Authors: Rachel Hawthorne
my source for all things baseball.
Thanks, Big Guy.
On my personal roster, you're a 10.
For anyone not familiar with Ragland, Texas, the front-page headlineâ¦
“This would be the perfect place for a baseball playerâ¦
His name was Jason Davis, and he took my breathâ¦
During dinner, I did little more than eat and sneakâ¦
“Is Brandon Bentley totally hot or what?” Bird asked, referringâ¦
“So, Bird said you need a ride home,” Jason said.
Staring into his earnest eyes, I almost told him theâ¦
Tuesday afternoon I was at my desk, working on myâ¦
“I so cannot believe we missed the opening pitch ofâ¦
Needless to say, I missed the real fireworks.
Late the next morning I woke up with a thunderingâ¦
No surprise. I was the only one at Dave andâ¦
The next morning I went into the kitchen for anâ¦
“I knew Mac was interested in you,” Bird said lateâ¦
Saturday night, against the Plano Blue Sox, I finally, finallyâ¦
The way he was delivering that kissâslowly, so amazinglyâ¦
I was stunned.
It was official. I had a boyfriend.
“What are they talking about?” Bird asked. “I've never seenâ¦
Jason and Mac. Mac and Jason. I couldn't sleep. Instead,â¦
“Omigod! I need help!”
We kissed pretty much the entire bus ride home. Jasonâ¦
The next morning, I was lying in bed, staring atâ¦
“Telling the guy I've come to think of as aâ¦
The Fourth of July game against the Denton Outlaws wasâ¦
Families Needed to Provide Homes for Rattlers
or anyone not familiar with Ragland, Texas, the front-page headline in that morning's
may have seemed odd. But I'd lived in Ragland since the day I was born. I couldn't think of anything more exciting than living with a Rattler.
It was Thursday morning, and I'd grabbed the newspaper to check out my weekly column, “Runyon's Sideline Review,” because it was always a rush to see my byline. But as I sat at the breakfast table, before I'd turned to the sports section where my column usually appeared, the headline had snagged my attention
and the possibilities bombarded me.
I absolutely couldn't believe I hadn't thought of it before. Having a Rattler in the house would be awesome!
Okay, I don't mean the slithering-along-the-ground-tail-rattling-in-ominous-warning rattler. I mean the sexy, hot, to-die-for players on our town's collegiate baseball team. As part of the Lonestar League, the Ragland Rattlers was one of nine city teams in the north Texas area made up of college players who wanted to play baseball during the summer. Local families hosted the team players.
Apparently this year, they were a few families short. And what better family than mine?
I heard a car honk and knew it was my ride to the softball field. My best friend and I both played on the high school softball team, but during the summer we just played whenever we had time to arrange a game with friends, which wasn't very often. Between attending the major-and minor-league games played in the area, plus being almost-groupies to the collegiate league, we didn't have a lot of time to commit to organized sports of our own.
I mean, if the choice was playing on a field with girls or watching a field of guys, Bird and I were going to choose the guys every time.
Her real name is Barbara Sawyer, but when she was a baby, her dad had thought she looked like a tiny bird, always chirping for food, and so he started calling her Birdie, which, over time, became Bird. Sometimes you gotta wonder what parents are thinking when they name or nickname their kids.
My own dad, I knew exactly what he'd been thinking when I was born. He wanted a boy. Instead he got me. Definitely a girl.
A year before I came along, my mom had given him another daughter, Tiffany, and Mom figured two kids were more than enough, especially since she wasn't a stay-at-home mom. We were a two-income family with a two-income lifestyle. Mom worked as a legal secretary in a prestigious Dallas law firm about thirty miles south of Ragland.
Anyway, Dad decided if he wasn't going to have a son, he could at least have a son-sounding name in the family. Hence, my parents named me Danielle, which of course got shortened to Dani.
But it all worked out. I love my dad, and we're really close. He always took me fishing, taught me to play baseball, and gave me loads of his time. He's a sports fanatic. Whenever he says, “Let's go out to eat,” we know we'll be going to a sports bar to watch NASCAR, baseball, football, basketball, and golf simultaneously on the plasma TVs hanging throughout the place.
Connecting with my dad has always meant connecting with sports. Over time, I've gained an appreciation for all sports. In fact, I plan to major in journalism when I go off to college in another year. I want to be a sports announcer.
Bird, however, insists that my desire for a career in sports reporting has nothing to do with my love of sports. “It's your other love: guys. You want to know what really goes on in the locker room, and you want to get up close and personal with those towel-wrapped hotties.”
Her theory is a lot closer to the truth than I like to admit, because it makes me seem less than noble in my pursuit of a higher education.
My sister has no love of sports, but she tol
erates the sports bars because most have a nice salad selection, and she watches what she eats the way I watch
, searching for all the hidden clues, only she's searching for hidden calories.
Mom dotes on Tiffany, beautiful Tiffany, who's been named Miss Teen Ragland three years in a row and spends way too much time polishing her tiara.
Not that I'm jealous of Tiffany or anything, but sometimes, when so many guys are hanging around her and ignoring me, it's hard not to feel like the ugly duckling.
Bird honked again. She has her own car. I share one with Tiffany, but she'd already called it for the day. Actually, she'd called it pretty much for the entire summer, and since she had “obligations,” I was used to her getting what she wanted. Especially guys. I basically carry a mop to clean up their drool whenever she's around.
Did I mention my sister is gorgeous? Gaggingly so.
I picked up my softball cap from the table, settled it on my head, and pulled my reddish-
brown shoulder-length hair, which I was presently wearing in a ponytail, through the opening in the back. Tiffany has thick, lustrous, amazing hair that's more red than brown, but not red enough that anyone would call her Red. It's glorious.
While mine tends to justâ¦hang. Which is the reason I usually wear it pulled back.
I grabbed my glove off the counter and headed out the door. It was the first official week of summer, the first week of no homework, no classes, no schedules, no bells. I was in heaven.
There are only two things I like as much as I like summer: baseball and boys.
Not necessarily in that order. But baseball has always been an important part of my life. Boys not nearly as much. I've never had a boyfriend, and I'm really starting to get bummed out by that fact. After all, next year I'll be a senior. As far as I'm concerned, it's long past time I had a boyfriend.
Oh, I've had a date now and then, but nothing long-term, nothing serious, nothing that's had my heart doing cartwheels inside my
chest. Nothing that even hinted at any permanence.
I spotted the familiar white Grand Am waiting at the curb, idling, and sounding like it was shaking something loose beneath the hood. It's way older than I am, but I wasn't complaining. I was just grateful Bird could provide a ride.
I opened the car door, slid inside, and buckled up. “Did you see this morning's
Bird glanced in the rearview mirror before pulling out into the street. “Are you kidding? Mom took it for the Wed and Dead sections.”
Bird's mom sells real estate. Newly married couples need places to live, newly dead peopleâ¦well, their houses need to be sold, usually to the newly wed.
“Why? Did I miss something interesting?” Bird asked.
“They need extra families to host the Rattlers.”
“And this concerns us because?”
“What is the one thing you want more than anything else?”
“You mean other than your autographed
Babe Ruth baseball?”
In his youth, my granddad had watched Ruth play, and had gotten his autograph on a baseball. He'd given it to me the first time I hit a home run.
“Yeah, other than that,” I said.
I twisted around in my seat so I could look at her directly and accurately judge her reaction to what I was about to suggest. She so didn't look like a bird. Well, maybe she did a little. A ruffled bird. Her blond hair was cut really short with different layers, so even when she styled it, it didn't look styled. It sorta poked out here and there, which she said made it easy to care for, because no one knew if she'd taken the time to fix it or not. Which in her case was usually not.
That's one of the things I love about Bird. She's completely the opposite of my sister. If not for Bird, I would have grown up believing that spending three hours minimum in the bathroom in the morning was a common practice.
Unlike Tiffany, Bird and I aren't really into
spending a lot of time working to be beautiful, which might be one reason neither of us has a boyfriend.
Or, as it had occurred to me when I saw that morning's headline, it could all boil down to opportunity.
“How do you get a boyfriend?” I asked.
“If I knew that, I'd have one,” Bird said.
“Hanging around guys. And where are there lots of guys during the summer?”
Bird pulled into the parking lot near the softball/baseball fields. She turned to me and arched a brow in question. She's one of the few people I know who actually have that whole Spock thing going and can make one eyebrow shoot way up. “Are you going somewhere with this?”
“There are lots of guys playing for the Ragland Rattlers,” I explained. “It's a team of potential boyfriends.”
“Not so far. Do we not traditionally hang out at the ball field during every practice and every game?”
“But we've always been no-name spectators. This year we could move into the realm of
something more important. Let's talk our parents into letting us sponsor players for the summer. Then we'll hang out with them, and they'll hang out with the team. We'll have an
that we've never had. We'll be like ambassadors to Ragland, making them feel welcome, showing them around. Before we know it, instant summer boyfriend!”
“Don't the families usually have sons that the baseball players can be comfortable around?”
I shrugged. “Maybe because girls-only families never offered. Besides, the article said the team
families, so we'd have a good chance of being selected even if we don't have brothers.”
Like me, Bird has an older sister. Stephanie's a sophomore at a nearby university, with her own “stud-muffin” as she refers to him. She's always telling Bird not to worry about not having a boyfriend, because boyfriends aren't really worth having until you get to college, anyway. Until then, they're too immature. So, a college baseball player for the summer sounded like an ideal compromise. We
could get a head start on the whole older, mature guy thing.
“I can't see my mom letting a guy live with us. She won't even let Steph's boyfriend stay over when he comes to town to visit,” Bird said.
“We'd promise not to date them.”
“I thought dating them was the whole point.”
“No, the point is getting them to introduce us around.”
“Why would they want to do that?”
“Because we'll know all the happening stuff.”
“Have you forgotten we live in Ragland? There is nothing âhappening.'”
“There's lots going on. You just have to know where to search for it, and that's where we come in. We can serve as the chamber of commerce to the collegiate team. We could even arrange some outings.”
“Like they have time for outings.”
a pretty intense schedule, with four or five games a week, almost always at night.
“We'll figure something out. The first hurdle is getting the guys into our houses.”
“And you don't think they'll be the
“No way. With those guys, we'll be wearing blinders. I can't think of anything worse than my parents knowing about me and a boy. It would be too weird.”
“What if our guys are hot?”
“Bird, these are college students. Do you really want to date the boy who sees you before you've applied your mascara?”
“Good point. Plus, I hang my bras in the bathroom to dry. Are you sure we want to do this? Having a guy living in the house has the potential to be embarrassing. What if he reveals our darkest secrets to the team?”
“We don't have dark secrets.” Bird and I are pretty much what-you-see-is-what-you-get girls. Maybe we need to be more mysterious. I filed that thought away for later. “He's our connection to the team, and eventually to a boyfriend. That's all. He's not going to
“I guess it wouldn't hurt to give it a shot.”
“You might want to curb your enthusiasm.”
“Sorry. I just see the potential for disaster. We've never lived with guys before.”
“Like they count.”
“We could set up a hotline. Your sister knows a lot about boys.”
“Okay,” she said. “Let's do it.”
We knocked our knuckles together.
She wiggled her eyebrows at me. “You might even get to have a look into the locker room without becoming a sports reporter.”
I grinned. “With any luckâ¦”
Now all we had to do was convince our parents.