Baseball and I have a history, so it’s not surprising I feel honored to be included in Crimson Romance’s first ever anthology, Take Me Out. Three other authors and I introduce some noteworthy heroes of the diamond in their separate pursuits for rings — World Series and marriage rings. Elley Arden, Alicia Pace Hunter, Bea Moon, and I come to baseball romance from separate worlds that all revolved around baseball at one time or another. In my case, baseball became the glue that held a fragmented family together.
Not that this is a sad story, not at all. Growing up in rural Georgia, I followed my tomboy sister and the Hester twins in one adventure after another, favoring horses and flag football with the twins over baseball.
And then the Atlanta Braves came to town — or near town, since my family lived in what are now suburbs.
Mom gave up her beloved Cubs for the Braves, and began instilling the lore and love of the game in me, her most malleable of 7 children. Soon, I could spout stats with the best of them. I started playing city softball, and as I got a little older, developed crushes on the best (looking) players.
I borrowed Ernest Thayer’s well-known baseball poem, Casey at the Bat, and made it mine by substituting the names of Braves’ players of the moment — won me some much needed attention from my indifferent classmates, letting me come in 2nd in a talent show, right behind a memorable performance of Ballad of the Green Beret. Baseball gave me something that my writing hadn’t yet achieved. (Yes, I really did start writing in first grade. Just took a while to get up to speed!)
One of my biggest missed opportunities was when Mom took me to a Braves game as a birthday present. It was Picture Day, and all the Braves players were lined up around the field so that fans could take their pictures. I was too shy. What if they noticed me? What if they didn’t? I hid the camera and pretended I forgot. Peeked at Hank Aaron, and Woody Woodward, and all the others, and consoled myself that someday I would be worthy.
Mom and I literally had to fight my bigoted, abusive father for the right to support Hank Aaron’s run for Babe Ruth’s record–and we won. I’d been driven from home by the time he hit that earth-shattering homer, but the phone rang within seconds, and even before I picked it up — I could hear Mom and my brothers celebrating. Georgia to Texas, but I swear even now I heard them.
Every Opening Day, Mom and I are together, though she’s been gone so long. Her heroes, like Aaron, taught me to admire the good and ignore the bad–because not all athletes are heroes. Not all men are, either.
Not every hero wins World Series rings, or leads a league in hits, or strikes out the side in the last inning of a baseball game. Some heroes just go home to the families they live for, are honest and real — some heroes are men first. If they wear pin stripes or a tomahawk logo, that’s just icing on the cake.
Take Me Out captures heroes on the field…and off.