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The Best at What He Does

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Dan's probably not playing today, not unless it goes into extra innings, so he's free to make his rounds once they've finished pre-game introductions. He hits up Tyler first, just reaches out and pulls Tyler into him.

Hugs with Tyler are the best—comfortable and warm, no need to compromise or cut the hug short before it's really finished. Dan can feel Tyler relaxing into it.

"One day at a time, right?" says Tyler.

"You got it." Dan pats Tyler on the back and lets him go. The first inning is starting and they probably ought to watch.

He checks Tyler off his list while Gio throws the opening pitch. Dan does actually have a list, even though Janette makes fun of him for it. Most of the time Dan is happy to let hugs happen spontaneously, just part of the moment. Some things are too important to leave to chance, though, which is why he has the list. Dan would feel awful if he missed his hug with Tyler.

They're playing the Braves today, and there's Freddie stepping up to the plate in his blue Braves helmet. Dan really misses getting his Freddie hugs whenever he wanted them, so he hugs Denard to compensate, linking his arms over Denard's shoulders as they watch Freddie work the count.

"What's this for?" asks Denard.

"Doesn't need to be for anything," says Dan. "I just wanted somebody to lean on."

Denard pats Dan's hand. Freddie hits a double, and Dan sighs.

"All right, come here." Denard pulls Dan into a proper hug.

Dan smiles into Denard's shoulder—this is a good one. "Thanks."

Gio comes back to the dugout looking like hell, so Dan opens up his arms and stands there, letting Gio decide. This is on his list too. Some guys like hugs, but feel awkward about them. Dan hugs those guys anyway, getting them used to the idea that this is something they can have. Other guys can't stand hugs, and Dan's learned to leave them alone and not try to convert them. He gives fist-bumps instead, or high-fives, light contact that won't make anyone uncomfortable. For Gio, his hug-tolerance changes day to day. Dan doesn't want to assume.

Gio thinks about it, and then steps in to take the hug. "I'm okay," he says.

"I know." Dan gives Gio a quick squeeze and then lets him go before he can feel stifled.

Dan gives Bryce a hug after a great hit—Bryce loves hugs, so Dan always jumps at a good excuse to give him one. Dan gives Jayson a hug after a really good inning, and doesn't mind Jayson's stiff arms. Jayson's one of the awkward guys who wasn't raised hugging, but he's coming around. Dan gives Yunel a fist-bump after he hits a homerun, because Dan really can maintain boundaries even though Yunel looks like he would give really great hugs. Yunel sees Dan looking wistful and says something to Felipe, who runs over to give Dan a proxy hug.

"That's really not necessary," says Dan.

"It's a bonus hug for me," says Felipe. "I like it."

Dan won't argue with that. He beams and gives Felipe a hug to remember.

Tyler points out a fan in the stands with a 'Dan Huggla' sign, which is basically amazing. Dan mimes hugging at her, and, well, it's hard to see her exact reaction from this far away. Dan's pretty sure she's happy about it, which is the main thing.

Dan even gives Matt Williams a hug when they win the game. Williams pats Dan on the back of the head with one hand, squeezing Dan's ribs with the other. Dan never really expected Williams to be such a good hugger, but he's glad to be proven wrong.

"Hey," says Bryce, voice suddenly hard. "What are you doing here?"

"Hi," says Freddie, and Dan stops hugging Williams so fast that he gets a little bit of whiplash.

"I don't want to bother you guys," says Freddie, "but it's the end of the series and we're flying out tonight. I just was hoping Dan and I could—"

Dan walks up from the dugout with outstretched arms. This is pretty much the best game of the month.