Thursday morning, I woke up feeling
rested and content. Today was the semi-finals game, and although I was
a little disappointed that I couldn't pitch, I was still really pumped
up, and was hoping that I could at least contribute with my bat.
Tom joined me and Brennan for breakfast, so they could talk strategy
for the game, since Tom was chosen to be our starting pitcher for this
one. David was practicing early with his team, so he couldn't hang with
us until after the day's games were finished.
Tom seemed more animated than usual, chattering away with his
pre-pubescent voice and thick British accent, discussing the starting
line-up for the team from Oregon, our opponents for the semi-finals. He
seemed like a really chill kid, and I was glad that we finally got the
chance to hang out, even if it was just to talk strategy.
After we finished eating, we got changed into our uniforms,
grabbed our equipment, and made our way from The Grove down to Lamade
Stadium. The weather was scorching hot, and I was covered in sweat by
the time we got to our dugout. After downing several cups of lemon-lime
Gatorade, I headed out to the field to warm up.
Arizona didn't really have a very good team, and had made it to the
semi-finals on a lucky catch by their centerfielder in their last game,
saving a homerun. It was one of the best defensive plays of the series
so far, though, and the entire Grove was abuzz with the news that the
play had been replayed numerous times on ESPN's "Web Gems" program.
I felt even more confident as I watched Tom warm up on the mound. He
wasn't a power pitcher like me, but he had good control and could
hit his spots around the plate. His fastball could reach into the high
sixties, and he had a slow curve that trailed in on left-handed batters
and was virtually unhittable when he threw it well.
The game went much as expected, with Tom making it through five innings
before he had to be pulled due to his high pitch count. I was able to
contribute with a couple of singles, batting in one run, and Brennan
hit a three-run homer over the left-field fence. The final score was 8
to 1, and we were pretty fired up when we realized that we would be
heading to the U.S. championship game, that much closer to playing in
the World Series.
By the time we got back to The Grove, I thought I was going to collapse
from heat exhaustion. The best cure for that, I figured, was to jump in
the pool. The rest of the guys seemed to have the same idea, and we all
headed to our room to get changed into our swimsuits. As we changed,
though, I once again found my eyes drawn to the small, lithe bodies of
my teammates. What was so disconcerting, though, was that while my
teammates were talking about a bunch of girls, who had approached them
for their autographs after the game, and how they wouldn't mind taking
them out behind the stadium and feeling them up, all I could think
about was how unappealing that sounded to me. I also thought that I
might like trying that with someone like David ... or even
Brennan. And, as those thoughts crossed my mind, it just reinforced my
fear about how different from the other guys I really might be.
The pool was packed, but the water felt great. Even though several
teams had already been eliminated, they were allowed to stick around
and watch the rest of the tournament, and, of course, continue
staying at The Grove. I was glad about that, because even if we lost in
our next game, it didn't mean the fun would have to end quite yet.
David joined in horsing around with Brennan and I, and he demonstrated
quite an impressive cannonball for a little guy. I must admit
that I was even more impressed seeing him without a shirt on. He was
thin, but had the start of a little six-pack on his tummy, and I was
fascinated by his little "outie" belly button. In fact, I
found myself spending quite a bit of time checking out the other boys
in the pool, marveling at their smooth bodies, pert little nipples,
slender hips, and bubble butts, trying to imagine what little (or not
so little!) treasures might be hidden
underneath those trunks.
The real stunner, though, was when I saw Tom come out to the pool. He
strutted right up onto the diving board and gracefully dove in, his
sleek body slipping into the water, barely making a splash. When
he surfaced only a few feet from me and wiped the water away from his
eyes, I felt my stomach do a few somersaults, and noticed an
unmistakable bulge growing in my own shorts.
This was the first time I'd ever seen Tom without his clothes on, never
having happened to be in the shower with him at the same time back at
the dorm, and now, he was wearing just a skimpy Speedo that left almost
nothing to the imagination.
Tom started swimming laps up and down the length of the pool, and I
found myself unable to draw my eyes away from his dark, tanned skin and
taut teenage muscles that seemed to ripple from head to toe with each
strong stroke of his arms. Swimming had definitely done his body good.
It was like art in motion. Even Michelangelo couldn't have sculpted
anything so beautiful, and even my David was quickly forgotten.
"What're you staring at, dude?" I heard Brennan ask, as he swam up next
Shit! Was I that noticeable? I
thought to myself, cringing.
"Uhhh ... I ... uhhh ... jeez ... I," I stammered. I knew I must have
looked like a deer caught in headlights, or at least what I imagined
one looked like.
Brennan just gave me an odd look and swam off to start splashing David,
and I watched in mild fascination as an intense water fight ensued,
earning a couple of whistle blows from the lifeguard on duty, but
didn't end until David was briefly pantsed by Brennan, and he got out
of the pool, blushing severely.
Between my reactions when I met David, my kiss with Conner on the bus,
all those naked boys in the showers back at The Grove, and now
completely entranced by the angelic Tom here at the pool, I was
starting to get a little
worried. No, I certainly wasn't normal.
Something was definitely wrong with me.
Just get through the rest of the
tournament and deal with this later, Grady. Baseball comes first!
I told myself.
I really needed to get my shit together. And, now that Brennan and I
seemed to be cool again, I didn't need him to start freaking out
because I was perving on other boys! No, I was going to focus on
baseball, and this was going to pass, just like those few months when I
was seven years old and I thought I wanted to grow up to be Britney
Spears. Not like Britney
Spears -- I actually wanted to be
her. I went so far as to try on some of my mom's sluttier clothes (even
though they were way too big for me), smeared make-up all over my face,
and ran around the neighborhood singing, "Oops! I Did it Again" at the
top of my lungs.
I shuddered at the thought.
But, that particular phase had passed, and so would this, I tried to
reassure myself. I would get through this.
By the time Mr. Bellinger managed to drag us from the pool, it was
already time for dinner. Again, David joined us to eat, but this time I
got up the nerve to walk up to Tom and ask if he wanted to sit with us
as well. In a way, I felt like somehow I wasn't being true to my
friendship with David, but when he politely introduced himself to Tom
and flashed me one of his sweet, shy smiles, I felt a little better.
But, it certainly hadn't escaped me that that "special feeling" I'd had
with David was now happening every time I looked at Tom ... and even
with Rory, Conner, and Brennan. Yep, I was a mess. A royal,
Dinner that night was great, though. Everyone was so pumped about the
game the next day, even David, whose team had just been eliminated.
Rory, who was scheduled to pitch, didn't seem as nervous as he had
before the last game, and I made it a point to sit by him and talk
strategy, and after a few minutes, I realized that I'd been
subconsciously rubbing my leg against his under the table. I really
hoped he didn't notice.
By nine o'clock, we were all showered and ready for bed. Coach wanted
us to get a good night's sleep, and we were pretty worn out from the
day's activities, so no one complained about the early bedtime. And
after catching a few brief moments alone with David and hugging him
good night, which ended up producing yet another of those pesky
hard-ons which I'd seemed to be getting lately, I was back to my room,
tucked snuggly into bed, and out like a light.