“Can’t they just get this over with already?” I slouched back into my seat in the stadium. Mom chuckled. She was far more patient than I’d ever been a day in my life.
Came with the territory, I supposed. Being married to a ballplayer couldn’t have been easy. He’d been gone a lot with road trips, was constantly in the news even when he’d been home. He’d drawn attention wherever he’d gone back then. Hell, he still did.
Dad was part of a pre-game ceremony before the game, which was why Mom was with me today. I came to the games all the time. Much more often than she did. It was kind of part of the job I currently had running my dad’s foundation, which had close ties with the team in Detroit. Plus, I did love the game.
“You know the team loves their ceremonies, Fiona.” Mom had her blonde hair up in a messy bun. A hairstyle that my dad always commented made her look like a slightly older version of me. More than once, Mom and I had been mistaken for sisters. She always rebuked that, saying that after what she’d been through, she’d earned the right to be known as my mother.
Maybe I hadn’t been the easiest teenager.
“What’s this one for again?” she asked. Most of the time, I knew more about this stuff than she did because of the foundation.
“It’s just a recognition thing for Perez, the catcher, and the work he’s been doing with a literacy program in the city.”
I nodded. “He grew up pretty poor in Central America and said that he didn’t know how to read when he got here. It’s important to him.”
“It’s a good cause.”
It definitely was and that was something the foundation loves—a good cause. Dad had always had a lot of privilege in his life, he said, so when he got even more by being drafted, he knew he’d always give back. He was retired now, so he did that work through the foundation and was very hands-on. But not so involved that he encroached on my job. No. He trusted me to run the thing and I appreciated that. Most people didn’t have that kind of position at twenty-four, but I’d been working my way up since I was thirteen and it helped that my dad was the boss. Once he’d been inducted into the Hall of Fame, even more attention had fallen on us.
We’d been ready for it.
Once the ceremony ended, Dad talked to a couple of reporters, then joined us for the game. There’d be a proper media conference after the game was over.
“Did I sound dumb?” Dad asked after he dropped a kiss to the top of my head. At this point, I think he did it out of habit.
“Never,” I told him.
He’d been leery of doing interviews like this, but his comfort level had grown in the last two years. It was funny to me that he’d played baseball for forty thousand fans every night, but the idea of talking to a reporter sent him running. Dad was pretty tall, six feet with dark blonde hair and blue eyes. That was where I’d gotten my eyes from. Hair from Mom. Eyes from Dad. Height from Mom as well, I supposed. Mom was average height for a woman, but I hadn’t grown past five foot three inches.
We ate hot dogs throughout the game and cheered for our team as they played their hearts out and won. Man, I loved everything about baseball. Mom had asked Dad why he didn’t buy a box, but he’d said he liked to be down where the action was. Every game, I was glad he had these season tickets. We actually had four, but most of the time only used three at most if my dad or I had a friend that wanted to come.
Once the game was over and we’d won, the three of us headed up to an empty office where we could wait for the reporters to get settled in the conference room but for now we were waiting and watching the live interviews of the players who were down in the clubhouse.
Our team had played a good game and the players were reflecting that in their interviews.
Until there was some yelling in the background as the big sports channel talked to the third baseman, Zev Cohen, who’d hit a grand slam tonight. That guy had a bunch of talent, even if it’d taken him longer than usual to get out of the minors. Best of all, he was one of the nicest players I’d ever met. And I’d met a lot, though I didn’t know everyone on the team just yet.
Then the yelling got louder and a fight broke out.
Zev put his hand over the camera and pushed it down so they couldn’t record any of the fight.
“Fuck,” Dad muttered before he ran out of the room.
Dad wasn’t the owner of this team, but this was his team. I imagined he’d burst into the clubhouse like the Kool-Aid Man breaking that brick wall and help put an end to whatever was happening. Dad’s best friend was the skipper, so they talked a lot about the team and how to handle things.
“What do you think happened?” Mom asked, as if I’d know the inner workings of that room.
I knew a lot, but I didn’t know what went through players’ heads in moments like this. Fighting with your own teammate didn’t look the best and didn’t normally turn out well.
“How would I know?” I asked back. “These guys are all jacked up on testosterone and adrenaline. Maybe someone brushed by someone else too closely.”
She snickered. Mom had her own experience with players, Dad included. Sure, he’d learned to manage everything that came with being in the Major Leagues, but Mom said it hadn’t always been that way. It just all happened long before I’d come along. He’d still been playing when I was born, he’d just already found himself by then.
“It’s probably a couple of rookies.” I shrugged. “I would guess, anyway. Do you want a water or something?” I offered. “I can grab some from the refrigerator next door.”
“Sure. It was pretty hot out there today.”
“Day games can get oppressive,” I agreed. Mom didn’t love the game like I did. She didn’t hate it, but hers was more being tolerant than actual love.
I loved it. If I would’ve been a boy, I’d be playing it. Since that couldn’t happen, I did what I could through Dad’s foundation to spread the love. Though I did try my hand at softball for a while but it just wasn’t the same.
“I have no idea how you did it,” I said as I handed her the bottle.
“What do you mean?”
“The early years. When Dad was a hothead. These guys are so dumb.”
Mom snickered. “They are, but think about it. They’re young and living their dreams. It makes them feel invincible.”
“But they’re not.”
“Of course they’re not.” She took a small drink before continuing. “I know you had a bad experience, but they’re not all Andy.”
I groaned. “Why would you bring him up?”
Andy. The ex-boyfriend baseball player that had screwed me over more times that I could count. Though I hadn’t known it at the time. When everything had come out, I’d been devastated.
“Because I think you let what happened with him hold you back.”
I snapped back as if she’d slapped me. “Wow. We’re just dropping truth bombs right now, aren’t we?”
“I mean… you kind of brought it up.”
I scowled at her. “Sounds like you’ve had that one locked and loaded for a while.”
“Hear me out.” She moved over to one of the chairs and patted the one across from her. I’d hated it when she’d done that when I’d been a teen because it meant we were having a serious discussion. Back then, it could’ve been anything from the birth control talk to when my grandpa had died.
“It’s not like I have a choice.” I dropped onto the chair in front of her, sounding more like a teenager than a twenty-four-year-old woman.
Mom snickered. “You don’t. We have to wait for your dad to talk to the press, right?”
I sighed. “Right.”
“All I was saying, Fiona, is that you had a really bad experience with a guy. He happened to be a baseball player, but he was an asshole.”
“All true.” I whirled my finger in the air as if to hurry her up.
“But there are just some guys out there who are like that. It has nothing to do with his job.”
I squinted to tell her I didn’t believe her. “I’m pretty sure that professional athletes have a higher percentage of assholes than the general population. Remember the football player who punched his girlfriend so hard that he knocked her out?”
Mom shivered. We’d both seen that video and it had given us chills. “Of course I do, but that’s not every guy. It was that guy.”
“What are you saying?”
“It’s not only that you’re letting the one experience with Andy sour you against players, but it’s also that it’s soured you against men in general. Have you dated since him?”
Since we’d broken up, I’d gone on dates, but I hadn’t dated. There was a difference and she didn’t need to know that.
“I’m calling a spade a spade, Fiona. You might’ve gone out a few times, but your father and I haven’t met a single one of them, which means they didn’t last long.”
Also true. Mom and Dad had met anyone I’d been dating, usually before I’d had sex with them. My parents were a big part of my life and I wasn’t going to wait six months or a year before the guy I was with hung out with them at least at a game.
“You really had to do this here?” I waved my arms around the room. “This is technically work for me.”
A smile pulled at the corners of her mouth. “You’re on a break.”
“OK, Mom. I hear you.” I tapped my fingers against my leg like a little set of drums.
“How long do you think they’ll be?”
“How would I know?”
“You know this stuff, Fiona.”
I took a deep breath. She’d only said that because I hung around baseball guys so much. “It depends, Mom.”
“How bad it was,” I said. She waited with an expectant look. “How many people were involved in the fight. How bad it got. Zev pushed the camera away pretty quickly, so I didn’t get a good look.”
I pulled my phone out of my dress pocket. Damn. I shouldn’t keep the reporters waiting for too long, so I shot off a quick text to Dad, telling him I was going to handle the presser myself. I’d have canceled it altogether, but there were a couple of things that I wanted to let drop. The exposure would drum up support for a couple of projects we had started, including donating sports equipment to underfunded schools.
He just replied with a quick thumbs-up. I stood as I shoved the phone back in my pocket.
“I’m going to do the quick presser,” I told Mom. “Want to join me?”
She snorted again. “No, thank you. I’ll wait right here for you. John isn’t coming?”
I shook my head. “I don’t know when Dad will be done, so I’m going to do it myself. Can’t keep them here all night and especially once they hear about the fight. They’ll want to be outside when the players leave.”
“Right. Makes sense. Good luck, sweetie.”
I gave her a fake salute before heading out the door and down the hall to the conference room.
This wasn’t the first time I’ve had to deal with the press myself and they wouldn’t even have known about the fight yet.
I was wrong.