Ginny had had kind of a lousy game.The team still managed to pull out a win, mostly thanks to some amazing plays that had nothing to do with her. Duarte had been gracious, only coming up to the mound once to let her take a second to breathe. If Mike was still a Padre, still her catcher, he would have been up to the mound two too many times, each time with a new correction and an annoying speech. A speech not unlike the one her boyfriend was giving her right now.
“Oh my God, Mike, give it a rest!”
“I’m just saying, Gin, if you would just -”
“Can you stop acting like a pitching expert? I’d like to see you do any better!” She regretted the words as soon as they were out of her mouth. The smirk that spread across Mike’s face was devious.
“Oh, you’re on.”
He barged into the main locker room, his entrance doing enough to get everyone’s attention.
Ginny was behind him, unsure of what she had gotten herself into.
He is quick to get everyone to agree to meet them on the field once the last of the press and the lingering fans have cleared.
Almost a full hour later, Ginny is squatting behind home plate shielded by Livan’s gear. The entire team is in the dugout, joined by Evelyn, Amelia and Eliot. It’s dusky out, the lights in the stadium far outshining the sun. Al is behind Ginny, serving as an umpire. The chatter in the dugout dies when Al announces that it’s time to “Play ball!”
Mike is grinning on the mound and Ginny is smiling despite the mood she had been in earlier. Everything about this was ridiculous. Even more ridiculous was the first pitch Mike threw. It hit the ground about five feet shy of home plate, and so far to the right that it would have no doubt been a ball.
Whooping and applause break out in the dugout, entirely at Mike’s expense.
“Okay, okay! I’m just warming up over here!”
Three more bad pitches later and Ginny stands and removes Duarte’s mask from her face.
“This is just getting embarrassing, old man. Why don’t you move a little closer?” Her eyes gleam. “Softball rules?”
There is jeering from the dugout at that, and Mike hears Tommy offer first aid for that sick burn.
Mike only shakes his head and moves closer. The next couple of pitches still aren’t great, but they come a lot closer to being passable strikes.
“That the best you got?” Blip calls out to the laughter of the rest of the spectators.
Mike grins, and Ginny finds herself smiling beneath the borrowed equipment.
She was so in love with the man standing 40 feet away from her, her heart could hardly stand it. A few years ago, she would have holed herself up, throwing a pity party for one after a bad game. Now, here she was, smiling, watching the love of her life make a fool out of himself in front of all their friends on a whim.
All sense of competition forgotten, Ginny couldn’t help but cheer as Mike threw not one, but two perfect strikes.
“Last one,” he called from his spot north of the mound. “I’ll throw this one softball style.”
He winks, and Ginny is too busy rolling her eyes to notice Mike pull something from the pocket of his hoodie. He winds up for the underhand toss and while the thing he throws her certainly looks like a baseball - the right size, round and white with red stitching - the weight of it is all wrong when it lands in her glove.
She lifts the catcher's mask as Mike strolls towards her, cocky grin on his face. She pulls the glove off and takes the thing that is decidedly not a baseball into both hands. She can see that the bottom has a flat foot, and she can feel the hinge on the back and the seam that goes all the way around. Their friends have grown silent in the dugout. Mike stops at home plate, and Ginny's breath catches when he gets down on one knee.
"I didn't know who I would be without baseball," Mike begins. "It has defined me my entire life. No matter where my mother moved me, there was always a ballpark. It was how I first met my father, and it became my way to be close to him. I used to imagine that if I was good enough, he would be too proud to stay away. And even if he did, the hope that he would love me from a distance fueled my love for the game."
Ginny doesn't know when she started crying, or when everyone from the dugout had moved to surround them.
“I needed to be good. To be great. It was the only way I could get away from the life my mother had built. A life about running. Then, I needed to be good for the team. I shouldered the weight of every win, every loss. The dream of winning a ring started to feel like a responsibility, an obligation to everyone who had believed in some cocky kid with a crappy childhood. And now,” Mike grimaces as he gets to his feet, his knees popping on the way up.
“Now I don’t need to be a great ball player or a World Series champ,” he grins, “even though I am both of those things.”
There is some laughter from the onlookers as Mike takes a step nearer to Ginny.
“Now all I need to know who I am is you... by my side.”
He takes the baseball shaped ring box from her hands and opens it to reveal a ring that is perfectly Ginny, a thin silver band with a line of three small diamonds.
“Evelyn talked me out of buying you a rock.”
At that, Ginny laughs. The sound is thick with emotion, tears streaming down her flushed cheeks.
“So, whaddya say, Rook?”
“You haven’t actually asked her, Lawson,” Amelia calls from the background. The guys all chuckle but Mike pays them no mind. His eyes never leave Ginny’s.
Her first yes is so soft that Mike is the only one to hear it.
“Once more, for the people in the back?” he prompts.
She swallows, smiling widely.
“Yes,” she repeats firmly.
The peanut gallery cheers so loudly that they don’t hear Mike say, “So, this proposal was kind of a homerun.”
Ginny groans, “Is it too late to say no?”
Mike laughs and pulls her in for a kiss.