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1. game on

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game on

Monday, February 15th

Clang.

Isaiah Carr flung his bat to the ground and darted off from home base to first, cleats dragging through the sand and stabbing into second base. A gruff voice shouted "safe!" and Isaiah pulled himself to his feet, dusting the burnt orange dirt off his previously-white pants.

His heart was pounding against his ribcage; the thump thump thump of his heartbeat thrumming in his ears. Hands on his knees he shuffled between second and third, eyes on multiple things at once. The second baseman's presence behind him, the pitcher's stance, the batter's swing. Number twelve's bat cracked against the fastball, the sound echoing through the air, scattered cheers following it. Isaiah took off to third, and with time left, finished to home, garnering a familiar whistle from his father in the stands. He smiled as he jogged into the dugout.

"Nice hustle," Coach Linn grunted, slapping him on the back. Isaiah winced but nodded in appreciation, sliding onto the bench next to Marcus Greene.

Marcus nudged him once he settled down. "With that speed, you should've picked track."

Isaiah snorted. "Yeah, no," he grumbled. "Tried that in junior high. It was hell."

Besides, baseball was Isaiah's pride and joy. He refused to give his attention to any other sport. He knew he was good at it—he was fast, precise, and had a killer arm. His coaches praised him constantly with pats on the back and variations of good job, Carr. He knew scouts were watching him, so he couldn't let his focus stray.

Marcus slugged him in the shoulder and stood up upon hearing his jersey number. He swiped his bat from where it was leaning against the wall, pointed his finger to his friend as he walked backwards, and said, "If we win, you have to go out with us tonight."

Isaiah shrugged, and Marcus scoffed before jogging out to the field. Isaiah wasn't very interested in the baseball team's outings. It was always some place like Wing Stop or Little Ceasars. Greasy foods weren't on his to-eat list. Not that he actually had one.

It wasn't just the food that bothered him. Everyone was loud. His team was filled with rowdy teenage boys that talked over teachers and made disrespectful remarks toward (mostly) women. Their comments always made his skin crawl, which was why he only stuck to three of the players: Marcus Greene, Ashton Ball, and Steve Kim.

Marcus was Isaiah's best friend. They'd been glued by the hip since their diaper days. Always together when their moms wanted to hang out when they had free time. They'd joined the same Little League team and had been part of the same group all the way until they'd become joined the select teams. Then they were separated, having to play against each other, but it never caused them to stray too far apart. They were—as an elderly white lady would say—two peas in a pod.

Ashton Ball was, to put it simply, a stoner without the weed. His floppy brown hair was always a mess, and he dressed in flannels, oversized hoodies, and t-shirts. He had the whole blazed and dazed look going on all the time. They'd met in junior high on the track team, where they'd bonded over—not because of their mutual liking of running, but their hatred. Meets were agonizing, and so were practices.

Steve Kim had always been an acquaintance of Isaiah's since middle school. They talked when they had no one else to talk to, chose each other as partners because they didn't know anyone else. It wasn't until they'd both made the sophomore team during freshman year that they'd grown closer. Steve approached him first, complimented him on his skill, and they'd went from there. He was a blunt, yet reserved person. If he wasn't playing baseball, he had his nose buried in a book. Preferably something romance-related since he was a not-so-secret softie.

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