The Hitting Zone - Chapter 831
As a team, we moved together towards the parking lot. Coach had sent out the address for the restaurant so everyone started to split away from the group, getting into their own cars.
Noah and I were last to the lot, moving slowly thanks to my swollen ankle. And maybe because of his back.
I glanced at him. “Does your back hurt still?”
Noah scoffed. “Just a bruise.” He paused for a second and lowered his voice. “After tomorrow, we’ll have a nice break. Probably no tournament until February. There’ll be plenty of time to rest then.”
I nodded, understanding what he was saying. I felt the same way. My ankle hurt, but it was still good enough that I can play on it.
“Where’s Mom and Dad?” Kyle sighed, looking left and right in the parking lot. “They’ve been missing for so long already. Rhys and Zeke too.” He glanced at me. “Have you heard from Jeremy since the end of our game?”
I shrugged. “I don’t have my phone on me.”
“There’s Rhys, coming now.” Dave pointed at a car driving into the lot. Rhys was behind the wheel and Zeke in the front passenger seat. The car stopped in front of us and we piled in.
“Where have you guys been all afternoon?” Kyle asked. “You didn’t want to watch the other semifinal?”
Rhys laughed. “Why would we do that? It’s not like we’re playing them tomorrow.”
“Where’s Mom and Dad?” Dave asked next.
“At the restaurant.” Zeke said. “Same with Jeremy.”
The drive wasn’t more than fifteen minutes. We met up with everyone and their families inside the restaurant and found that the whole place was rented out for us and set up to accommodate everyone. Wow.
I spotted Jeremy talking to Dad off in the corner.
“Let’s go over here!” Noah tugged me in the opposite direction. We sat at a four person table that already had Bryce and Brian present.
“What are you guys doing over here?” Bryce asked, smiling.
Noah sighed. “Can’t a guy just eat in peace?”
“You want to try ordering something you shouldn’t?” Bryce guessed quicker than I could. But I liked his guess. I definitely believe it.
Noah cracked a smile as he slid a little lower in his seat. “If you be silent, we can still be friends.”
Bryce and Brian both laughed.
“It’ll be hard to get away with ordering any dessert or soda.” Brian warned. “I’m sure someone will be making their rounds.” He nodded in Zeke’s direction.
“He’s no longer our captain.” Noah stated firmly. “He shouldn’t be butting in our affairs. He has his own team to worry about now.”
Noah sounded sure of himself, but I didn’t buy it. There were way too many of us around for him to get away with getting any sweets. Even if a teammate didn’t sell him out, there were coaches watching and other family members present.
Servers started coming around with glasses of water for everyone, scratching out the chance of having a soda tonight. Even parents and coaches got water. It was a sharp contrast to the ‘choose anything for dinner’ style. My whole table ordered steaks, with the exception being me.
“No meat??” Brian shook his head at me after our server left with our table’s order. “How are you ever going to put on some weight if you don’t eat any meat?”
I scratched my cheek lightly. “There’s meat in my soup. It’s chicken noodle.”
Brian grabbed his chest, covering his heart. “You’re killing me.”
Bryce laughed. “Jake, the chicken in chicken noodle soup is nowhere near enough protein that you should be taking in.” He looked me over. “You’ve put on some weight compared to last year, but you’re still the smallest on the team. Eat some more meat and grow taller.” He glanced towards Jeremy’s table. “You have good genetics.”
I nodded slowly. “Yea…I know.”
“Maybe your parents should take you to a nutritionist.” Brian suggested.
“Nah.” Noah cut in and waved him off. “Why change what’s working. Jake’s got a couple more months until the season starts. As long as he’s not losing weight, that’s a win. Don’t forget, he hasn’t gone through puberty yet.”
I felt my face get hot as the other two agreed with Noah. “I’ve-I’ve started…going through puberty.” My voice got quieter towards the end of my defense.
Bryce laughed. “Sure. Started. But you haven’t had a growth spurt yet and your voice isn’t deep at all.”
I sat up a little straighter. “I’ve grown. A couple inches.”
Our dinner conversation was strictly about growing and gaining muscle. It lasted even after our meal came. Still feeling like my soup wasn’t good enough, Brian gave me some of his steak even though I really didn’t want to eat it. I couldn’t turn him down though. He has good intentions.
“Boys.” Coach greeted us, stopping at the end of our table, between Bryce and Brian. He scanned our nearly empty plates. “After you’re done, you can leave at anytime. This meal was bought by Jeremy again. Make sure to thank him on your way out and get some rest.” His eyes stopped on Bryce for an extra second. Then he moved on to the next table.
“What was that about?” Brian asked.
“If you ask us, who are we supposed to ask?” Noah snorted. He lifted his brows. “Maybe Bryce can expect some play time tomorrow. Tanner is out.”
Bryce frowned. “But we still have Garret, Jesse, and Korrey. Plenty for the outfield. Logan and Sean can also play out there.”
“So you don’t want the chance to play tomorrow?” Noah asked. “Might want to say something to Coach now.”
“I’ll play!” Brian volunteered.
“Who said I didn’t want to play?” Bryce refuted. “I just think there are other options before me. Especially since I’ve been working on my pitching all semester.”
“I’ll pray for you.” Noah put his hands together.
Bryce threw a wadded up napkin at him. “Shut up. Besides, we don’t know if that’s what his look even meant. Maybe I’m the second option after Dave starts.”
Brian sighed. “I doubt it. Coach hasn’t used the bullpen much. Garret and the twins are hot. It’s tough to compete. Plus, I wouldn’t wish any of them to have a bad day.”
“You know, we were talking and figure Garret might be the new number one player overall in the county.” Noah said.
“I believe it.” Bryce nodded in agreement. “Hard to compete with that double threat.” He nudged me. “Unless you’re like Jake here. Dominant at the plate and can own any pitcher.”
I shrugged, feeling off. I knew it was a compliment, but it was hard to take.
The three of them talked about the potential top five, top ten, top twenty, and so on. There wasn’t too much time to dissect the whole county thanks to it being the end of the meal. We had to start leaving, going back to our hotel rooms to get ready for tomorrow.
There wasn’t much time for me to talk to Jeremy, but he gave a small wave before leaving in his own car. “I’ll be there tomorrow. Make sure to take care of that ankle.”