t want to do nothing that will mess that up.”
“Son, while I think your decision is a pussy decision, I respect you for making it. And I’ll even do something to help you.”
“What’s that?”
“I not only won’t offer you a beer, but I’ll also stuff your ass in a trash can if you decide to change your mind.”
“Why are you changing your mind about this?”
“Because pussy decision or not, I don’t think it hurts for you to try to be a better man than your old man is.”
The texts and calls and video calls among the Titan baseball players kept the tween phones sizzling that evening. One bit of good news being shared was the JV team’s 6-2 win over Meadow Park, which gave the Titan JVs a 4-0 record. They were the only undefeated team in the league.
Aiden gave Riley a call to see how he did. Even though Riley had quickly become accepted by the Titan baseball family, Aiden still checked in to make sure that Riley didn’t feel isolated. Besides, he liked the little bugger, especially since he was the only seventh grade baseball player shorter than he was. Aiden considered Grant to be a tossup as far as size went.
“Hey, Aiden, what’s up?” Riley asked as he answered the phone.
“Just checking in. Nice win by you guys.”
“It was. We scored three in the first and stayed ahead the whole game. Lance pitched the first four and got the win and Dayton pitched two. He gave up the two runs. Warren pitched the seventh.”
“How much did you play?”
“I played the whole game at second and got a single and a walk.”
“Good job.”
“Did you pitch?” Riley asked.
“Not this time. But we come right back and play Friday so who knows how the pitching will go,” Aiden replied.
“Clark Pass is tied for second in our division so it should a good game.” Aiden heard a woman’s voice in the background. “Mom says I gotta go. I’ll see you at practice tomorrow. Thanks for calling.”
Aiden answered the text he received from Kalie telling him that the varsity softball team defeated Meadow Park, 11-4. Aiden texted back his congratulations.
Aiden hadn’t been to a meeting of the Fourth Dimension for a while. He decided this would be a good night to go to help support Grant if he attended the meeting. Larry gave Aiden a ride to the meeting, praising his son for his willingness to be of service to Grant. It was also a way to get away from the phone chaos.
“Well, like Marty and Sammy both say, in order to keep it you gotta give it away,” Aiden responded.
“Just remember to let Grant share things in his own way,” Larry said.
“Dad, you’ve already told me that a dozen times.”
“Sorry. I should have more faith in your common sense.”
“Yep. Don’t forget that I’m almost a teenager.”
“Trust me, son, I think about that fact almost every day.”
Grant was in the meeting room setting out the books and pamphlets when Aiden arrived. Aiden had two dozen maple raisin cookies baked by Phil to share with the group.
“I knew you were good for something,” Sammy said when he entered the room and saw Aiden setting out a paper plate of cookies.
“And don’t you forget it,” Aiden retorted.
Eight members were in attendance at the meeting, which meant there were plenty of cookies for everyone. Nevertheless, they were all gone by the time the meeting ended.
Without going into detail, Grant shared how much he wanted to drink on Saturday. “But I remembered what you and my counselor keep telling me about using my tools and I did that by calling somebody. It wasn’t easy, but at least for today it worked.”
After Aiden returned home, he and Nolan got together on Skype. Their chat was filled with baseball talk, sexual chatter, and a quick jerk off coming as the climax (so to speak) of the phone call.      
Before Aiden retired for the night with Horace, he said his gratitude prayer. He reminded himself of how the combination of cookies and Grant feeling better about his situation, not to mention winning the baseball game that afternoon, had made for a good day. It also made for a busy day, and Aiden was asleep almost from the moment his head hit his pillow. 
Practice was flat. The drills seemed to be moving in slow motion and the chatter factor, at least as far as baseball chatter was concerned, was close to nothing. Aiden, Trent, Scott, and Mac were the only players who seemed motivated to practice. While baseball practice generally wasn’t the kind of rah-rah affair that basketball or football practices were, there was still the expectation that everyone be committed to practicing hard for the entire session.
One player Aiden started to notice was Mac. While he hadn’t been saying much, he went through every drill full steam. Aiden felt he was doing the same, along with Trent, Scott, Riley, and in their own quiet ways, Mac and Gordy.
When Everett waved at a fungo hit going past third during a controlled scrimmage, Aiden wondered if Everett’s lazy defense would finally get Coach Ecklund to stop practice and chew some ass. Instead, Mac, who was playing catcher in the drill, yanked off his mitt and threw in on the ground.
“Hey, it wasn’t very long ago that a bunch of you guys came by my house and told me about how everybody on the Titans played baseball the right way.” He glared in Everett’s direction. “I was told we got our uniforms dirty, hustled on every play, and for sure didn’t play matador defense. And here I am in practice the day after we knock off the first-place team and everybody is fucking happy. I guess we all think our shit don’t stink no more because we beat Meadow Park.”
Mac looked over at Coach Ecklund after letting a few expletives loose. “Pardon my French coach, but it pisses me off. I just want my teammates to keep their part of the deal we made, because I’ve been doing the best I can.”
“Mac’s right,” Trent added. “We’re practicing like the last place team during the last week of the season. We’re better than that. Way better. Remember, for us to win we have to look and act like winners, or it all doesn’t make much difference.”
“Hey, everybody, I’m sorry,” Everett piped up. “When I was at Mac’s house, I said exactly what he was saying. And that sure wasn’t me today.”
“I just can’t get into practice today,” Max said.
“And I can’t either,” Brody added.
Coach Ecklund then stepped into the middle of the infield along with Coach Seaver. “Then maybe it’s time for us to use this as a learning experience,” the coach said calmly. “Every person and every team can’t be at their peak all of the time. It’s what players do when they don’t feel as motivated as they would like that separates the winners from the losers.
“Trent said what we all should be doing in every practice, in every game, and half the moments in between. We should be thinking and acting like winners every chance we get. That, more than anything else, is what makes us winners. Now, let’s get back to the drill. Grant you be the runner on second and Lenny you be the batter/runner at home plate. I’m going to hit fungoes to the outfield to work on cutoff and relay plays. The rest of you return to what you were doing before our little break. I’ll be changing the fielders in another five minutes or so.” For Coach Ecklund the words ‘or so’ meant the same as ‘exactly’ about ninety percent of the time.
Before the players went to their positions, the varsity and JV wordlessly met in the middle of the infield. They placed their arms around each other’s shoulders; it was a maneuver they had executed many times before, but only on certain occasions. This was the first time they had met together like this spontaneously. Trent, as team captain, counted down from three and when he got to one, each player squeezed a shoulder of the player next to him and shouted out, “TITANS HUSTLE!”  Practice from then on became more focused, practice gear got dirty, grounders were run out, and normal baseball chatter ensued.
When practice ended, Coach Ecklund praised the team on their good job of stepping up the practice. He then announced the next day’s starting lineup. Aiden would be batting ninth since the coach liked his pitchers batting lower in the order. As he explained to Aiden, his batting ninth ahead of Gordy, who would be batting leadoff, kept what was an effective one-two combination at the plate.
Aiden entered the locker room with Gordy and Riley. The three had assigned lockers in the same alcove. “Can I ask you a couple of questions?” Riley asked Aiden, who was stripping off his practice gear. He was going to shower in the locker room instead of at home because as soon as Phil picked him up, they would be going to Bob’s Burger Barn for a good old hamburger and fries dinner (with a heap of coleslaw for greens).
“Fire away, Riley.”
“Were we really better that last half of practice?”
“We were way better. We looked like the Titans.”
“Yes, we did,” Mac said as he and Trent entered the locker room.
Coach Ecklund had just finished talking to Mac about how he had stepped up and showed leadership. “The big reason it worked is because you’ve been doing the things you talked about. You’ve looked and acted like a winner ever since you signed on with that no matter what group, and it showed in how you played the game yesterday. However, it might be a good idea if you tempered the foul language.”
“Sorry coach. I got carried away and as soon as the words came out, I knew I’d screwed up,” Mac responded.
“I could see it on your face. You’ve been doing good work; keep up what you’ve been doing.”
Trent had waited for Mac and walked to the gym with him. “Good, job, Mac. You surprised everybody including me, but you were the right guy to do it. I’m not about to hand you my captain’s underpants yet, but, damn, playing with you keeps getting better and better. Now, keep that Aiden dude in line tomorrow. Don’t let him think he knows more than you do.”
“The problem is, he just might know more than I do,” Mac said.
“Yeah, well, just don’t let him know that,” Trent grinned.
Mac and Trent liked what they heard from Aiden as they passed him in the locker room.
“What was question two, Riley?” Aiden asked as he stripped naked.
“What is matador defense?”
“Have you ever seen a video of a bullfight?”
“What does the matador do with his cape when the bull comes after him?”
“He steps out of the way and holds the cape to his side and waves it. Oh…I get it. That’s what Everett did instead of fielding the ball. He stepped out of the way and waved at it.”
“That was pretty much what happened.”
“I’m never going to play that kind of defense,” Riley exclaimed as he also got naked.
“Make sure you keep telling yourself that. It’s part of looking like a winner. You don’t wave at the ball, you…”
“…dive on it going by like you did in the game yesterday. And guess what?”
“What?” Aiden asked as he admired Riley’s smooth, lithe body.
“If you do it right in practice then you do it right in games and that’s how the Titans do it.”
The two naked seventh graders grabbed their towels and headed to the shower, where they were joined by Trent and Mac. Along with washing themselves there was some definite ogling going on, especially with Trent and Mac eyeing each other and Aiden and Riley doing the same. Trent loved the way Mac was getting hair in all the right places and Aiden loved Riley’s lithe body.
Next: Baby Brother