The Hitting Zone - Chapter 832
I woke up to the room door closing. Rather loudly. I peeked out of the covers and saw Zeke holding two bags of ice. I pulled the covers back up.
Rhys laughed. “C’mon Jake, it’s not that early. I can’t imagine what you’re like before school.”
“He’s usually like a zombie. Just going through the motions.” I heard Noah from afar. He must already be out of bed. “Zeke, I don’t need ice. That’s just going to make me as stiff as a board.”
“Mom’s getting a heating pad from the store right now.” Zeke replied. “Ice it now. We’ll have brunch. Then you can use the heating pad before we go to the field.”
There was no fighting Zeke on this. I felt the comforter being lifted near my feet. “Lift the legs, Jake.”
Pillows were put under my feet, and then the freezing sensation followed after he put the bag of ice on my ankle. By now, it felt kind of nice. I must have dozed off, because the next sensation I felt was the cool bag being lifted off of me.
“Let’s go meet the others downstairs for food.” Zeke said.
Reluctantly, I peeled the sheets and comforter off of me, then let out a full body stretch.
“How’s the ankle?” Rhys asked.
I rubbed the sleep from my face. “It’s alright.”
Rhys looked to Noah, who was changing shirts. “You got pegged pretty good. Doesn’t bother you too much?”
Noah looked over his shoulder, unsuccessfully trying to look at the bruise forming on his back. “Nothing out of the ordinary.”
“You ordinarily get hit with a baseball?” Rhys laughed.
Noah chuckled. “Hey, I do what I can to get on base.”
“Okay, tough guy.” Rhys laughed some more. “Don’t be putting your body on the line every game. That’s some dangerous decision-making.”
“Yea, yea, I know.” Noah waved him off. “Getting hits is better than getting hit.”
Noah was the first one out the door. Zeke and Rhys followed, while I trailed after them. In the lobby of the hotel, we met with the twins and Mom. We went in the buffet style restaurant and took turns filling up our plates. The twins took the most turns, going back for seconds, thirds, and fourths.
Mom looked concerned by their third plate. “Isn’t that a bit too much? I don’t want you boys getting sick from overeating.”
Kyle shrugged. “I’m not playing today so no worries here.” He raised an eyebrow at Dave. “Are you trying to throw up on the mound today?”
Dave rolled his eyes. “I’m hungry. This is breakfast and lunch. Food is fuel. Don’t you guys want me to do well today?”
Mom was helpless.
“Mary, they’re growing boys.” Dad came just in time to defend the twins. He handed a bag to Noah. “Your mother got this for you this morning. Make sure to take care of it after using it. And definitely don’t forget to pack it.”
“Is that where you’ve been?” Noah asked, frowning. “You’ve already missed most of the meal.”
“If you must know,” Dad rubbed the top of Noah’s head. “I was working on extending our stay an extra night so after the game, we don’t have to drive back right away. Stick around, have dinner with Jeremy and Rose. Tomorrow, we’ll follow Rhys home and have lunch with his parents. Then we’ll go home.” Dad stood back up. “Now, I’ll take some time to get myself something to eat.” He left to go get his own food.
“A simple ‘thank you’ would have been appreciated.” Mom looked at Noah.
Noah rubbed his nose. “How was I to know all these plans that you guys make? I’m the youngest! I just go with the flow.”
“Jake’s the youngest.” Kyle pointed at me.
“We were born in the same year, we’re basically twins.” Noah replied.
“That’s not the same at all.” Kyle told him.
The two started bickering, but thankfully the meal was almost over. We all went back to our rooms to relax and get ready for the game. Noah got to heat his back and did some stretching to get loose. I got dressed in the bathroom, pulling on a freshly cleaned uniform thanks to Zeke. Him and Rhys apparently went to wash all of our uniforms before going to bed last night.
It wasn’t long before Noah started to get restless and started to rush us to leave. After consulting with Mom, we left ahead of them and the twins, becoming the second to arrive at the fields, right after Coach. Coach checked in with the both of us, making sure we were good to go. He moved on as soon as Bryce showed up.
“Looks like he really might be in the lineup today.” Noah said as we got our cleats on.
Noah was right. Of course.
After everyone showed up and gathered around to put their cleats on, Coach took some time to announce the lineup.
1 SS Noah Atkins
2 1B Sean Isner
3 2B Jake Atkins
4 CF Garret Knudsen
5 3B Jason Morris
6 LF Bryce Finn
7 RF Korrey Alvarrez
8 C Mitchell Torres
9 P David Atkins
A lot of eyes drifted to Bryce after his name was called out.
Coach finished with the lineup and looked around. “I know it’s a bit unusual to have Bryce starting in the outfield, but this isn’t his first time ever so be assured.” He said a few more words before getting us to start our warmups.
“Coach just basically told us that we’re replaceable.” Jason whispered as we did our stretches. He glanced at me. “Well, besides Jake.”
Noah laughed, “I think he’s just looking for some more hits from the outfield. We shouldn’t be feeling the pressure. Bryce should. Coach is basically gambling on him to do something at the plate.”
“I hope he gets a hit.” I spoke up.
Noah nodded. “Of course. We all do. Well…maybe with an exception of one or two.” His eyes drifted towards the group of outfielders on the other end.
“Hey, we’re all one team.” Sean said. “As long as the team wins, we all win. No one should be hoping for a poor performance from anyone.”
“I feel like you can say that because you’re a starter.” Jason pointed out.
“You’re more of a starter than I am.”
“What do you mean?”
“You have way more starts than I do from last year.”
“I guess, but I think Noah has more than me. Heck, even Jake.” Jason made a face of faux distress. “Underclassmen have more seniority than me.”
Sean laughed. “Come on. Let’s start throwing.”
The two of them paired up as did Noah and I. The rest of the team was starting to do the same. Dave and Mitchell left for the bullpen with a coach. After that, we split into smaller groups to work on fielding and hitting. Then it was game time.
The finals of a Christmas tournament had quite a bit of fanfare. The lineups were announced and the national anthem was played. The stands weren’t packed, but it was clear that a lot of family was here to watch the last game of the year despite it being a weekday. I was able to spot our group, almost dead center behind home plate: Mom, Rose, Jeremy, and Dad. Rhys and Zeke sat just a row in front of them, almost as if they were guarding Jeremy. And maybe they were. During the game, I can’t tell if Jeremy was bugged often for autographs and pictures like he was before his games.