CHAPTER 7 – My World, Baseball

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“Enjoy the ball game,” said the friendly older man at the entrance after Parker and I made our way through the gates.

Parker wore his favourite baseball hat and his glove dangled off his left hand as he waved at random friends who were sitting in the stands. It was a breezy day in August, not too hot yet not too cold. Perfect for a day at the diamonds.

After making our way to the merchandise booth and buying a t-shirt for each of us, Parker and I made our way towards the bleachers. As we walked, I had my head down, trying to stuff my wallet back in my designer handbag with little success. When I looked up, I was face to face with Aiden, from the office.

I gave him a smile of acknowledgement as he muttered “hello.”

Aiden noticed that I was with Parker and leaned down, “hey buddy, looks like you’re ready to catch a home run ball today.”

Parker nodded.

“My name’s Aiden.” Aiden held out his hand towards Parker.

“Hi. I’m Parker.”

“It’s nice to meet you, Parker. I hope you have fun at the game today.”

After they shook hands, Aiden stood up and faced me. I was pleasantly surprised by Aiden’s conduct towards my nephew. I smiled in appreciation.

Aiden’s grin faded and he said, deadpan, “enjoy the game,” and then he turned and walked away without waiting for a response.

Did I just get the cold shoulder? I thought to myself as I watched Aiden walk away without looking back. Yep, I think I just did.

Parker and I found two seats in a nice shady spot beside the announcer’s booth and made ourselves comfortable just as the concession boy walked by with a tray full of hot dogs, hamburgers, and drinks. I ordered a hot dog for each of us, a soda for Parker, and a beer for myself. Every bit of food was gone before the game even started.

When the starting outfielders were announced, I realized that the in-house announcer sounded familiar. I looked into the announcers booth to find Aiden behind a microphone and I rolled my eyes. That guy was everywhere!

During the seventh inning stretch, Parker asked, “Aunt Sienna, how do you know that man who we talked to before the game?”

“He works in my office building.” I tried to keep my answer as simple as possible.

“He’s on the radio.” Parker said matter-of-factly.

“How do you know that?” I inquired.

“He came to our school one day during technology week. He let us talk on the radio! It was so much fun because mom and dad said they heard me.” Parker’s eyes were filled with pride.

“That’s great, Little Dude. Sounds like you had a lot of fun that day.” I smiled approvingly.

In the bottom of the final inning, the home team was down by two runs with the bases loaded. Parker chewed his nails nervously as he focused on the batter who was listening intently to the suggestions by teammates in the dugout. “I don’t think we’re going to win this,” my nephew muttered.

“You can’t think that way, Parker. Positive thinking gets you a lot further than all that negative stuff inside your head.” In my own mind, I was silently chanting, please let him hit this damn ball!

The first pitch was a strike, the second pitch was also a strike. The following two pitches were balls and then the moment of truth happened. With two balls and two strikes, the batter swung at the fifth pitch and connected, sending the ball flying in slow motion deep into the outfield. Every person around us went silent as all of us were fixated on the ball.

“Go! Go!” Parker yelled as he watched the ball sail through the air towards the far fence.

And there it was – a grand slam to end the game, giving the home team a win.

As we drove home that day, Parker and I talked about the baseball game.

“Did you see how the team got really excited at the beginning of the game by chanting and cheering together?” When I saw Parker nod in my rear-view mirror, I continued, “and they never gave up. Even at the end of the game, they still believed they could win it. It takes an entire team to keep up the positive attitude in order to win the game.”

“And they won!” Parker’s excitement could not be contained.

“Yes, they did. And it’s because they all worked together to do their best throughout the entire game. They helped each other by staying positive, encouraging each other, and supporting each other through the tough plays.”

“I know. And now I know how to help my team win this weekend too. I’m going to do my best during my game on the weekend even if they are the hardest team to beat. We can beat them if we all try really hard and work together.”

I smiled to myself. “Atta boy, Parker! That’s the perfect attitude to have. I’m really looking forward to your game this weekend.”

“I’m happy you’ll be able to watch me play, Aunt Sienna. Then you can see how good I really am!”

I chuckled and headed towards my sister’s house to drop Parker off.

A few days later, I decided to go into work because I had nothing better to do. I stood in the staff room, filling my travel mug with coffee when Aiden walked in. At first, we didn’t say anything to each other and he didn’t seem to notice me. I knew Aiden didn’t like me, and I wasn’t going to push my boundaries in any way. Besides, I didn’t really care. I barely saw the guy at work and I preferred to keep it that way.

As I was making my way towards the door, I heard Aiden say, “I didn’t realize you had any kids.”

I chuckled. “Parker isn’t my son. He’s my nephew.” I clarified.

Aiden nodded, indifferent. “He seems like a nice kid.” He paused.

I grinned absent-mindedly and replied, “yeah, he is a good kid.”

As I stood staring in his direction, he concluded, “I should have known a girl like you wouldn’t have kids.”

I stood rooted in one spot, staring at him with a blank look on my face, wondering if I had heard him correctly.

Suddenly, he turned his back to me and marched past me out the door, as though dismissing me.

His rudeness left a bad taste in my mouth. I had a gut feeling that Aiden and I were not going to get along well at all.

Later that afternoon, just as I was wrapping up my work for the day, Jeff peeked his head into my office and asked if he could come in. I nodded and he stood in front of the doorway for a moment.

Jeff hesitated for a second and then asked, “how are things going for you around here? Have you figured out all the equipment? Is everything working properly? Do you have any questions?”

He was so nice to be concerned about my time, but I knew that my network was paying him well so I assumed he felt obligated to make sure I was taken care of. “Everything is working great. I haven’t had any issues with the equipment whatsoever. It’s pretty basic stuff, so I caught on quickly. Thanks for asking.” I gave him one of my sportscaster smiles.

“If there are any problems that come up, just let me know and I’ll do my best to help out in any way possible.”

“I really appreciate that, Jeff. Thanks.”

“If I may be so bold,” he paused, “it’s been great having you work here. It’s nice to know you’re doing so well for yourself.”

“Same to you. You seem to be doing well in management. This place runs like a well-oiled machine.”

“Thank you. It’s all I’ve ever known and I love what I do. It makes a big difference when you actually like you’re job, right?”

I nodded.

“Anyway, I’ll stop bothering you.”

“It’s not a problem.” I closed the file folder that I had been working on and stood up from behind my desk. “Actually, I have a question for you.” I took a breath, hoping Jeff would allow me some solitude while working. “I was wondering if it would be possible to work evenings. I hate the idea that I’d be intruding on someone else’s time with the equipment during the day, so I thought it would be best if I recorded my show at night, when most people were at home.”

Jeff nodded. “I understand. And it makes sense. I’ll make sure to have a backdoor key for you the next time you come in.”

Relief washed over me. “Thank you. I really appreciate it.”

“No problem. See you again soon,” Jeff smiled and left the room.

Two days later, as I picked up some notes from my office at the station, I noticed a key and a note on top of my files.

Here’s the key to the back door. Don’t be a stranger, I’d still like to see you around once in a while. Jeff.

I grinned to myself and left my office.

*****

At Parker’s baseball game that weekend, I sat in the bleachers with Sidney and my mother. Coach Lukas, standing in front of the dugout, saw us and then pointed us out to Parker. My nephew didn’t leave the dugout, but waved furiously, elation written all over his face. The three of us waved back, pride all over our faces.

As my sister waved and smiled at her son, she asked me, “what the hell were you thinking, wearing white jeans to a kids ball tournament?”

I sighed at my own stupidity. “I work in radio and I’ve lived in California for years – I’m not use to dressing for outdoor activities. Gimme a break, would you?”

My sister laughed at me. “You need to be schooled in the small town ways. You’re not in LA anymore, Sienna.”

I gave her a playful punch in the arm and then laughed along with her.

It was a hot, dry day and I was completely parched. During the third inning, I asked mom and sis if they wanted something from the concession. I made my way through the sparse crowd and bought 3 bottled water and a couple of bags of chips before fumbling my way back to the stands. Three bottles of water were tough to carry with only two hands, but I managed to get most of the way back to my seat before one of the perspiring bottles fell into the dirt and instantly turned to a muddy mess.

I froze in my tracks, sighed defeated, and attempted to figure out how I was going to clean up the mess so I didn’t get myself all muddy.

As I fumbled with the other two bottles in my arms, a voice startled me. “You have quite the dilemma there.” Aiden stood in front of me wearing a button-down shirt and dress pants.

On the defensive, I shot back, “isn’t it a little hot to be wearing a suit?” I rolled my eyes in mocking.

“Why are you wearing white jeans to a ball game?” He guffawed and chuckled with an air of superiority. He then shook his head in mocking, and picked up my muddy water bottle.

I watched as he walked over to an equipment box, opened it, and pulled out a random rag, with which he wiped the water bottle clean. He walked back over to me, grabbed another bottle from my hands, and then ushered me to lead the way.

He followed me back to where my family sat. As he handed my sister and mother a bottle of water each, he smiled at them and said, “enjoy the rest of the game,” before he walked away without acknowledging me again.

“Thank you.” My meek statement sounded more like a question, as I wondered if he heard me.

Sidney gave me a skeptical look. “How do you know Aiden?”

“He works in the building with me.”

Sidney nodded and snapped her fingers. “Right. I totally forgot that you two worked together.”

“No, we don’t work together,” I stated firmly. “We just happen to work in the same building. And I barely see him at work, so…” My voice trailed off.

There was a moment hesitation. And then it occurred to her. “Wait a minute, is Aiden ‘the hot guy from the bar’?”

I gave her a warning look, but she continued on. Sidney leaned over and whispered in my ear so that our mother wouldn’t hear. “He’s kinda hot – for being a radio guy.”

I gave her a blank look.

“Haven’t you ever heard the phrase, ‘he’s got a face for radio’? I’m just saying that Aiden doesn’t fit into that category.”

I gave her an incredulous look and then focused my attention back to Parker’s ball game.

*****

The following evening, as I sat on my balcony eating the dinner I picked up on the way home from spending the day with my mother, Aiden’s words were still burned into my mind. “…little one-woman radio show…”

I wondered if he had ever even listened to my show. If not, he had no basis to disrespect what I did for a living. It pissed me off that he thought his job was more important than mine.

At least I knew why he seemed so stand-offish with me whenever we ran into each other. The fact was that Aiden didn’t respect what I did for a living, therefore probably didn’t like me. I had to admit that I was a little disoriented by his unwarranted anger towards me.

When I lived in Los Angeles, in my prime, I never met anyone who didn’t appreciate what I did. When I worked on my sports talk show for the big network, I received so much fan mail that the network had to hire people to read it for me. When I walked the streets, people wanted autographs and pictures with me. Entire families claimed to watch my show together because they said “it appealed to a wide audience.” The love I felt from fans and viewers in California apparently did not filter to my hometown.

And then something hit me like a ton of bricks across the side of my head and I scolded myself out loud, “why the fuck are you even thinking about Aiden??”

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