Safe at First (The Boys of Baseball #3) by J. Sterling

Prologue


    Last June

MLB Draft

    Mac


I





t was stupid, and I was being an idiot. Here I was, back in my and Chance’s shared hotel room, feeling sorry for myself. I was happy for my best friend and teammate. I’d always be happy for him because he deserved to get drafted, but I wanted it too. That was why I’d left the second he sat down with the reporters. I was afraid that he’d be able to see my jealousy. And I didn’t want to ruin that moment for him.

    When the rest of the days came and went and my name was never called in the Major League Draft, I couldn’t help but feel that pang of disappointment in my guts. I wondered if that was how my other teammate Cole had felt when he didn’t get drafted in his junior year. I thought about calling him and asking. I needed someone to talk to, but I didn’t want to sound like a pussy. Plus, he’d eventually gotten drafted, and he was already in spring training for the season. The last thing Cole Anders wanted to hear was my whining.

    I had one more year of baseball eligibility left. One more year to show the scouts that I was worth it. That I was good enough to play professional baseball for them and the team they worked for. But honestly, I wasn’t sure that I was. I was good enough to play for one of the best college baseball teams in the country, but that didn’t mean that I had what the scouts were looking for to go beyond that. So far, not a single one had approached me. There were no agents banging down my door, hoping to represent me when the time came. No emails, no phone calls, no messages through Coach Jackson. No nothing.

    And as much as I hated to admit it, there was a pretty damn good possibility that I’d be going back home to Arizona after my senior year and taking a job with my dad’s company. It had always been the backup plan. One I hoped I’d never need. One my dad assumed I always would. The thought alone made me want to get on a plane and disappear forever. Having my failure thrown in my face daily wasn’t something I looked forward to. I really fucking wanted to prove my dad wrong, but so far, all I was doing was proving him right.

    After our appearance at the College World Series, Chance and his girlfriend, Danika, had left for Florida. The Mets had sent him to their Class A Advanced team instead of regular Single A. I knew he wouldn’t be there long either, so I hoped Danika liked packing up and moving because she’d be doing it often. They seemed really happy though. And that was when I realized that playing professional baseball wasn’t the only thing I wanted in my life.

    I wanted the one other thing that had kept eluding me—or maybe I’d pushed it away—a real girlfriend. I knew I came off as the team’s biggest player, but it was all a front. A defense mechanism. As long as I called all the shots and kept the ladies playing by my rules, I couldn’t get decimated, like I had during my freshman year. All that needed to change, and I had no idea how to do it. Especially when girls only wanted to hook up with me because I was a baseball player. What happened if I was no longer one? Who would want me then?

    My phone vibrated, and I looked down, seeing a new private message waiting for me on one of the social media apps. I clicked on it, noticing that it was from Sunny, Danika’s best friend. We’d started following each other a few months back, but I’d done my best to never comment or like any of her pictures even though they were fucking spectacular. That girl never seemed to have a down day. She was always smiling, looking happy, and quoting glass half-full type of shit in her captions. Sunny was a ray of fucking sunshine, just like her name, and I was drawn to all of it.

    She was also one of the few girls at Fullton that I’d hooked up with who didn’t chase me after the fact. Sunny accepted that I didn’t want a relationship, and she never tried to talk me out of it or change my mind. Other girls didn’t work that way. They were always pushing for more. Which always pushed me away. The problem was, I would have actually considered changing my ways for Sunny, but I knew that she deserved way better than someone as damaged as me. So, I kept her at arm’s length, and she let me do it.

    I clicked on the message and read it out loud, “I’m sorry you didn’t get drafted this year. I’m here if you want to talk.”

    She included her phone number, and in a moment of clear weakness and vulnerability, I found myself dialing it. We talked for hours that night. Longer than I’d ever talked to any girl before in my life, including my ex. It was easy. Comfortable. And I felt like Sunny understood me when it seemed like no one else had ever even tried to.