February. Scottsdale, Arizona. First day of spring training.
Brandon Belt lets out a shuddering breath.
Even landing in Arizona he knew his chances of making the team right out of training were slim to none. But the moment he’d gotten that call from the front office, telling him he’d been invited to Scottsdale, his mind hasn’t stopped racing with the possibilities.
what if what if what if
There are people already lined up along the outer fences of the parking lot. Waiting and hoping for an autograph or a picture with their favorite player. Looking at them, Brandon has the sudden thought that ‘these people don’t know who I am.’ It’s nine in the morning and it’s already 90 outside. They’re waiting out here in the heat to catch a glimpse of their championship team and they have no idea what his name even is.
And then there’s that niggling little voice in the back of his mind. But they will.
He smiles at the ones that smile at him and pushes his way into the air conditioned complex. Forty thousand people cheering him on every night. A locker of his own next to guys with a world series flashing in their grins. His first major league home run. Excitement already quickening his feet.
Then it’s time to rejoin the real world. It’s actually pathetic how quickly he gets turned around in the labyrinth that is Scottsdale stadium. Every door and every scuff mark on the floor looks the same and he’s never been known for having a great sense of direction. First day and he is completely lost.
So much for the pep talk and having his name up in lights. It’ll be time to retire by the time he finds the field.
He’s half tempted to just sit there in the middle of the hallway floor and let someone come find him when he rounds a corner and runs face first into a human shoulder.
Strong hands shoot out to steady him. “Woah. Hey, watch yourself. This is not the place to be falling on people.”
Brandon quickly regains his balance and takes a step back, shaking his head in apology. “Sorry, sorry, it’s my first day and I’m already lost and sorry and... oh.” He stops dead in his tracks.
“Oh?” Brian Wilson asks, amused. In all his mo-hawk sporting, bearded glory. And Brandon just almost bowled him over.
“You’re Brian Wilson,” Brandon stutters. And I’m taller than you.
Wilson laughs. “You’re right. I am. How’d you figure that one out?” he teases with a smile that the beard doesn’t take anything away from.
Brandon pleads silently that the blush he can feel creeping up his neck doesn’t go any further. “Just a hunch?”
Wilson laughs again. “Well since you seem to know me, already, who the heck are you?”
“Belt. Er, uh. Brandon Belt.” He hates himself for almost adding ‘sir’ to the end of that. He’s pretty sure Wilson would have hated him too. The guy’s only a couple years older than him. And his new teammate. Brandon still can’t figure out how that happened.
Wilson is already in uniform too, tattoos curling up and around his massive arms. “Neat. Read your name a few times. First base, right?”
Brandon nods quickly. “Yes. I mean. Well sometimes. Sometimes I pitch. Well I used to pitch. But I don’t think they want me to pitch anymore. Not since they put me at first base. Not with you guys pitching. I mean. Um. Yes. Yes, I play first base.”
He is literally biting his mouth shut to keep himself from rambling any further. Also hoping the ground will swallow him whole, never to be seen again.
Wilson only raises his eyebrows in response. “Jumpy one, aren’t you?”
Brandon shrugs a little helplessly. “Sorry.”
Wilson continues to study him. “You’re cute, kid. Look, I gotta go meet up with some of the other felllas, but I will definitely be seeing you around, okay?” He pats Brandon once on the shoulder and turns to walk away, giving a small wave as he goes.
“Oh. Uh. Thank you!” Brandon calls after the retreating number 38.
Cute? Okay. He can deal with that. Could be worse.
Watching Wilson disappear around a corner, it’s only then that he realizes he still doesn’t know where the locker room is. He sprints after him.