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nothing but these aching bones

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‘Hey boss, there’s a woman out here who wants to see you’

 

‘Thanks Sheila, I’ll be out in a sec.’

 

Smiling Dave Grissom hangs up the phone and pushes back from his desk. In over 30 years in the car sales game he still enjoys the one on one facetime with the customers, and was still one of the best salesmen in his company.

 

Leaving his office he saw the woman Sheila had been talking about, she was standing facing away from him, her arms crossed as she looked over the midsize SUV that was parked in the showroom. Her dark curly hair cascading over a worn leather jacket with dark skinny jeans covering her lower half ending in motorcycle boots, she looked like any other recent college graduate looking for a car.

 

‘That’s a nice car, but it depends what you're in the market for.’ He said as he came to stand beside her. ‘I’m Dave Grissom, you asked to see me?’

 

She turns to face him then, and it was all he could do not to leave his jaw hanging like a slack jawed yokel. It was Ginny Baker, in the flesh. The 4th starting pitcher for the San Diego Padres, the first female player in MLB history was standing in his showroom on her day off in the 2018 World Series. This was something that didn’t happen everyday.

 

‘I did, Hi I’m….’

 

‘Ginny Baker’ The words fell unbidden from his mouth, the answering look on her face proved that at least he wasn’t the first man to lose control of his words.

 

‘Yeah am I.’

 

Her smile is a shock, the dimples bursting from her cheeks in a way that reminders him just how young this incredible woman before him is. She may be in her third season of major league ball, but at just 25 she was still incredibly young.

 

‘And you're here looking for a car?’ He can’t help the incredulity in his voice.

 

She shakes her head softly facing back towards the car in front of her. ‘No, I don’t drive, and if I did Poway might have been a little far to come to get a car. I actually came to see you Mr Grissom,’ he felt his own eyebrows raise at that, she’d come to see him, as if hearing his unspoken question she carried on, ‘I wanted to know if you have plans for tomorrow night?’

 

‘Tomorrow night? Halloween? Just trick or treating with my grandson and handing out candy.’

 

‘How about if I was to offer you four behind the plate tickets to game 6 of the World Series instead? Do you think your grandson would be ok with that instead?’ She turns her head, giving him a searching look, as if she’s trying to figure her way into a conversation that she doesn’t really want to have.

 

‘Miss Baker…..That's very generous of you but..’

 

‘Tomorrow night will be my captain's last game of professional baseball, he’s one of the best men I’ve ever known. Tomorrow night he’s going to step out onto Petco Park for the last time in his career, a career he has spent in one city, with one team and I think it would mean a lot to both of you if you were there.’ There it is, proof in so few sentences, this woman next to him knows exactly who he is, and the secret he thought had been hidden for over twenty years.

 

‘My family…’ How is he going to explain this,

 

Pulling an envelope from the inside pocket of her jacket, she turned to face him dead on, Dave Grissom felt the full force of what major league batters have been facing for the past three years. ‘Your family never has to know, say you won the tickets in a last minute prize draw and you can’t believe your luck. You never have to tell them, all you have to do is show up.’

 

‘I don’t know what you think you know, or what he’s asked you to do.’

 

‘Nobody has asked me to do anything, he doesn’t know I’m here. I’m not asking you to uproot your life or for anything to change. I’m doing a favour for a friend, and for you too. All you have to do is go to a ball game. I can tell you it's going to be a good one’

 

‘Ok sure, thank you Miss Baker.’ As he accepts the envelope from her outstretched hand, he can visibly see the relief flood off her.

 

‘Congratulation Mr Grissom.’ she said with a soft smile, turning to walk out of the showroom and into the waiting SUV he could now see parked at the curb.

 

He couldn’t help himself but add ‘You know there's always game seven, right?’

 

Her smile was electric as she turned back to face him, ‘Not this year there isn’t, I’ll see you tomorrow night.’

 

In that moment it became perfecting clear, what he should have known earlier, Ginny Baker is a force of nature.

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It's just one more game.

 

It's just one more game. It’s been the mantra that he’s been repeating for the whole season, he’s used it to coax his body through ice baths, pain relief injections and Kiki’s ministrations. He used it with the team to get through long road trips that saw them bounce around the National League from Pittsburgh to Washington and then LA. When it was win one more game to make the wild card slot and then one more to actually take the Division, and then on to the PostSeason. One more game when the Braves won game 3 in the division series.

 

It's just one more game.

 

He’d said it to Ginny before her start and through each game of the seven game NLCS, when the Padres managed to somehow claw themselves back into it after going 0-2 in the first two games. He could still see the joy and relief on Blip's face when he was called safe at home at the bottom of the 10th in Game 7, securing them the Padres first world series appearance in twenty years.

 

It's just one more game.

 

He’s sure nothing can come close to beating the Boston Red Sox in game one of the world series at a packed Petco Park, Sonny threw a beautiful game and scoring a homer at the top of the 7th will sit with him forever, the fans on their feet, cheering his name. Boston squared the ledger the next night, but the Padres had escaped Fenway with a 3-2 lead in the series, a win tonight on their return to Petco would see them take the series.

 

It's just one more game.

 

But it will be his last, his body has squeaked through most of the series, Duarte taking more starts than he would have liked to have given him, but it would set the Padres up well heading into next year when he would no longer be on the roster. Al had told him point blank the day before that if it went to game 7 that he would be seeing it from the bench. Ginny and Blip had taken it upon themselves to rally the rest of the team, this series wasn’t going to seven.

Here he was after 18 years as a Padre, suiting up to start for the last time. He knew this was coming, had told the team at the Welcome Dinner of spring training, announced it to the press and the rest of the world during the regular season. But this was the last time he was going to step on to this ballpark as a player for this team, with the 23 men and one woman who had become his family. This is it after this there are no more games, at least not for him.

 

Through early work and BP the team kept to their routine, the ones with skyrocketing superstitions wore unwashed socks, or had facial hair situations bordering on ridiculous and there was a feeling among some in the team the Melky hadn’t showered at all since the first game, but no one was willing to risk it and ask him to wash. Salvi and Sonny always warm up together, Robles and Dusty have some ridiculous celebration dance that they practise at least three times before every game. For Mike, it was a solid half an hour with Kiki followed by a nap for as long as Baker would let him sleep.

 

Today it was about 8 minutes after Kiki left that he felt her presence in the room, he wishes he could say that he was right when he told Robles that you get used to how beautiful she is, but it's been three years, and he sure as hell isn’t used to it yet. Sitting on the massage table next to his, already dressed in her uniform but with her hair still loose in an unruly halo, she practically vibrates with nervous energy. ‘Jeeez, calm down Baker or you're gonna need a nap before the night is done.’

 

She stops swinging her legs briefly but doesn’t smile, the look on her face makes him drag himself up to a sitting position. ‘What’s up?’

 

‘I did something, something I need to tell you about. But I don’t know if i should tell you before the game,’ She gets up and paces in circles in front of him, gesticulating wildly and running her fingers through her hair, ‘but now I’ve told you about it so I guess I need to tell you, but then it was probably better if you didn’t know, I don’t know. It seemed like a good idea, and I still think it's a good idea but I don’t if you’ll agree...’

 

‘BAKER! What the hell are you talking about? Please stop moving, you’re actually making me dizzy, are you ok?’

 

She comes to a dead stop in front of him, her brown eyes meeting his hazel before she shuts them and whispers, ‘I went to Poway and gave your Dad tickets to tonight's game.’

 

He blinks back at her, ‘I’m sorry, i didn’t hear all of that, did you say you went to Poway?’

 

‘Yes’

 

‘You, went to POWAY?’

 

The look on her face makes him look away and attempt to draw a calming breath. His hands rub over his eye before sliding down his face through his beard that had turned fairly impressive in the postseason or into the ‘bush’ as Ginny refers to it. The subject of his parents and the long complicated history he has with the two people involved with bringing him into this world had been something they’d discussed quite early on in their late night phone conversations.

 

The conversations that started after her first All Star start had been on and off during her first season. Then really off in the off season that followed when she had dated the Billionaire and he had flirted with the disaster of dating his ex wife, but during her second season it had become a two to three night a week habit, now three years on he couldn’t imagine not talking to her about everything and nothing every night of his life. Though now that his final season was coming to a close he was hoping to have an entire different kind conversation with his superstar pitcher. A pitcher who’d apparently used part of her off day to meddle in his life.

 

‘Why Baker? Have you never heard the phrase leave well enough alone?’

 

‘Lawson, Mike come on...’ She catches his eye so earnestly then, her open hope so blatant for him to see, she’d lost some of her naivety over the course of her three years in the Majors. But sometimes he still caught glimpses of the girl who saw baseball as her whole world and that hoped maybe she had the tiniest bit of control over it.

 

‘I know this team and this town are your family and yes I have seen you be ok with that at every special function, on family days and mother's day. Make jokes about the team being everything you have in life on days when we’ve let ourselves down. But I also know about the trips you’ve taken to his house, but never been able to get out of your car, I know you want to know him, and that you want him to know you. And there is nothing wrong with that, he’s your father.’

 

‘Who I haven’t spoken to since I was 10 years old and who even at the point never admitted to actually being my father.’

‘You know that it wasn't that simple.That everything with your mom especially back then was complicated.’ She sits back down across from him again and at this level they sit pretty much eye to eye. ‘He’s the reason you became a catcher, instead of a disastrous first baseman.’

 

‘Hey I was pretty good at first base’ he defends.

 

‘What in Little League?’ She parries, this brings a smile to his face as he chuckles at her.

 

‘There’s no quick fix to this, Baker. It’s not add water, instant family, it’s nearly 40 years of some really pretty complicated shit.’

 

‘I never thought it was easy Mike, but I thought you deserved to have some really family to show off for tonight.’

 

‘You’re my real family,’ he says automatically then realising what he’s actually said, stumbles
on, ‘I mean the team, the Padres, Al are all my family.’

 

‘I know that,’ She gifts him with a small dimpled smile that cuts right to his core, ‘but if you think I wouldn’t give everything I have to have my dad sitting in those stands tonight, well then I guess you just don’t know me.’

His voice is small when he finally asks her the question that's been burning at him, ‘Is he here?’

‘Yeah, he’s sitting in the family seats just above home plate.’ With that she stands up from the table and with a roll of her shoulders turns to go. Leaving him sitting there trying to work out just what exactly she’s made him feel.

 

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He takes his seat in Al’s office, this had become a ritual of his own this season, a quick once over with the managers before heading out onto the park. Since deciding before his last spring training that maybe Phase Two might actually be coaching rather than broadcasting as he had first thought, he’d thrown himself into soaking up all he can while he’s still a Padre.

 

‘Hey Lawson, have you seen…’ Al coming round the corner suddenly gets a good look at his face, ‘Jeez! That’s not a look I’ve seen on your face since I asked you to play first, what’s got you goat?’

 

‘Baker, well Baker and my father.’

 

‘Baker and your father what?’ Al asked incensed at the possible meaning behind his statement.

 

‘He’s here, she invited him.’

 

‘How does she know him? I thought you hadn’t seen him since you were a kid, well that's what you told me at your wedding anyway.’

 

‘I haven’t but after the divorce, when I could feel my career and life falling off that big cliff, I hired a Private Detective to look him up, and I told Baker about it a while back and apparently she can’t leave things alone. Though a girl with a family situation like hers should definitely learn to leave things alone.’

 

‘I’m sorry what? Not following here Lawson.’

 

‘She took the information I gave her, went and found him and gave him tickets for tonight's game. Somewhere up in the stands is my father, for maybe the first time in my major league career, or at least the first time that I’ve known about. ‘

 

‘She sure he’s here?’ Al looked

 

‘She saw him during BP, he’s definitely here.’

 

‘OK, so what you going to do about it?’

 

Running his hand through his beard again, Mike wishes for a simpler time, a time when he wasn’t facing down his last professional baseball game, a time when his father wasn’t in the stands, a time when he definitely wasn’t in love with his pitcher, his irritatingly glorious pitcher.

 

‘I’m going to play Game 6 of the first and last world series I’ll ever play in.’

 

‘That's what I’d hope you’d say. Now let’s go over the plan on how we’re going to beat these guys.’

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It starts with Moore, the game’s starter comes up to Mike when they’ve gone through all his warm up pitches in the bullpen. Somehow their last minute rehash of the Sox opening batters becomes an in depth chat about what this game is and what it means to them ending in a good natured bro hug.

 

Suddenly he’s going through the bullpen, player to player, reminiscing about terrible road trips and rainouts with Fogelman, discussing the worst kangaroo court fines with Javanes, chatting about being old men playing a kids game for a living with Hunter. Even sidling up to Duarte to talk about the epic last game he caught in Fenway that means they have the chance to take it all today. It’s a nice feeling sharing these last moments with these players, with the crowd lining the outside fence, it feels like home, like family, the way baseball and the Padres always have.

 

He then finally finds himself alongside Ginny, he’s seen her eyes following him while she stretches and goes through her bullpen warm up, watching while he’s been talking with the other players. ‘So Baker,’ He begins only to be interrupted by her gloved hand coming up to cover his mouth.

 

‘No Lawson.’

 

‘Come on Baker.’ He says still talking through her glove.

 

‘Nope, you’ve come over to have some big Mike Lawson, This is my last game, goodbye speech moment and I’m telling you I'm not having it. And if you try I will get one of the hundreds of baseball bats around here and beat you with it. Then we both would have played our last Major League game.’ Her face goes hard as she turns back to face the pitch watching the outfielders finish their warm up and start to get into position.

 

‘Jesus Rookie, tell me how you really feel.’ It’s all he can bring himself to say in response, his eyebrows scrunch in confusion, unsure how to take this conversation back to safer ground.

 

‘Not a Rookie anymore Lawson, haven’t been for a while.’ She states turning her face back to him.

 

And there it is his moment, he feels the smile nearly break apart on his face as he looks down at her, ‘You’ll alway be my Rookie Baker.’ He turns away to follow Moore out onto the field, watching the dimples he adores appear on Ginny’s face and he allows himself to grin back at her. He hears the soft curse she lets out as he walks away, and while he’s going to savour every minute of this game, he can’t wait for it to be over.

Chapter Text

Every new beginning comes from some other beginning's end.

————-

 

He’s stood in this spot before, thinking it was his last at-bat for the Padres. This exact spot. But it feels so different now even though this really could be the last time he swings for the Padres, the feeling is completely different. He can feel the fizzing euphoria of the crowd behind him, the smiles of his teammates waiting in the dugout, the readiness of the runners on the bases. It feels like the whole world is waiting to see what he can do.

 

It’s the kind of situation you daydream about as a kid, stepping up to the plate at the bottom of the 8th bases loaded, one out, the Padres leading the Sox 3-2.

 

His body feels good, loose, and as pain-free as you can be after almost two decades in the majors. He’s not feeling his knees today but is aware that there will be pain tomorrow.
But not tonight. He goes through his routine, something that’s barely changed in the past 20 years, taping the plate, setting his stance, bat at the ready, and the pitcher sixty feet six inches away.

 

He waits for Vázquez to put the sign down, watches as Kelly shakes off the first call, he can almost feel the frustration coming from behind him as the catcher tries another sign. This time he gets the nod, and Mike knows that this one isn’t for him, he waits as it hits into the glove, and Strike 1 is called.

He resumes his batting stance, going through his routine, sees the nod, and watches the ball leave Kelly’s hand. It sings to him, it’s the one, he swings and feels the sweet sensation of the bat striking the ball, knowing that it's going to clear the wall. He watches Bradley chase it back, but knows it in vain the ball flies over his outstretched glove and into the clambering hands of the ecstatic Padre fans.

 

Mike realizes he’s done it. He just hit a Grand Slam in his final World Series game, savoring the feeling as he runs each base. He leaps into the waiting arms of his teammates as he arrives at home. Salvi wraps his arms around him and lifts him off the ground, Blip jumps onto his back while Robles pumps his fist against his arm.

At that moment he can’t imagine a better feeling, he did it for them, for this team, for this city.

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He’s finishing suiting up when he hears the opening bars of Cyndi Lauper’s ‘Girls just wanna have fun’ and starts blasting through the stadium. Hearing her walk on song still makes him smile. What had started as a joke between her and Sonny during her rookie season has taken on a life of its own. The fact that if everything goes right he gets to spend the last innings of his baseball career catching Ginny Baker’s lollipop fastball.

He takes his position behind the plate, trusting that his old knees could handle one more go around, and there she is sixty feet six inches away cap tilted down. Her practice throws hit sweetly in his glove, and he feels it, that thrill that he gets when she’s pitching in the zone, the give us all you got because his girl’s got all the answers type feeling.

And then it feels like it all happens in flashes. The first batter she catches looking, all he can see is the little smirk on her face receiving the ball while the batter makes his way back to the dugout.

Next up was Pearce, she shook off his attempts to get her to walk him, even down 3-1 in the count she wasn’t going to gift anyone a base hit tonight. She was right; he popped up into Blip’s outstretched hand the very next ball.

The next guy gets a lucky bunt and makes it to first, he can feel her frustration but is more than glad that she didn’t try to chase it down, she threw a no-hitter this year, she can handle one base hit in this game.

When Mookie Betts steps up to the plate he gets that feeling again, like somehow his body knows more than he does and is telling him to seize this moment, remember it because this is the last batter he’s going to catch for. The world shrinks to just the two of them sixty feet and six inches apart, his sign, her nod. In three pitches they do it. As Betts bat swing passes him and the ball lands squarely in his mitt, Mike takes the barest of seconds to enjoy the solid feel of it before he’s whipping off his mask and running for the pitcher’s mound.

She’s leaping into his arms before he even gets there, they tumble to the ground together, Ginny smiling down at him as their teammates pile on. He can hear Blip whooping, feel Omar’s hands clapping on his shoulders, and smell Melky from here but he wouldn’t change a thing. He’s smiling up at his team from the bottom of the pile of bodies and has never been happier.

He hauls to his feet as the coaches arrive, hugging each one, in turn, he gets to Al, who grabs him by the face and whispers ‘Boy, ain’t all worth it now.’ He throws his head back with laughter before pulling him into a hug, as the team drowns them both in a shower of Gatorade. He can’t help but think that as usual, his coach is right.

 

————

The wild celebrations in the clubhouse move to several clubs before Mike finds himself stumbling out of an Uber that had carried the victorious Padres back to his house to finish the night. They’d lost a few of their number along the way, the pull of family, friends, or the willing bodies of groupies proving too much for some.

Though as he feels Ginny’s arm wrap around him from one side and Blip’s from the other he didn’t regret anyone’s absence. These are the people he wanted to finish this night with, his chosen family. Maybe if he gets lucky enough there might even be time for the chat that had been shelved over two years previous.

As they enter he can hear the Padre’s spreading throughout the house, Duarte turning on the outside sound system with Salsa music reverberating through the kitchen windows can see a freshly showered Melky setting up the pool table, Salvi and Butch reclining on the couch. Blip leaves at Melky’s call for a promised game of pool, as Mike peels off for the kitchen.

He’s pulling beers from the fridge as he hears her enter the kitchen behind him, sliding one across to her grinning he asks, ‘So how was your day?’

He revels in the divinely dimpled smile she gives him as she responds ‘Played a little ball, danced a little, won the World Series you?’

‘Strangely enough same’

‘I did see those body convulsions you call dance moves if Dancing with the Stars comes knocking in your retirement say no OId Man, you don’t have rhythm.’

‘Yeah, I don't think that that is in my wheelhouse Baker.’ He replies leaning his forearms on the island to face her as she leaned back against the counter.

‘So, are you still mad at me for going to Poway?’ she asks mostly speaking to her delft fingers peeling the label off the bottle in her hand.

‘It wasn’t that I was mad at you,’ she gives him a patented Ginny Baker look, ‘Ok, fine yes I was mad. As you well know family is a complicated term.’

‘I know but…’
‘I get what you were doing, honestly, Baker I do doesn’t make it any easier to swallow less than an hour before the biggest game of my career. I thought I’d reached an age people stopped meddling in my life.’

‘I know, and I am sorry for springing it on you like that, I just didn’t know how else to tell you. I didn’t mean to meddle, I just wanted you to have people there for you.’

‘I had you, I had Al, I had these guys who are now messing with my stereo and drinking my whiskey. Hell, I had half of San Diego there for me tonight.’

‘You know what I mean Mike. I know that your Mom isn’t someone to be there for you, but the way you talked about him, how he connected you to Baseball, to being a catcher. It was something you both deserved to be there for each other for.’

‘I know, which is why I had a clubby deliver a message to him in the 5th innings, and I had a phone call with him earlier and we’re meeting up for breakfast in a couple of days once things have settled down a little.’

‘Mike, why didn’t you tell me?’ She exclaims moving around the island to stand next to him.

‘I just did.’ He says with a smirk, he moves towards her then wrapping his arms around her then pulling her close, his mouth close to her ear when he whispers, ‘Thank you, Ginny.’

She pulls back with the grin she gifts him with whenever he uses her first name, and he wants to bottle this feeling, the one that comes when he makes Ginny Baker look at him like that. That one he wants to keep forever. She holds his gaze as she leans back, sliding her hands down his arms until their fingers intertwined. ‘You know we still need to have a conversation.’

‘We do?’ He asks feigning confusion. She tugs on his hand in retaliation, he just grins down at her.

‘You’re not my teammate anymore.’

‘No, I’m not.’

‘So there was a moment two years ago when you nearly kissed me.’

‘I was there, I remember that you nearly kissed me.’

“We almost kissed each other, then we decided not to talk about it.’

‘Well, technically you decided we weren’t going to talk about it.’ He raises their joint hands to point at her then and she rolls her eyes in response.

‘Because we were teammates, and it was complicated. But there have been moments since then, Blip and Evie’s New Year’s Eve Party, the night of my actual no-hitter, the restaurant opening...’

‘Baker there've been many moments, and probably a thousand more that crossed my mind that you never knew about. But none of that matters if this isn’t something you want.’

‘Mike, this is something I want.’ She says stepping back towards him.

‘That's really good news because I don’t actually know what I’d’ve done if you’d said no.’ He feels his body lean further towards her, drawn to her like a gravitational pull.

‘Just so you know, my only regret about the fact that we went all the way is that I had to wait so long to do this.’ She finally leans in pressing her lips to his, it’s sweet and chaste, everything they tell you about first kisses until her hands slide through his hair as she pulls him down to deepen the kiss. He moans into her mouth when he remembers the dozen other ballplayers scattered around his house and pulls back resting his forehead against hers. ‘To be continued?’ she whispers.

‘Oh most definitely to be continued when these mooks all go home. But for now, let’s go check that Duarte hasn’t fallen into my pool.’ She throws her head back letting out a guffaw as she picks up her beer and leads the way out onto the pool deck, and he swears that in her skinny jeans and oversized shirt she’s never looked more beautiful.

--------------

It’s past 5 am when he packs the last of his teammates off to their own homes and strolls past Blip passed out on the couch a throw blanket tucked up under his chin.

He smiles as he finds Ginny again in the kitchen, slowly gathering bottles together. ‘Leave it, I’d say I’ll take care of it in the morning but it’s already morning, and we both need some sleep. So let's go to bed.’

She gives him a questioning eyebrow raise, ‘Baker I’ve been up for almost 24 hours, I actually do mean to sleep.’ She puts down the bottles in her hands and wanders over to take his hand as the trudge up the stairs together.

It's not how he imagined the first time he’d take Ginny Baker to bed, but as he feels her head against his chest and her legs intertwine with his, he realizes that he has his whole life to make up for it.

—————-

 

As Mike gingerly sits down across from Dave he notes that the years have been fairly kind to his father. There’s no hint of a middle-aged spread or any obvious balding, in fact besides the greyed hair and the presence of wrinkles around his eyes he looks almost unchanged from the man he met almost 30 years ago.

‘Sorry I’m late it’s been a crazy couple of days.’ The waitress comes over at that point and pours Mike a coffee, matching the one sitting in front of his companion and very sorely needed after the week Mike has had.

‘I can only imagine, congratulations by the way you guys played one hell of a game. I mean when Baker said there wasn’t going to be a game 7, I don’t know what I expect, but those last two innings they were magic.’

Mike smiled into the coffee that he raised to his lips, ‘Baker told you there’d be no game 7? I think she’s convinced that she willed it into being. Comes in, pitches one inning, and acts like it was all her.’

Dave barks out a laugh, ‘She’s a force to be reckoned with that’s for sure.’

‘You should see what happens when you try to steal food off her plate, she nearly stabbed the last rookie who tried that with a fork. He’s still terrified of her’

Dave laughs and Mike finds that he’s enjoying the conversation. ‘I bet, she does give off a formidable air, that screwball of hers is a thing of beauty though’

‘It’s been one of the privileges of my career to be on the receiving end of it for the past three years. She’s one hell of a ballplayer.’

The waitress returns to take their order. As she walks away Mike looks up to find Dave taking him in with a serious look in his eye.

‘I’m sorry that things have ended up this way for us, the situation with your mom and I was complicated. I’m not proud of everything that happened, and I know that there are things that I should have done differently. Would have done, if I was given my time again, but I want you to know that it was never about you.’ He takes a break sipping from his newly topped up coffee. ‘Your mom didn’t tell me she was pregnant until after you were born, I was married, am married. It’s not a source of pride but it is the truth. I saw you sporadically when you were young. Your mom would blow into town with you in tow, I’d give her some money she’d hang around for a few months, then she’d get into some form of trouble and then you’d both disappear again.’

‘Yeah, she’s always been good at finding trouble for herself, until I got emancipated at 16 I’d moved at least 3 times a year for as long as I can remember. In the end, I stayed with a teammate and his family to finish high school, and played some good seasons of ball.’

‘I followed you through baseball, as best I could back then when I heard you got drafted well I was blown away. I didn’t reach out then because my wife was sick and I didn’t know how. And then after your rookie season, I didn’t want to be seen as someone appearing out of the woodwork because you’d made it to the big time. I figured you’d probably get enough of that.’

MIke gives him a wry smile, that had been the understatement with his mother, her ’boyfriend’ of the moment, and other former ‘friends’. It had been a hard lesson to learn at 21, that his mother who he had felt had always tried her best to do right by him, purely saw him as the payday on a long con.

His relationship with Jackie Lawson was complicated and best dealt with through his lawyers and accountant, he didn’t know the full sum of money he’d given her over the years, didn’t want to know. He paid her bills, and she stayed out of his life, didn’t question why she wasn’t invited to his wedding or had never seen him play at Petco, as long as the cheque clears she is satisfied with not being in his life. He ponders for a moment on how that will change now that he’s retired.

‘I did, and I understand, it's part of the reason why I never reached out to you. It was a lot when I first started playing, when I got called up the group of players were party guys. Under their influence, I wasn’t always my best self. There was a lot of trouble. That was when Al came to the Padres. And Al, he turned the team into a family. We wanted to be better, and not just play better, because he believed in us, individually and as a team. Then I met Rachel, and I thought it all made sense, that I could have it all and would’ve made it all for myself.’

‘And that didn’t work out? Sorry not meaning be nosy, it’s just that I’ve heard about your life second hand, I just really want to make sure that you’re happy Mike, I know I haven’t always shown it but I really do only want what was the best for you.’

‘I know I understand that a lot more at 38 than I did at 10 or I would’ve at 22, life’s complicated. Rachel and I worked until it didn’t anymore, we reached a point where she wanted a husband who was home every night and I wanted a world series ring. It’s as simple and complicated as that.’

‘I can’t imagine how that must feel, to achieve something that you’ve dreamed of since you were a kid?’

‘I don’t think it’s sunk in full yet. I mean the moment was insane, the parties and celebrations it’s been insane. But the fact that I’m done playing baseball, that I got to play with this team for so long, and that I got to be on the field when the San Diego Padres won the World Series. I doubt that will ever feel real.’

‘I can only imagine.’ Dave pauses, taking a deep breath as if to steel himself. ‘I want you to know I’m proud of you, Mike. I probably don’t have the right to be. But I am. Everything that you’ve gone through, Jackie, the injuries, your marriage… you’ve come out of it a good man. And I know I have only the smallest part in that. But know that you deserve every bit good in your life and that I’d like to be a part of it if that’s ok with you?’

Mike takes in the coffee cup in his hand. The words striking him, he’d longed to hear them since he was 10 years old and discovered that this was his father.

‘I don’t mean to put you on the spot, and I know you don’t need a father figure. Clearly. But maybe just someone you can grab coffee with now and then. I would like to get to know you.’

 

Looking back into his father’s eye, Mike can see the sincerity in them. And realizes that he would like that too. He nods. ‘That would be good’

‘Yeah? Ok. Great. … so tell me more about your coaches?’

Mike laughs.

‘What do you want to know?’

------------------

 

Mike pulls into the driveway of Ginny’s townhouse smiling up at the unassuming timber clad building that Ginny had called home for the past year and a half. It was very Ginny Baker, deceiving looking from the outside but truly spectacular on the inside if you were lucky enough to be invited in. It was small by ballplayer standards but he knew that Ginny felt perfectly at home here. For a woman who had to put on a public mask whenever she left her front door that was the most important thing.

 

Mike hits the buzzer on the front door, he hears her singing along to whatever music she is playing as she opens it. For someone who can’t hum in key to save herself, she actually has a very nice singing voice.

 

‘Hey,’ She smiles at him, leaning her weight against the doorframe as he leans down to capture her lips with his, he realizes that finally being able to kiss her will never get old.

 

‘Hey’ He whispers back against her lips as he pulls away and steps past her and into the house. She laughs as she closes the door behind them and slips her hand into his as they head for the stairs down to the main level of the house.

 

‘How was your breakfast with Dave?’ ‘How was your breakfast with the Family?’ They laugh, still getting used to this new freedom between them.

‘Let’s go have lunch, so you can fill me in. Then you can go see the Doc about getting you those new knees Old Man. They might mean you’ll be able to keep up with me.’ She slaps his ass hard, as she smiles up at him, leading him out to her deck.

Walking out into the bright sunshine, he pauses to take in her view of the city. His city, the place he dedicated almost two decades of his life to bringing triumph too. The home he found that also bought this wonder of a woman into his life. In the end, they did it together, he knows that there will be challenges and that he’s coming up to a big transition in his life. But anything seems possible with Ginny by his side.

He smiles as he pulls her into his arms so they can take in the view. Reveling in the fact that he no longer has to hold back being affectionate towards her. At least not in the privacy of her townhouse, the outside world will still hold a lot more challenges. But for today it's just the two of them.

Shifting in his arms Ginny turns her head, her beaming smile parts as she takes him in. ‘You know I think I’m still full from breakfast.’

‘Oh really?’

‘Really.’ She states her smile turning more serious as he sees her eye flick to his lips.

‘You’re going to be the death of me Baker!’ He murmurs into her ear.

‘Yeah,’ her beaming smile lighting up her face, as she shrugs her shoulders and pulls him towards her for a kiss, ‘but come on, what a way to go.’