1. AZL Padres (Rookie)
The locker room is dead silent when Ginny walks in on the first day of extended spring training. They all knew she was coming, of course — she knows the team had "sensitivity training" this morning before she was scheduled to arrive. She can feel the eyes on her, assessing, as she walks across the room to the bank of lockers where the other pitchers are stationed. Her name is taped across the shelf on the corner locker, a set of warm-up gear hanging up.
Ginny sets down her gear bag and inspects the clothing, checking for evidence that it's been tampered with. It appears undamaged, but the tags reveal that it's men's gear. She'll have to see if Dave, the clubhouse manager, will be able to take it in for her tonight, so it won't look like she's wearing pajamas. For now, she can make do, though she expects she'll get some ribbing from her teammates for it. There are worse things to be chirped about than her work-out gear.
She starts to undress, but someone behind her shouts, "Whoa, whoa, whoa, Baker, what're you doing?"
Ginny turns, pullover half off already. "Getting ready for warm-ups?" She glances around the room, not quite sure which wide-eyed teammate spoke. They all look a little scared, which is kind of hilarious. She's pretty sure most of them have seen a girl before today.
A tall blond guy steps toward her, a hand up, palm outward. He's older than her, probably a college player headed to short-season A when training ends. "They didn't tell you?" he says. "Dave's got you set up in the umps' dressing room."
He looks too guileless to be insincere.
"I talked to Dave this morning," Ginny lies as she turns her back to him. "He didn't mention it."
She hopes no one calls her out on it; she knows that arrangements have been made to accommodate the girl on the team, but every time the team or the management or the league goes out of their way for her, it becomes that much harder for her to just be one of the players. The Padres organization means well, but they haven't figured out yet that they're just making her life harder.
Ginny supposes she better get used to it; she's in this for the long haul.
2. Fort Wayne TinCaps (A)
It's a shit night. The TinCaps are in Grand Rapids playing the Whitecaps, and they had a rain-out last night, followed by more rain today before practice, and rain again tonight when they're two batters into the second game of their double-header. It's a goddamn monsoon, and Ginny's supposed to be pitching in one out. Her arm's gonna go cold, and it won't matter, because they don't have enough in the bullpen to make it through the game, let alone tomorrow night, when they have another double-header in South Bend because of the rain-out back in June.
Coach Oh and Teresa, the trainer, keep checking on her, and Ginny assures them, "I'll be good, soon as the tarp is off the field."
Teresa looks unconvinced, but Coach Oh is the one who makes the final decision, and he nods. "The crew said they'll be pulling it in fifteen, unless we get more lightning."
"Great. I'll be ready."
She isn't. Her arm's gone cold, and she can feel it in the first practice pitch she throws from the mound. She's got no choice, though, she's in it now, and they don't have anyone in the bullpen who can take on a full game.
Ginny takes a deep breath and tries to ignore the voice that sounds too much like Pops, telling her she's just gonna have to pitch through it. She's made her bed and now she has to lie in it. If she can at least power through to the end of the fifth, that leaves just two innings, tops, for Reynoso or Nichols to handle. She can do that. Maybe.
She walks her first batter in four pitches, the last one more than a little bit outside. Ginny breathes deep again, willing her arm to cooperate. She winds up and lets fly with a ball in the dirt this time.
Simmons gives her a hairy eyeball as he comes out to the mound from home plate.
"You okay, Bakes?"
"Guess I gotta be, don't I?"
He looks like he's gonna jaw some more, try to give her some time to settle again, but the ump breaks them up and they have to get back to business.
If you can call Ginny's worst start of the season "business."
Oh pulls her in the fourth inning, after she's given up six runs on ten hits. "Roberts'll take it from here, Baker. Go cool down."
Ginny nods and steps off the mound.
"And hey, Baker?"
She turns back to Oh. "Yeah?"
"Don't ever say you're good when you're not again. Got it?"
Ginny nods, ears burning, and heads off the field.
3. Lake Elsinore Storm (Advanced A)
Ginny doesn't know who planned Ladies' Night at Lake Elsinore, but it is nothing like what she expected. She's seen more than her fair share of "ladies' nights" — somehow, opposing teams always seem to plan them for nights when Ginny's team is visiting — but Lake Elsinore takes the cake. The pre-game featured a live auction of dinners with players from the team and a silent auction of swag bags, with proceeds going to the local women's shelter. They're doing a raffle during the game, and Sarah, the GM's intern, has asked if she'd be able to stay late tonight for autographs, because they're anticipating high demand.
Someone in the front office also made sure to alert the local Boys & Girls Club, because there are approximately five hundred screaming little league players shouting Ginny's name as she heads toward the bullpen to start warming up. She waves at them, and Jackson laughs, nudging her with his catcher's mask.
"You're like a superhero to them," he says. "We need to get you a cape."
Ginny rolls her eyes but laughs along with him. "Not all heroes wear capes, you know. Some of us just wear gloves."
4. San Antonio Missions (AA)
Welcome back, ladies and gentlemen, and if you're just joining us, we're about to start the top of the seventh in the second game of our three-game playoff series. The Midland Rockhounds and your San Antonio Missions are scoreless, and we've had a heck of a game. The Rockhounds are looking to tie the series up 1-1 tonight, so they can take on the Missions at home on Saturday.
We've got a real pitcher's duel tonight, folks! Jeffrey Schultz and Ginny Baker have both been on fire. The lines are no runs, no hits, no errors for the Rockhounds, and one run on three hits, no errors for the Missions.
Baker is starting the inning for us, and boy howdy, has she been grand. She's thrown just sixty-two pitches against the Rockhounds tonight! We'll have to see if Manager Ray Lupo lets her finish the game, but I can tell you right now, I would not want to be coming up to bat against her. I know we've been talking her up, but there's no two ways about it, folks. Ginny Baker has been incredible tonight.
And here we go, ladies and gents, the first batter for the inning is right-fielder Garrett Marcus, who has a .289 batting average on the season. Here's the wind-up, and the pitch; it's a high curve and a swing and a miss, strike one. Now I know Baker's been on-point tonight, but that pitch was a little sloppy. I'm surprised Marcus swung at it. And here's the second pitch. It's another curve in the same spot, and this time, Marcus doesn't swing. He evens the count 1-1.
Baker shakes it out and leans in for the sign. She shakes off the first sign, nods at the second, what'll it be? It's her screwball pitch, and Marcus holds again. It's a ball, 2-1.
That's pitch number sixty-six. Here comes sixty-seven. It's another high curveball, on the outside, ball three. 3-1 the count.
The next pitch, it's her curveball again. Marcus swings, but tips it foul, count now 3 and 2. I'm surprised he took a swing at that; it was probably ball four.
And this is it, folks. Here's the wind-up, and the pitch, a swing, and the ball takes a funny little hop past Jimenez at second, and there goes the no-hitter.
And here comes Lupo. That's it for Baker — but what a game she has pitched. She's getting an ovation, and holy-moley does she deserve it. One hit on sixty-eight pitches in six-and-a-third innings. Wow-ee, you don't see that every day.
5. El Paso Chihuahuas (AAA)
After practice, Coach Regan waves Ginny over. He's been on her case about improving her slider so she can actually use it, and she figures she's in for another twenty-minute lecture on the history of the pitch. So she's a little surprised when he says, "Come to my office after you've dressed."
Her stomach drops. Ginny knows people have been getting shuffled around with the injuries in the majors, and if more people are coming down for rehab stints, that means she's probably heading back to San Antonio.
"Okay, Coach, give me ten minutes?"
"Yeah, sure, kid." He sends her on, stopping to chat with Dawley about how the rehab on his wrist is going.
Ginny takes the full ten minutes, trying to keep her hands steady so the guys don't catch on that she's nervous about something. She knows some of them haven't been happy that she's here — the gym bag stuffed with nothing but tampons and the shaving cream in her sneakers are proof of that — and she doesn't want to give any of them ammunition. No crying in baseball and all that.
When her ten minutes are up, she takes a deep breath and heads for Regan's office.
Regan nods her in. "Have a seat, Baker, I got some news."
"You're sending me to San Antonio?" she says, still standing, arms folded so she doesn't fidget.
"What? No. Sit." He closes the door and sits down at his desk, which doesn't allay her worry. "I got a call from Oscar Arguella today. You know who he is?"
"Assistant GM for the big team," Ginny says, finally taking a seat on the arm of a chair. "We met, briefly, when he was visiting the Storm a couple years back. Why's he calling about me?"
Regan scratches at his beard, as taciturn as ever. "You got the call, Baker. They want you to take the five spot while Tommy Miller's out. Congrats kid, you're headed for the Show."
"They what?" Ginny is vaguely aware that she shouted it, but holy shit. "Holy shit," she says. "Really?"
"Really," Regan says, with a hint of amusement. "The front office is already making your flight arrangements, and Oscar says he wants to set up a conference call with you and the owners, but you might need to make some phone calls of your own. You'll wanna call your agent first, and then your family. Believe me. Agent first, then your family. Otherwise, you'll never get a chance to call your agent at all."
"Okay." Ginny drags her hand through her hair, reeling a little. She wants to pace, but she's not sure her legs will hold her. This is what she's been headed for since the first time she threw a ball for her dad. Since Pops died in the car crash. Since she signed her first contract. Since she hired Amelia to represent her. She always knew she could do it, she just wasn't sure she ever would—
"Hey, take a deep breath," Regan barks suddenly, snapping her out of her spiraling thoughts.
Ginny obeys, breathing in for four and back out slowly a couple of times.
"Remember, agent first, Baker," Regan says again, gently this time. "Got it?"
Ginny nods and stands up. "I'll just—" She tilts her head toward the door.
"Sure. And hey, Baker?"
Ginny turns back. "Yeah, Coach?"
Regan fixes her with one of his steely-eyed stares. "Knock 'em dead."