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The Perfect Game

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It started out like any other game day. She woke up. She stretched the kinks from her back. She looked out the window for a moment. The weather was perfect. It almost always was. Everything about that day was perfect. She felt it in her bones.

She headed to Petco on time. She ran through hitters with Lawson. She watched him do a little batting practice, heckling him the whole time. He teased right back as she warmed up her arm. Then she went to her cubby to clear her head and a thought struck her. She was still thinking it when he knocked.

“You ready, Baker?” he asked, when she opened the door. Instead of answering, she pulled him into the cubby and shut the door. “What’s wrong? Is it your elbow? Your shoulder?”

She laughed. “No, it’s nothing. I feel great, perfect, in fact. I just wanted to tell you a secret and ask for a favor.”

“Okay?” he said, clearly questioning her sanity. “You know I’d do anything for you. What’s up?”

“I know this might sound crazy, but I am going to pitch a no-…”

Mike immediately started humming and covering his hears. She glared and pulled his hands down.

“I know the superstition and I know why everyone is so weird about it, but I have this feeling. I’ve only felt like this one other time, and we both know how that turned out.”

“So, what do you need from me?”

“I need you to talk to me.”

“Ok, about what?”

“No, I mean when everyone else sees what’s happening, I need you to talk to me. I want you to sit next to me and talk to me and act like this is just another game.”

“Ginny,”

“I know, but what’s is the worst thing that could happen? I don’t do it? Ok, we still win. It would still be an awesome game. The way you’ve been hitting we will have at least a few runs. It will be fine. I just hate how everyone gets. It reminds me of when no one wanted me on the team.”

“Was that a complement buried in there somewhere?”

“Lawson, focus.”

“I’m sorry. I’ll try, but we were never that bad, were we?”

“I don’t really mean this team. It was really rough early on in the minors, but it wasn’t so great here either. At least not that first week. If I hadn’t had Blip… If you hadn’t come around… I don’t know if I would have stuck it out, but today I’m going to prove that I was meant to be here. I am going to throw a no-hitter.”

“Ok,” he said, taking a deep breath. “Today you pitch a no-hitter.”

“Today is the day I pitch a no hitter,” she repeated. It was like they were breaking a curse. It felt like when Harry first said Voldemort. They both had chills, but they weren’t scared anymore. Now they felt ready to take on the world.

A moment later Blip knocked. “You two planning on joining us?”

“Be right out,” Ginny called, but she wasn’t quite ready. She went to her cubby and pulled out a nectarine.

“A little late for a snack, Baker.”

“It’s not to eat. It is just to remind me of all the work that got me here.”

“Alright then, you ready?”

She gave him the nod that he knew meant game on, and they walked down the tunnel and into the dugout. Ginny set the nectarine on shelf next to his batting helmet. Al started to question it, but Lawson just gave him a look and the coach let if go.

The first few innings no one noticed. Everyone was just playing ball. They would stand at the stairs cheering each other on. Mike could feel it though. In the back of his mind the words no-hitter kept flashing. He felt every pitch hit his glove a little harder than normal. He held his breath for every call. Even when he was batting, he wanted to do more.

She believed in him. She was counting on him. By the bottom of the fifth, they were 5-0. His had batted two guys in and scored once himself. Everyone was starting to feel it. Tension was building. The crowd started holding their breath for calls too.

At the bottom of the sixth they started avoiding her. He was on deck, but he whistled to her and winked when she looked over. The smile he got back was enough to convince him that it was the right choice. He hit a double bringing Sonny home, but got stuck on second while Blip was struck out. By the time he sat next to her on the bench they only had one out before they had to get back out there. Al called him away, but he shook the coach off.

“How we doing?” he asked looking right at her. He could tell she was fighting a grin.

“Peachy.”

“I thought it was a nectarine?”

“Yeah, but that’s not the saying.”

“Fair enough.”

Sal was thrown out at first and they took the field again. The first two hitters went down without much trouble, but then came Justin Turner. She had already struck him out once, and now he wanted a hit bad. Mike could tell by the way he was set that he would swing at almost anything. He took a walk to the mound.

“You got a plan here, Rookie? You wanna walk him?”

“I got a plan. I throw, you catch.”

Mike fought a smile and instead gave a gruff nod. “You got this?”

She covered her mouth with her glove and said, “No-hitter.”

He did the same right back. Three more pitches and they were headed for the dugout.

The familiar chords of take me out to the ball game echoed around them. She sat down near the far edge of the bench, and he started to sit down too, but Sonny grabbed his arm.

“What the hell do you think you’re doing?” Sonny whispered.

“I’m giving these old knees of mine a break for a minute.”

“But… the…”

“It’s fine. I know what I’m doing.” He sat down close enough that their shoulders were touching. “They are going to give me so much shit if this doesn’t work.”

“I know, but I’m worth it,” Ginny teased.

Mike just rolled his eyes. After a minute, Blip came over.

“Lawson, I need to talk to you.”

“Have a seat, Sanders.”

Ginny patted the bench on her other side.

“You are crazy, Mike, and she is just as bad.”

“Come on, Blip. Sit down,” Ginny insisted. He looked like he might actually do it, but then he shook his head and mumbled under his breath about crazy people as he walked away.

They were walking out at the top of the eighth, when Al stopped her. “You got this, Baker.” It wasn’t a question. It was the absolute truth, she could see it in his eyes. He believed in her. She grinned and took the field.

Seager fell for two screwballs and a cutter, but then came Bellinger. Ginny started to feel nervous. Mike could tell by the way she rolled the ball in her hand. He signaled for the cutter, but she shook him off. He went through her options, but each time she shook her head. Finally, he ran out to the mound again.

“What’s up, buttercup?”

She put her glove over her mouth, but her eyes were darting around like a caged animal. “I don’t know. I don’t know if I can do this.”

“You already did. You got this far,”

“This is where I messed up last time.”

“Ok, but we did it different this time. I’m here with you. You can do this. I got your back. You throw, I catch.”

“I throw, you catch.”

“That’s right. So, what are you throwing?”

She put her glove down, looked right at Bellinger and said, “Strikes!”

“That’s my girl,” he laughed, heading back to his spot. The next two outs were a breeze. They sat back in the same spot at the bottom of the eighth. This time Blip sat at her other side.

“Nice of you to join us,” Ginny teased.

“I’m not talking to her. I don’t know what you two are doing, but I am going to sit here and not talk to her.”

“Cheeseball,” Ginny laughed and bumped her shoulder against his.

“So, where are we going after the game?” Mike asked. “I’m in the mood for barbeque.”

“I can not eat at Bubba’s again this week, old man.”

“It’s only been twice, and they are close to my place.”

“Twice in three days, and no. I want dim sum.”

“Fine, but you better not eat all the spare ribs this time.”

“Don’t be late this time.”

“I was parking the car!”

“May I suggest using the valet?”

“May I suggest…”

“You two gonna finish this?” Al called from his place at the stairs. They looked out and saw that it was time to take the field one last time.

Blip brushed her shoulder as he walked by.

“I can’t believe he is being so stubborn.” Ginny sighed.

“Well, he did half cave. That counts for something right?”

“Yeah, I guess he can come for dim sum too.”

The whole crowd was silent as she walked to the mound. She closed her eyes and rolled her shoulders. Then her focus was zoned in on Lawson. The first strike hit his glove, then another and another. She started to fidget. The next batter stepped up. Mike called for the change up. She hesitated, but Mike gave the same sign again. She threw the ball and a crack echoed through the air. Mike caught the ball in his glove before she could even find in.

“You’re out!” the ump called.

She grinned.

He winked.

The last batter was Chris Taylor. They had played together in the minors. She knew his weakness. He couldn’t resist a fastball. Unfortunately, in the past she couldn’t really throw one either. What he didn’t know, was that she had spent most of the off season throwing fastballs. She was ready.

The first pitch sailed into Mike’s glove. It was fast. She could practically hear the talking heads losing their minds. He called for another. She shook him off, Taylor might snag a piece of it if he knew it was coming. Instead she threw out a screwball. Taylor swung, but it was no good. The ball went right into Mike’s glove.

One more. She was so close. Mike called for the fastball again. She wasn’t sure, but something made her trust him. She set and threw the ball with all the power she had left. She heard the ball hit his glove, and the crowd exploded.

Mike ran toward her. He squeezed her tight a moment before she was crushed by the entire team. She was practically vibrating with adrenaline.

“You did it!” Mike screamed in her ear over the thundering crowd, but she shook her head.

“We ain’t done anything yet!” She grinned.