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The Long Game

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Padres Join us @petcopark for the last homestand of the season. Tickets still available:

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armond-ator lol not if ur starting her. hope she doesnt choke this time.

padresfan89 Go Dads!

luverandfiter damn, girl. don't even care how you play when you look like that 😍

September 22, 2018

“Evelyn,” Ginny said, trying to keep her tone as level as possible in spite of the fact that her friend was on thin fucking ice. Sometimes, she was sure Evelyn took great joy in skating so close to danger. “I told you it just didn’t work out—”

“Oh, bullshit, Ginny.” As ever, Ev was in top form, thoroughly unwilling to put up with Ginny’s dodging. She’d get real answers if she had to reach into her phone and shake them out of her. “You’re really telling me ‘it didn’t work out’ with that man. Have you seen him?”

Ginny rolled her eyes and checked over her shoulder before flicking on her turn signal to change lanes. Ever since starting business school, Evelyn had demanded regular calls. She said it was because they’d see each other so much less—which had turned out to be demonstrably untrue; Ginny’d lost count of the number of times Evelyn had shown up on her doorstep for an impromptu girls night that was really just procrastinating on her latest Stats assignment—but Ginny suspected it was more about staying on top of the latest gossip out of the clubhouse. No way was Ev going to give up her stranglehold on the Padres rumor mill, not even for her academic record. 

“Yeah, I saw him,” she answered once she was in her lane.

“Then you should realize how phenomenally boneheaded it is to not go out with him. I mean, God knows I love Blip, but if I were single, I’d be in that man’s DMs faster than he can hike that football. Those arms! Mm…”

“Okay,” Ginny broke in, knowing Ev was primed for a long, filthy tangent by the low hum in her ear. It was that exact hum that had preceded a solid week and a half where Ginny hadn’t been able to look Blip in the eye, too traumatized by his wife’s thorough, loving rhapsodizing over their latest date night. “Do I need to give you some privacy?”

“Girl, I wish,” Ev laughed, though she sobered quickly. “Okay, but honestly. Is he a dick? Is that why you turned him down? 'Cause I know a guy.”

“No, he’s nice.” At least, the five minutes Ginny had chatted with Art Chellquist, starting center for the Chargers, at some fundraiser, he’d seemed perfectly nice. “The timing isn’t right. His season is just starting, and I’m not—”

“Looking,” Evelyn finished, having heard it all before, and at length. Usually when Ginny was good and tipsy and the wall she kept around her real thoughts and feelings had been laid low by whatever lethal concoction Ev had poured. 

As with every other time it came up, she didn’t exactly sound like she understood, but she accepted it anyway. A sigh was the only indication that she had any opinion on the matter, and Ginny felt the corner of her mouth kick up. God, she was lucky to have Ev on her side. 

“Yeah, okay, but—”

Before Evelyn could elaborate, she cut herself off with a sharp shriek. 

“Gabriel Isaiah Sanders,” she bellowed, just quiet enough that it was obvious she’d pulled her phone away from her face, “what did I say about flying that drone in the house?”

Muffled, but his indignation still clear over the line, Ginny could hear, “But, Mom!” followed by a perfectly timed clatter and crash. “Oops.”

“Oh, good lord,” Evelyn groaned. “I’ve gotta go, Gin, but I’ll see you after the game. You’re gonna kill it.” She was already shouting for Blip to come deal with his son as Ginny ended the call.

The car fell quiet, and Ginny made no move to change that, navigating smoothly to the hum of the engine and the faint whirr of the fans. 

Just as she’d learned the hard way not to google herself (and the harder way not to read anything about her that went to print), she’d learned not to listen to local radio. There was never any telling when her name would come up, even on the peppy Top 40 station. An offhand opinion on her latest performance might just be a matter of filling up dead air for a DJ, but it never felt that way to Ginny.  

They weren’t the only ones, of course. Reporters and interviewers might like to play buddy-buddy as they poked and prodded around for information, building rapport to coax out genuine responses, but that didn’t mean their coverage always felt friendly. 

Way better to let Ev's warm, familiar voice wrap her up in a nice, comforting cocoon. Even if she occasionally had to fend off interrogations into her love life.

The rest of the drive down to the park was quick, but it always was this early in the day. Sure, there was the routine snarl of lunch traffic as she wound her way through the Gaslamp District, which she could’ve avoided by staying on the 5 for a few more exits, but habit kept her on course. Anyway, Ginny didn’t mind being in the car. 

In the California sunshine, her view so much lower to the ground in a less-than-sensible sedan, it was easy to remember where and when she was. 

If it was different at night, that wasn’t anything Ginny had to think about at the moment. 

No, at the moment, as she slung her backpack over a shoulder and locked her car, the echoing beep drowned out by the headphones pumping music into her ears, all Ginny Baker had to think about was one thing: her last start of the season. 

There’d be no carefully-worded comments to the beat reporters or broadcasters. No Eliot, Josie on his heels as she learned the ropes and tried not to set them on fire as she went, running through her schedule or snapping pictures to populate whatever social media accounts he kept running like a well-oiled machine. No smiling and playing nice with whatever bigwigs the front office pushed in her path. 

It’d all come back tomorrow—the moment the last out was recorded, probably—and that was fine. Ginny was used to it. Today, however, was all for baseball. 

Barring disaster—though, in the three years since she was first called to the bigs, disaster had only ever seemed to strike at the worst possible moments; there was no counting it out—she would take the mound and officially close out her first season still on the active roster. 

There was some part at the back of her mind that spent the entirety of September waiting for the hammer to drop. Waiting for the Front Office to come up with some reason to shut her down, new analytics or a deal that would send her across the country. Just waiting.

But she’d made it this far, four September starts under her belt and a fifth to cap it off in about six hours.

For those next six hours, she had just one job: prepare for the game and try not to let trouble find her.

Another One For the Books

Farrah Levin
September 16, 2018

There isn’t much Ginny Baker does that doesn’t make history. Even three years into her stint as a major league ballplayer, there are still achievements left to realize. While this latest might not make the record books, it's still noteworthy that as of today, Baker has become the first woman in history to record a full year's service time in a single season.

Following a mid-season call up in 2016 and the rehab necessitated by her season-ending injury the following year, 2018 marks the first time that she has had the opportunity to bank all 172 days necessary to earn that full year. That she's accomplished this at her first opportunity says a lot about her grit, determination, and work ethic. A lot that will no doubt be entirely ignored by her dedicated contingent of detractors.

We'll just see how loud those detractors still are once she's arbitration-eligible in 2020.

The clubhouse, blissfully, was as quiet as the last of her drive. Aside from the troupe of clubbies, too busy with their own game prep and too familiar with her routine to bother with her, the place was empty. The hub, which would be full to the brim between her regular teammates and the September call-ups in an hour or two, didn’t feel lonely. Not the way it did back in Texas, when she had to come in this early if she wanted any chance at getting early work in.

Now, it just felt like a choice she’d made and stuck with. A choice to miss out on trying to memorize heat maps and spray charts with Mario Kart and Call of Duty tournaments or Dusty’s latest attempts to learn the guitar as background music.

Anyway, she’d much rather join in on the Mario Kart; schooling nine-and-a-half-year-olds got old after a while. 

So, with little fanfare, just the way she liked it, Ginny dropped her bag off at her locker and headed for the weight room to start stretching. 

With her music on and nothing around to distract her, it was easy to slide into the familiarity of routine and let time slip by. 

When she emerged from her groove, it wasn’t to the natural end of her warm up, though she had transitioned from the mats to the treadmill for a light jog to get her blood pumping. 

Instead, with an unceremonious cut to her playlist, Ginny blinked and finally registered she was no longer alone. 

Standing next to the machine, an expression of all too familiar consternation on his face, was Mike Lawson. He held her headphones up to his ear, having plucked them from her own rather than get her attention like a normal human being. 

“You know you weren’t even humming along to this, right?” he asked, shaking his head and neglecting to hand over her property as she expectantly held out her hand. 

“I wasn’t humming anything.”

He snorted. “Explain that to my ringing ears, then.”

Ginny didn’t bother protesting. Mike just liked complaining, and if he couldn’t bitch about her tone-deafness, he’d pick something else. She just kept on jogging. 

“Care to guess what you were butchering this time?” he asked, reaching out to punch down the speed and pouting—though he’d certainly object to the term; with the beard, he might have a point—when she batted his hand away. 

“Nothing because I wasn’t humming?” Ginny sighed and didn’t bother to smack his hand away again, shortening her stride to match the slowing belt beneath her feet until she wasn’t doing much more than ambling along. If this meant she had more attention to spare Mike, well, it wasn't as if either of them minded. Even if they'd never actually admit it, Ginny's code too big a hurdle to clear.

He ignored her tone, rubbing his chin and staring up near the ceiling like it took every ounce of concentration to pull a recognizable tune out of her off-key rendition. That he and Blip were the only ones who ever won “Name that Baker Tune” with any regularity was also conveniently ignored. 

“Never heard of ‘em. Weird band name. Nah, I'm pretty sure it was Maroon 5.”

Now that Ginny thought about it, she was pretty sure they’d popped up on her playlist earlier. 

Still, she scoffed. “No way. Not since they cut out my part in the video.”

For a second, Mike froze before eyeing her suspiciously. “You never told me you were supposed to be in a music video.”

The urge to point out that she didn’t tell him everything stumbled even as the words formed in her mouth. She had to clear her throat to actually get them out, though they tasted distinctly like a lie. 

His squint turned even more suspicious. 

Looking at her like that, brow furrowed and lips parted to start poking holes in her story, Mike inspired a devastating rush of fondness through Ginny. She couldn’t help it. 

She’d never been able to help it. 

Breaking down, giving in to the joke because it was easier than acknowledging anything else, she laughed and shook her head. “Fine,” she said, finally turning off the treadmill altogether; she’d get more of a workout walking through the clubhouse—as Mike was so clearly angling for. “You got me. I wasn't in that video.”

Only because it’d been filmed in the middle of spring training. Ginny wasn’t about to ask for a day off from her first actual camp not stuck in the trainers' rooms to jet off to LA so she could hang out with celebrities. 

Right on cue, Mike’s mouth tugged to the side in a half-smile, no doubt satisfied that he was up to date on his Ginny Baker trivia. “But not because no one’s asked.”

Ginny shrugged, stepping off the treadmill and falling in easily beside Mike. He led the way from the cardio suite, nodding greetings to their teammates as they went but never stopping to talk. No one tried to butt in, either, too used to the sight of Baker and Lawson neck-deep in pre-game consultations. 

Rolling her head from side to side, Ginny asked, “You gonna let me talk you into changing the approach for Visech?” It was that or acknowledge the way Mike was taking his time on today’s stroll, almost like he was appreciating the view more than he had in years. 

“It’s too early for this,” Mike groaned. The fact that he didn’t walk away from her, the way he did to some of the other, pushier pitchers, meant he was willing to hear her out, though.

“They call it early work for a reason, Lawson.”

He rolled his eyes. “You don’t even know that he’s gonna be in the lineup.”

“He’s always in the lineup.”

“Well, maybe today’s the day your luck—” 

“Okay, need I remind you who called for that fastball last time around?”

“—changes,” Mike finished, fully accustomed to Ginny’s interruptions by now. He seemed to take great pleasure in steamrolling over whatever was so pressing she had to get it out right away, or she would’ve stopped. “You should focus on what you’re gonna do with Armond.”

It was Ginny’s turn to roll her eyes. 

“It’s been months, Mike,” she said, putting some steel behind her words. “Let it go.”

“Which means he’ll never see it coming,” he argued back, looking thunderous.

“I’m not beaning Greg Armond for something he said back in June. And isn’t it pretty irresponsible of you to even suggest it?”

Mike shrugged, wholly unconcerned by living up to the gravitas he was meant to embody. “Captain’s prerogative.” Then, he looked at her, as serious and steady as Ginny had ever seen him. “He disrespected you. As a player and a person. Just because you’re better and more talented than he thinks you should be.”

Ginny couldn’t look away. Not when Mike was staring at her with such conviction, such confidence. Like she always did whenever Mike flipped on that earnest, honest side, Ginny felt herself grow warm all over. 

Finally, he shook his head and turned forward once more. When he spoke, it was with a sly, eager grin. “That deserves some payback.”

She rolled her eyes again rather than act on any other impulses. “Whatever happened to ‘other ways’?”

Mike rolled his eyes right back. “Whatever happened to the hothead who’d rather charge the mound than take a pity walk?”

“Like you’d ever take a pity walk lying down. Besides. That happened, like, once—” Mike snorted, and Ginny’s mouth couldn’t decide if it wanted to grin or grimace at the unimpressed look he shot her. “Okay, maybe twice.”

“Sure. Maybe twice. If we don’t count most days ending in ‘Y.’”

Ginny aimed an elbow at his side, but like he was expecting it, he neatly dodged out of the way, reaching up to tug at her ponytail as he went. Her jaw dropped in mock indignation, but the dimple digging its way into her cheek no doubt gave her away. Mike just shrugged and shoved her towards her dressing room. 

“Get your glove and meet me on the field, Baker,” he ordered, already ambling off to his own locker. 

If Ginny stood, just a moment too long, watching him go, at least a furtive check of her surroundings assured her she wouldn’t catch any grief over it.

Jerry Park

BREAKING - Giants pitcher Armond on Padres’ Ginny Baker: “If guys weren’t so busy staring at her ass or hoping her uniform’ll pop open, they’d be crushing her stuff.”

10:11 PM · May 24, 2018

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Through pitchers’ stretch and batting practice, Ginny steadfastly refused to hear anything more about Greg Armond, no matter who brought it up. 

Her teammates, naturally, took that as a challenge.

Between the infielders’ combined effort to compile a list of most vulnerable areas to aim for and the majority of the bullpen making a point of telling her they’d “take care” of things if she wanted and even Buck sidling up beside her as she waited for her turn at the plate and muttering, “Some guys just got it comin’ to ‘em. You feel me, Baker?” Ginny got the distinct impression her team was full of bloodthirsty jackasses itching for a good fight. If the Padres weren’t going to make the postseason—and it’d take a whole lot of luck, good for them and bad for just about everyone else, to score the second Wild Card slot at this point—why not go out with a different kind of bang?

Only Blip seemed happy to let things lie. 

"Seemed" being the operative word. Ginny couldn’t help but sneak glances at him as they patrolled the outfield, shagging grounders and tracking the odd fly in their vicinity. Eventually, he caught her at it. 

Raising a brow, he effortlessly trapped a lazy liner and tossed it back to the infield. “I got something caught in my teeth?”

“Yeah, actually. Ev made that spinach quiche again?”

Blip actually scrubbed at his teeth until he caught on to her barely suppressed glee. Ginny danced out of the way of his swat, laughing. He just shook his head, the very picture of saintly, long-suffering patience. “How the hell did you know that?”

“Your wife doesn’t care that food pictures are so two years ago,” she drawled. That was what Eliot’s new assistant Josie said, at least. The kid might have the real world skills of a baby bunny, but her ‘gram game was on point. “Said she sent a slice for me.”

He froze, eyes wide. “It was?”

For a moment, they just stared at one another. If a baseball came their way, they’d inevitably embarrass themselves with how thoroughly they were not paying attention.

“You did not eat my quiche!” she eventually managed to sputter.

“I get hungry in the car, Ginny!”

Her faux outrage melted, and she laughed, bright and loud and unapologetic. With her face tipped back, the heat of the sun filled her up as surely as her delight. Grinning, lopsided and content, she promised,  “I’m so telling Ev on you.”

Blip groaned dramatically, burying his face in his glove. “You’re ruthless. I’m gonna have to buy those shoes she’s been talking about.”

“If you can get out of this for just a pair of shoes, it’s probably not that big of a deal.”

Considering he’d bought Evelyn a house as part of making up for their last big—huge, more like it; Ginny still felt dread clawing up her throat when she remembered that fight—dust up, she wasn’t wrong.

Blip nodded, acknowledging the point. 

“So c’mon. You gonna tell me what’s got you looking like you’re figuring when’s the best time for you to make a run for it?”

She never had been able to distract Blip for long. He’d been in an entirely different league and city, and he’d still sniffed out her fling with Trevor. 

“Just waiting to hear what you’ve got to say about Armond,” she replied, staring straight at Oliveros taking his first cut. Big swing, but he came around on it too early: into the seats down the leftfield line.

From the corner of her eye, she caught Blip shaking his head. 

“I don’t have anything to say about that asshole. Aside from him being an asshole.”

Ginny huffed out a laugh. She couldn’t disagree with him there. 

“Hit him or not, it’s up to you. You prove a point either way.”

Her brow furrowed. “All right, I’ll play. How do I prove a point by hitting him? It’s just dignifying him with a response.”

“That ship’s already sailed. Or did you forget that Sonny nearly knocked the helmet off him?”

“Thanks for reminding me.” She'd be lying if she said she hadn't gotten a visceral shot of vindication at seeing Greg Armond dive to the ground to get out of the way of Sonny's fastball, but the endless questions she'd had to answer afterward had leached any satisfaction from the incident.

“C’mon, G. He didn’t just do it for you. He did it because you’re one of us.”

“Fine, sure,” she allowed, frowning nonetheless. “I still don’t see the point in beaning him now.”

“Then don’t. Or do. Whichever you decide, you’re just proving that you’re playing the same game as everyone else. Just like you always have, don’t give me that look.”

She scoffed, but there was some, just a bit, amusement in it.

No doubt, Blip heard it anyway.

The Ginny Baker Era

By Tanya Poretta

June 27, 2018

In the course of my career, I’ve had plenty of occasions to step briefly into my subjects’—carefully cultivated and curated—worlds, meeting them on their turf in the hopes of getting unscripted honesty in return.

The same was true when I met Ginny Baker.

And yet, it wasn’t all at once.

Instead of a starkly minimalist pad or a swanky rooftop bar or sleek new eatery that won’t be there in six months, I find Baker deep in the cinderblock warren that constitutes the San Diego Padres’ home clubhouse. The smell of sweat, chalk, and men’s body spray hasn’t quite permeated the small meeting room where she’s sequestered. Impressive, considering the team’s weight room, in full swing as a number of her teammates max out and strive for gains—is situated right outside the door.

She blinks in surprise as I’m shown into a small room made smaller by the stacks of boxes lining the back wall, one of them open at her feet and stuffed full of envelopes: fan mail.

What could be an exercise in pure ego stroking for anyone else is a full-time job for her. (It’s true; the Padres organization posted a job listing for a Team Correspondence Clerk shortly after Baker made her big league debut in 2016).

“I try to read it all,” she tells me with a sigh, taking in the boxes of as-yet unattended mail. “Definitely everything from kids and most everything else. As long as it’s not… weird.”

As I found out later, though not from Baker herself, it does get weird.

Fortunately, that was the last Ginny heard of Greg Armond. From her teammates, at least. 

Evelyn, of course, had texted her while she was out on the field. Just a GIF of some guy Ginny didn’t recognize clutching his groin and collapsing dramatically to the ground along with, “I’m just saying.”

Ginny responded: “Now we know why you were 'politely discouraged' from coaching the twins’ soccer team again this year.”

As intended, Evelyn was now giving her a taste of the cold shoulder. 

Mostly, though, the silence on the matter was down to Ginny’s stubborn avoidance of anyone who would bring it up.

Which, as they’d already proven, was just about everyone.

Ginny was reduced to dragging Livan, who had informed her without prompting that tanking Armond’s ERA with back-to-back homers in June was all the white-knighting he’d signed up for, into the pitching lanes for the shortest bullpen ever. She could afford maybe seven or eight tosses, not even hard enough to bleed off the mounting edge of frustration, unwilling to waste any when she’d still have her real warm up just before game time. 

Thankfully, he was more than happy to dick around with her, calling for first a forkball that landed a good three feet in front of the plate and a splitter and a slurve before devolving into making up signs for pitches that didn’t even exist yet. By the time they parted ways, Livan called off to review video for their final series against Arizona, if Ginny wasn’t feeling totally calm, she was feeling somewhat closer. At the very least, the giddy remnants of her reaction to Livan’s dead accurate impression of tonight’s crew chief was a good distraction. 

Knowing that she’d be a sitting duck anywhere in the open—Ginny made a tactical retreat into the clubhouse mailroom.

Once, it had been an extra storage closet off the weight room, stuffed full of extra mats and mismatched weights. Then, Ginny had gotten called up. 

Just by virtue of being herself, she’d always gotten more than her fair share of fan mail, particularly back when she’d been in Low-A and Rookie ball. Back then, if any of her teammates got mail that was more than a request for an autograph, it was cause for a whole round of excitement and good-natured ribbing. But when she’d stepped into the bigs, into the national spotlight, what had been a mailbag every week or so suddenly became three or four every day. 

Naturally, Ginny did not actually read everything. She’d tried, at first, but between her time on the road and the sheer volume coming in, there was no way to keep up. Even weeding out the clear junk, there was more than she could possibly get through. 

And that wasn’t counting the stuff that necessitated the involvement of her security team. After opening her first real, bonafide threat that first season, she’d finally acknowledged that maybe someone else should do a first pass on her incoming mail.

Now, Ginny mostly just saw the nice stuff: letters from kids and cards from families, little league team pictures and drawings of herself on the mound. There was other stuff, too. Requests for autographs and invitations to prom—she hadn’t gone to her own, and the idea of going to someone else’s just made her want to laugh with the awkwardness of it all—and even business proposals, hoping for an advantage in getting straight to Ginny rather than going to her representation. Of course, that calculation almost always backfired; there was a reason Ginny had an agent: so she didn’t have to think about stuff like this. 

She wasn’t reading any of it at the moment, though she was taking the opportunity to organize the piles of as-yet unread letters into boxes. With the end of the season coming so soon, she’d have to take it all home and let it take over her dining room table. They’d have to fight for space with the latest shipment of gear from Nike.

At the creak of the door, she abandoned her frowning contemplation of the ever-growing mass of mail and looked up into her manager's eyes. 

Al's gaze swept over the mess, and he shook his head. Rather than comment, he checked in with her. "Feelin' good, Baker? Warm?"

Ginny gave him a sharp nod. They’d gotten to the point where she didn’t bother to lie to him. It was his job to put a winning lineup on the field, but it’d been a long time since he’d made her feel like she couldn’t be part of that. She’d lost count of the number of times his frank advice had steadied her when she felt close to wobbling. "All good, skip. Ready."

"That's what I like to hear," he said, giving her a smile. "Giants just posted their lineup, and it doesn't look like they've got any surprises for us.” 

“Armond?” she checked, almost daring Al to say something. 

The frown on his face spoke volumes, but wisely, he passed on the opportunity, simply nodding. “Lawson still wants to iron out some of the finer details. You want me to send him in?"

"If he can find me in this mess."

"Ah, he'll feel right at home," Al joked, looking around at the stray letters and envelopes. "Least, I always do. Don't know how you keep up with this and all the emails and twitters."

"I'm not sure I do. The job makes it worth it, though."

Al laughed, and Ginny grinned in response. 

"That it does, that it does." He knocked on the frame of the door and went to turn before pausing. He lingered in the doorway for a long moment. Finally, after enduring Ginny's curious gaze, he sighed. "If I don't have a chance to say it later, Baker, it's been an honor."

Her breath caught in her throat. Al had announced about halfway through the season that 2018 would be his last year as a manager. After that initial press conference, though, he’d kept pretty quiet about it, just saying it would be nice to see his grandkids now that they were all old enough to respond to candy bribes.

Eventually, she managed to get out, “It’s been all mine.”

He shook his head again, but he was smiling this time. “Now, here’s where I’ve got to tell you you’re wrong. I’ll see you out there, kid.”

Big League Chat - Transcripts
Episode 37, “Crisis Every Day; Clubhouse Pranks Gone Wrong”

STUBBS: Dude, you are not telling that story on national… whatever!

VOORHIES: It’s the internet, man. It’s more than national.

STUBBS: That’s even worse!

VOORHIES: Aw, come on! Don’t you think the world deserves to hear about the time Baker—

STUBBS: No! Let the world go on thinking she’s a certified baseball beast—

VOORHIES: Who would never stoop to pranking her most gullible teammates.

STUBBS: —and I can keep my pride. (muttered) Whatever’s left of it.

VOORHIES: Fine, fine. How about, in honor of our illustrious skipper’s impending retirement—

STUBBS: Aw, no. You’re gonna make me cry. Just thinking about Al leaving, and maybe La—


VOORHIES: (muffled) We agreed. Ix-nay on the ap-cay.

STUBBS: (chagrined) Yeah, yeah, my bad.


VOORHIES: Anyway. I think that’s our signal to move on to a segment we like to call:



Mike didn’t get around to finding her again until she was back to her dressing room, already changed into the clean uniform left at her locker. 

He blew into the little space without knocking at the open door, collapsing into the extra chair that was more his than anyone else’s with a loud groan. It became clear it was one of satisfaction as he stretched his arms over his head, rolling his neck from side to side.

“Damn,” he sighed. “Kiki does good work. They should really give that man a raise.”

Ginny locked her phone, setting aside her conversation with Ev for later. Even if the woman had no qualms about double, or triple, texting, she’d just have to wait. She leveled Mike with a rueful look.

“You know, my first day here, Al told me you liked making an entrance. Now, I finally know why.”

Mike's head tipped to the side, and he studied her for a long moment, his own expression inscrutable. “You saying I haven’t lived up to your expectations?”

All at once, as it so often did when Ginny and Mike were left to their own devices, the air around them was charged with expectation, the anticipation of something that hadn’t yet—but certainly would, given a chance to gasp for breath and live —happened. 

She shrugged, lifting one shoulder delicately as she propped a foot on her seat. Setting her chin on her knee, Ginny eyed him for a long moment. Everything about his pose, the careless way he’d tossed out the question, screamed indifference. But Ginny knew Mike Lawson. Knew when he wanted to sign for a curve but went with the screwball. Knew  His eyelashes fluttered at the extended silence, gaze meeting hers as he tipped his head to the side in silent question. She grinned against the tugging, swooping feeling in her stomach. “You’ve still got time.”

Mike’s answering smile was shadowed by the look in his eyes. A look Ginny hadn’t learned to read for all she’d seen it more and more as the season passed by. 

Of course, she—and anyone who knew anything about the Padres—knew the reason for it.

After this season, Mike Lawson’s contract with the Padres would finally run out. For the first time in his career, he’d be a free agent. 

Her captain had been frustratingly tight-lipped about his plans for the future. Which only meant that no one else could seem to talk about anything else. Ginny’d lost track of the number of reporters who’d sidled up to her, hoping she had the scoop on Lawson’s headspace.

She could freely admit to them, and anyone else who bothered to ask, that she didn’t have a clue. 

That she wished she did was kept firmly to herself. 

Any other question they asked, and Ginny would more than probably have an answer. She knew pretty much every other thing about him: what he’d eaten for breakfast and what movie he’d had on in the background when he called her last night to lay the strategic groundwork for her start, where he’d graduated high school and what he would’ve studied if the Padres hadn’t drafted him, how viscerally opposed he was to ever DHing and the work he put in to get another game behind the plate out of his knees. 

It was just this that he didn’t share. 

She decided to lay it all—well, most ; the likelihood of her ever getting everything she felt about Mike Lawson off her chest was too daunting to even consider—out on the table. 

Dropping her feet back to the ground, flat and rooting her in place, she leaned forward. “I mean, isn’t there anything you can do? You’ve gotta have enough dirt to blackmail Oscar into offering you an extension.”

He laughed her off, but Ginny wasn’t trying to be funny. There was no rush of pride in getting a chuckle out of him, even though he was clearly sliding towards one of his thundering, rumbly moods. She just looked at him, willing him to see her suggestion for what it really was. Willing him to hear every single thing she’d ever kept herself from saying to him. If anyone could, it would be Mike. 

After all, knowing someone the way she knew Mike, it wasn’t a one-way street. 

“I need you out there, old man.”

“Ginny.” He sighed, not quite bitter but nowhere close to amused either, and shook his head. Worse, he wouldn’t look at her, fixing his gaze on his hands like he couldn’t feel hers boring into him. “The last thing you need in your life is me.”

She wasn’t so sure that was true, not when her gut twisted and burned at the thought of her life without Mike Lawson in it. Still, she knew this mood. Knew when he wouldn’t entertain any of her arguments, no matter how objectively correct they were. 

“Maybe,” she wanted to say nonetheless, already imagining his surprised scoff. He’d said it first; he couldn’t get all hurt the first time she admitted he was right. “But I do want you, Mike. And that has to matter.”

It had to. 

“You’re wrong,” she said, instead deciding to give him this. He’d already given her so much. “Livan doesn’t let me throw him under the bus like you do.”

As intended, Mike rolled his eyes, finally looking at her once more. Ginny gave him a shit-eating grin, ignoring the way it wanted to melt into something softer, more genuine. It wasn’t so hard by now; whenever Mike looked at her like that, more than the fluorescents reflected in his eyes, she wanted to melt. 

Ginny might not date ballplayers, but she was no stranger to nursing crushes on them. Harmless, fleeting things for the most part, but enough to make her heart pound and her imagination run amok if she gave it an opening. 

This wasn’t that.

Mike could think he didn’t belong in her life as much as he wanted. Ginny had no intention of giving him up.

“So,” she said, leaning back in her chair and letting the curve of her mouth turn into something sly. “About Visech…”

Book Deals: Week of January 11, 2018

Deal of the Week

Major League Motherhood

New York/Charlotte: Macmillan has acquired the North American rights to an as-yet untitled memoir penned by Janet Baker, mother to baseball trailblazer and household name, Ginny. It details, according to editors Tom Lamper and Marta Hill, the “rollercoaster ride that is raising a major league All-Star.” Promising an unflinching look at the Padres pitcher’s childhood and ascent through the baseball ranks as well as stories since her MLB debut, this is sure to be an engrossing read for sports fans and parents alike. The memoir is slated for a December 2018 release.

In the last half hour before she had to head out to the field for a final round of long toss and stretching, Ginny was generally left alone to gather herself in some peace and quiet.

Metaphorical quiet, that was. The music pumping into her ears verged on deafening some days. 

Given a say in the matter, Ginny wasn’t sure that she’d choose to spend those thirty minutes on her own, stewing in whatever thoughts and doubts were percolating in her mind that day. But, this was the way it had always been, pretty much ever since she started playing more competitively than her local rec leagues offered. 

Anyway, that was what the music was for. 

It was hard to think with 80 decibels of trap drumming away at her eardrums.

Still, when Ginny’d been idly hoping for some kind of distraction as she reviewed heat maps for the fiftieth time, maybe she should have been more specific. 

Because Amelia sliding into her dressing room, checking over her shoulder as she closed the door behind her, had so very rarely led to any kind of good news. 

Nonetheless, Ginny pulled off her headphones, arching an eyebrow at her agent. 

“How’d you get by security?” A beat, then, more suspicious: “How’d you get by Al?”

Amelia leveled her with a look that said Have you met me? more eloquently than words alone. The satisfied smirk playing at the edges of her perfectly glossed lips undercut her self-assurance just a bit, though. She flicked a lock of hair over her shoulder, though it was short enough now that it just fell back. 

“When Jamie leaves someone who isn’t Ross to cover the back door on her breaks, Al can have a me-free clubhouse.”

Ginny shook her head, but she was laughing too, which was really all the encouragement Amelia needed. They might have learned the whole boundary thing—the long, difficult way—but old habits and all that. 

Speaking of old habits...

“Something up?” she asked, already reaching for her phone and imagining a whole tangle of nonsense airplane mode had protected her from. If Amelia was down here so close to game time, something had to be up.

Amelia’s hesitance spoke volumes. 

Dread began to bubble up. God, when was she going to learn not to tempt fate? 

Resigned, Ginny let out a long, emotion-laden breath. “Just tell me.”

To her credit, Amelia didn’t second guess her choice. “The ARCs for your mom’s book have dropped. I doubt you’ll have to worry about anything during the game, but there will probably be questions afterwards. I didn’t want you to be blindsided.”

Ginny nodded blankly. As far as bad news went, it could be worse. It had been worse. Still. 


“I’ve already put Josie to speed reading it in case—”

“Mom’s editors decided to drop in a few bombshells?”

Once more, Amelia hesitated, like that definitely wasn’t where she’d been going. What mattered, though, was she backed Ginny’s play. “Yes. Anything that we didn’t agree to.”

Ginny nodded again, feeling too much like a bobblehead for her comfort. An uncanny sense of deja vu settled over her; she'd nodded like this when her mom had broached the possibility of a book last year. Silent agreement because if she said anything, it would be something she'd wish she could take back. Before she could help it, she asked, “Do you think that’s likely?”

Once, Amelia would have had no compunctions about lying, saying whatever she needed to preserve the veneer of the Ginny Baker persona. Now, however, she slumped back against the door, gaze going hazy as she turned whatever complex calculus that went into making these kinds of calls over in her head. 

“No,” she finally said. “This wouldn’t be the time to add that kind of thing to the manuscript.”

Which was not a: “No, there won’t ever be any.”

Still, Ginny did what she could to draw comfort from it. She closed her eyes and drew in a breath, letting this knowledge sink in and join every other thing that was meant to be bothering her. Swirling all together in what felt like a yawning pit between her diaphragm and lungs, it was harder for one to rear up and take over. Inelegant, but generally effective, which was about as much as Ginny ever hoped for when facing down any of her issues. 

“All right,” she said, having collected as much of herself as she would. Squaring up her metaphorical shoulders, she lifted her chin. “What else you got?”

The corner of Amelia’s mouth kicked up, pride and affection twining through the expression. “Nothing, thank God. Unless your manager catches me while I’m sneaking out. Though… He could do with one last earful, right?”

It wasn’t much of an opening, but Ginny forced herself to laugh anyway. “He’d be devastated to miss out.” 

“I’ll see you after the game,” Amelia said, hand falling to the doorknob. Before she could let herself out, though, she added, “Oh, if you do incite a brawl, try to avoid a black eye this time?”

“Goodbye, Amelia.”

Finally, as the door swung shut on her agent, Ginny was left once more to her own devices. She pulled on her headphones and let the music, rather than everything else, wash over her.

Closed Captioning from 08/14/18 Padres Postgame

>> You have to admit, Baker is something of... an anomaly among big league pitchers.

>> [CHUCKLE] That’s certainly one way to put it.

>> Not what I meant! Don’t sic Twitter on me! I meant— In a field of talent—to say nothing of management and MLB itself—that has made velocity king, her fastball has never touched 90.

>> Well, maybe that’s appropriate for the unquestioned Queen of America’s pastime.


By the time the analysts started up their pregame shows, the only thing meant to be on Ginny’s mind was baseball: pitch sequencing and past face-offs and last-minute tweaks to her arm slots.

In reality, that was rarely the case. 

As much as the world might believe otherwise, Ginny Baker was only human. 

No amount of practice made blocking out all the noise—fans and reporters and teammates and family and opponents and her own doubts somehow louder than it all—any easier. It had helped her learn to push through, letting it wash over her and blend together, a background hum to the adrenaline and split-second decisions that came with the game. Sure, there were times where it all faded away, leaving just Ginny on the mound, a ball in her hand, and a mitt 60 feet away, waiting to catch it. 

And, of course, the man wearing that mitt. 

That late September evening was no different. 

And yet, it was.

Out on the field, the stands steadily filling up as the Padres and Giants went through their last warm ups, Ginny found her attention wandering, but to one thing only. It kept snagging on Mike. 

The way he grinned at all the umps, easily pretending he wouldn’t shit talk them—in depth and at length—if they flubbed too many calls. How he directed one of the call-up’s attention to the way the Giants’ pitcher kept coming open during his long tosses. The loving, almost reverent, way the dying rays of the sun caressed his broad shoulders and caught the lighter strands that had begun sneaking their way into his hair and beard. 

The way his gaze, inevitably, always came back to her.

It took her a few times to realize what was so different about the way he was looking at her now. It wasn’t concern or amusement or even heat.

It was nostalgia. 

Like he’d already lost her, given her up as he faded into the history of the club.

He looked at her the same way he’d been taking in the clubhouse for the past few weeks, like he knew he wouldn’t have too many more opportunities and was committing it to memory while he could. 

Well, that was just unacceptable.

Indignation burned bright for a while, Ginny stewing in annoyance at his ridiculous sense of chivalry. He might be respecting her code, the decision she’d made two years ago, but that was no reason to make himself—and her while he was at it!—miserable. 

Exasperation—he really thought he could just make that call on his own?—however, was no match for the rush of affection that never failed to appear whenever Ginny thought about Mike Lawson too hard or too long.

As it turned out, she just liked Lawson too much, knew him too well, to remain annoyed with him for this. And as her feelings for Mike loosened inside her, sweeping through her very being and filling her up with the kind of confidence she worked so hard to project, Ginny found herself settling more and more.

Though her mind wasn’t as singularly focused on the impending game as it should have been, it wasn’t uncertainty shadowing her every thought. In fact, she’d never been more sure of anything in her life. And about several things at once. 

One. She was not going to hit Greg Armond. Mike had been right that first beanball war; her 87-mile-per-hour fastball was not going to deliver the message he so clearly required. Particularly when it had to burst the noxious bubble of Armond’s ego to get to him in the first place. 

Instead, she was going to do her utmost to embarrass him as thoroughly as possible. If he went down on whiffs or looking, she’d take great pleasure in sending him back to his dugout to grumble and no doubt dig his grave even deeper when someone asked him about it on the record. 

Two. This game was hers. From the moment she took the mound to when Al pried the ball from her hand, she was in charge. If this did end up being the last game she ever played with Mike, if he hung it up, then that was just the way it was going to be. 

She was going to savor every moment of it.

Which led to:   

Three. She was done waiting. Waiting for respect. Waiting for the right time to make a statement. 

Waiting to be as happy as she was sure she could be.

Ginny knew what she wanted. Had known since eager anticipation left her dizzy that night on the sidewalk two years ago and then disappointment choked off that bright, giddy hope with the buzz of an incoming call. 

Which wasn’t to say she regretted the decision to put that want on the back burner. When she’d already been so occupied just fighting for her spot, proving that she belonged, an entanglement with her captain was out of the question. 

Now, though… 

Whether or not she’d adequately paid her dues, whether or not she was about to kick up a media firestorm, whether or not this was in line with her brand, Ginny was going to get what she wanted while the getting was still good.

This certainty filled her gradually, waves of assurance climbing to a high tide that left her buoyant and feeling indestructible. 

It was a miracle she didn’t float back into the dugout to await the official start of the game.

For once, Ginny didn’t care who was watching, making assumptions, as she headed for the end of the dugout. It didn’t matter if one of the cameras from the well was trained on her as she walked towards Mike. 

Well, it could end up mattering, but that was a problem for Amelia and Eliot to figure out. 

As she approached, Ginny took a moment to drink him in. He’d done it to her often enough, he deserved a little payback. 

Half in his gear, broad and strong, and eyeing her like she was some puzzle he could spend the rest of his life solving, Ginny was struck by the realization that part of her would always remember him this way. Her captain, her catcher. 

But, once she had her say, he’d be so much more, too. 

She wanted to reach out, run her thumb across the smudge of grease on the apple of his cheek, cradle his jaw in her palm. Wanted to feel his pulse against her fingertips as she dragged him close—

“Hey,” she said, sidling up to him as he finished strapping on his leg protectors. “What d’you say to a drink after the game?”

Mike glanced at her from the corner of his eye, curiosity piqued. Still, he hedged. “I say we better wait ‘til we know there’s something to drink to."

"Well, we win, we toast our victory. We lose, we can drown our sorrows."

Ginny might not believe in many jinxes, but she wouldn't offend Mike's sensibilities by assuring him they wouldn't need to worry about sorrow. Not tonight.

He studied her, and Ginny looked right back, her heartbeat utterly steady, completely sure. 

"All right," he agreed. "Got a place in mind."

"Yeah, I know a place. We've even been there before."

Like he could read her mind—and after spending all this time reading one another, the gap between home and the mound separating them, maybe he could—Mike hazarded, "Boardner's?"

Ginny just nodded, and Mike echoed the motion just as he had every other time. Overhead, the PA blared a welcome to the home team, and Ginny set her cleat on the stair up to the field. Before she broke out into a run, ready to take the mound one last time for the season, she turned back to Mike. 


He raised a brow, expression already settled into game mode. If he looked at her any other way, she didn’t think she’d feel this way—fireworks and bubbles and sunshine all at once—about him. 

“Make sure your phone’s off this time.”

She didn't have to stick around to see the smile bloom across his face or hear the bark of delighted laughter. She'd see and hear it all again. And again and again and again. 

For now, she had a game to win.



ginnysbaker We got this. #LetsGoPadres

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