Phenom - post 2

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The fourth book of the God Bless the Child saga
Available on Amazon for purchase and review

Chapter 3

“Just the one extra car here tonight,” Jenny said as she pulled into the driveway just behind Shawn’s grey Toyota Prius. “At least there are no reporters.”

Shawn sighed. Reporters were a mixed blessing that he had gotten used to as his rise to acclaim became solidified. “There were a few in the locker room after the game, and they’ll be at the school tomorrow to talk to me during third period like usual. At least they learned to honor my wishes and not come to my house anymore. Tony Green from the local paper is a little upset about that, but if I make an exception for him, other reporters from bigger papers are going to expect the same. I didn’t mean to hurt his feelings, but you have to draw the line somewhere.”

“I think they’ve figured out that you need to come down a little after you pitch, that includes Tony Green. You’re not a good interview right after the game anyway; they don’t know how to spell your grunts.”

Shawn chuckled. There was no use in arguing with Jenny, especially when she was right. “I gave them a few good grunts tonight. You know, the regular ‘it’s a team effort’ stuff, how we’re looking forward to the district playoffs next week and how we can build off of this win and hopefully capture the state title.”

“It’s possible.”

“I know that. I’m not the only person on the team, and we got a pretty good squad this year. The state tournament is a strange beast though; you get all these games back to back. Two a day the first round and then every other day for the week. I can only pitch so much and never back to back starts. Coach was thinking about capping me at fifty or sixty pitches if we get a big enough lead, but I talked him out of it.”

“At least you helped the team earn the number one seed. Maybe they can use Alfonso the first game and save you for the second.”

“If there’s a second game, the district tournament is one and done, you lose a game there isn’t a second. At least in regionals, it’s best of five. Either way, you’ve got a good head for baseball because that’s exactly what coach is doing. I guess if the team can’t beat the lowest seed team without me, there’s not much use going deep in the tournament.”

“The guys will do fine.”

“I’m doing fine right now.” Shawn reached over and took hold of Jenny’s hand.

Jenny could tell that Shawn had really over exerted himself by how loose his grip was. It worried her, but she knew not to say anything just yet. It was a constant battle to get him to dial back the punishment he inflicted on his body when he pitched, but Shawn didn’t think he could win any other way.

“I’m glad you drive me home after the game,” Shawn said as he relaxed in the seat while still holding Jenny’s hand. “You remind me of what’s really important in life. Without you, I would probably be stressing over Alfonso pitching the first game. Heck, I’d probably be stressing whenever anyone other than me was pitching any other game. With you, I don’t care so much about winning and losing or state trophies; I already have my prize.”

“And don’t you forget it,” Jenny said with a twinkle in her eyes. “It’s not every day that people find the love of their lives, and we figured it out pretty early. We’re the lucky ones.”

“I can’t wait until I turn 18. I probably won’t approach your dad at my birthday party for permission to ask you to marry me, but it isn’t going to be too long after that. He’s been holding on to this age requirement for long enough; I just wonder what else he has in mind.”

“He’ll think of something. You know how dads are; they’re overprotective of their little girls. He worries about you though.”

“I’m not going to do anything to hurt you.”

Jenny touched the side of Shawn’s face. “That’s not how he’s worried about you. He does care about you, and he’s afraid that when you get into your so-called beast mode, that you won’t find your way back out and that you’ll really hurt yourself one day.”

“It hasn’t happened yet.”

“Because I’m always there to be your anchor.”

Shawn smiled. “That you are. I’ll talk to your dad; I’m not as far gone as I appear when I’m on the mound. I just use the negative to feed my adrenaline and baseball is a healthy outlet for all that bothers me. Every other time I’m a gentle little cub.”

“I thought you wanted to be a Met?”

“You’re such a silly girl.”

“Better than being a silly boy.”

“There are advantages to being a boy you know,” Shawn said with a sly grin.

“Like what?”

“You get to do this.” Shawn leaned over the center console and kissed Jenny on the lips.

“Funny. I thought I was the one who benefited from that.”

Shawn raised his eyebrows. “But you do.”

“You know your brother is watching from the window making stupid little faces at us, and that scout is waiting for you.”

“They can wait.”

Jenny put her hand on Shawn’s chest and impeded his progress. “I think one kiss is enough tonight, you know our rules.”

A long time ago, prior to entering their high school years, the two entered into a covenant at church that they would restrict their physical activities so one thing would never lead to another and they could save themselves for marriage. Though it wasn’t always easy to keep that vow, they had just enough fortitude to never go further than they intended.

“I know. But I did pitch a perfect game; that has to be worth something.”

“It is. You get to have a second kiss, but this time, I get to kiss you.”

Shawn couldn’t hide his big goofy smile, even though he didn’t try. “This could be interesting. Okay, lay it on me.”

Jenny shook her head. For all of Shawn’s manly outward appearances, he was still a little boy at heart. That was one of the things that she loved about him. On the pitching mound, Shawn was always in command, but he was putty in her hands. “Here it goes,” Jenny said as she leaned in. She planted a kiss on the side of his temple.

Shawn frowned for a moment. “Not what I was expecting, but I’ll take it.” His smile soon returned.

“Go. Your baseball scout is waiting for you.”

“I’ll see you at school tomorrow.”

“Don’t be late for first period math class. Mrs. Webber isn’t as big a baseball fan as you think she is, and she’ll dock you a letter grade just to make a point to all the other jocks.”

“Yes ma’am,” Shawn said as he opened the door. “The trainer is going to be in at six, and that gives us an hour for treatment before school starts. That’s plenty of time to make Mrs. Webber’s class. Is my homework done?”

“I hope for your sake that it is, but I wouldn’t make such jokes with the scout here. I bet he has surveillance equipment listening in on your every word. I bet your cell phone is bugged or something.”

Shawn got out of the Mustang. “I did it during sixth period study hall. I think she knows you don’t do my homework by the amount of red ink she puts on my page.”

“That’s because you don’t apply yourself.”

“I apply myself,” Shawn said as he closed the door. “Just not to math,” he added through the window.

Jenny knew that Shawn was delaying heading into the house so he could steal a few more minutes with her. It was endearing, and she would grant him eternity if it were in her power. “I’d give you a math lesson, but you need to get going.”

“I know. My public awaits.”

“Besides, my dad has some sort of announcement he wants to make. I’m supposed to get home right away.”

“He probably won FBI man of the year again or something like that.”

Jenny laughed. It seemed like as long as she remembered, there was a competition between her dad and her boyfriend to outdo one another to be the number one man in her life. For the longest time, her dad had an unfair advantage, but recently it seemed as if the balance swayed in Shawn’s direction. Even friendly games of basketball became epic events, as neither was willing to let the other win. “He just might have, but I won’t know until he tells me what the big news is. He even called for a family meeting.”

“Ooh,” Shawn teased. “It really must be big. I’ve kept this guy waiting long enough. I’ll see you in the morning. Thanks for making me feel better and bringing me down.” Shawn stood with his arms outstretched wide. “See? No more beast; he’s in the cage again.”

Jenny watched as her boyfriend made it up the front stairs to his house and disappeared inside. She started her car once again and enjoyed the sound of the engine. “I rather he put the beast away for good and never let it out, Misty,” she said to the car. “But he thinks he needs it, and there’s no getting through to him that he doesn’t. You’re the only beast I want in my life,” Jenny rubbed the dashboard with a cloth that she kept under the visor.”

Chapter 4

“There he is,” Skeeter shouted as his son entered the living room. “The man of the hour.”

“That was some game,” Ryan said as he ran up to his bigger brother. “Wow, those other guys never stood a chance. You must have been throwing that fastball two hundred miles.”

Shawn was amused. His brother always over-exaggerated his feats. By listening to the way his brother explained things, Shawn was more a Marvel superhero than a high school pitcher that matured a little quicker than his peers. “I don’t think it was quite that fast, but it was a nice game.”

“Nice game,” Skeeter joined in on the praise. “A nice game is one where you win three to two, not a perfect game.”

“You did good, son,” Ed Braun said as he reached out his hand.

Shawn was glad that he was a left-handed pitcher. He would hate to show a major league scout just how weak his pitching hand got after a game. He shook the man’s hand firmly, just like his dad taught him. “Thank you, sir.”

“You remember Mr. Braun, Shawn; he’s the scout for the New York Mets.”

“I remember dad. How can I not know the scout for my favorite team?”

“You’re not just saying that because we hold the number one pick in the draft this June?” Ed asked.

“My son has been a Met fan all his life. No matter how much I tried to get him into Yankee pinstripes, he never came over to my side of things.”

Shawn and Ed gave Skeeter a sour look.

“But, hey, come June I can be a convert.”

“Speaking of June,” Ed said as he sized the boy up. “There has been a lot of speculation on whether or not you’re going to make yourself available for the draft.”

“It’s a lot to think about,” Shawn said, trying to be diplomatic about things.

“We do have our concerns,” Angie finally spoke up, tired of being a fly on the wall. “Baseball is far from a surefire bet and we want to make sure our son succeeds in life. A college education will ensure that he has something to fall back on if baseball doesn’t work out. As you can imagine, he has scholarship offers from pretty much every school that fields a team, even the one right here in Lebanon.”

“Cumberland University?” Ed Braun said incredulously. Though he was sure Cumberland University was a fine school, it competed in the NAIA, and that wasn’t known to have the top tier of competition. “That might be fine for some kids who can’t make a division one squad, but I think your son is deserving of stiffer competition, and I don’t even think college can offer that.”

“We’re just worried about his future. You see how he pitches, who knows how long his arm will last with the way he throws.”

Ed Braun looked away and frowned. Skeeter caught the man’s look and knew that there were some reservations, but he didn’t know why. Of course there was a chance his son’s arm could go, but that was a chance with every kid that played the sport, no matter how good they were. Things could always happen, but you didn’t bank on the negative; you invested in the potential.

“I wouldn’t worry about the arm going,” Skeeter quickly recovered. “My kid’s a mule and can go as far as the day is long.”

“Either way, I talked to my superiors after the game. The Mets would like you to know, off the record, that if you were to go out for the draft, you would be their number one pick.”

Skeeter’s eyes lit up. “Number one to the Mets,” he said as if the facts were lost on his son.

“That’s an honor,” Shawn said. “I know the draft is coming up soon and you guys have to make a decision, but it’s a lot to think about. I still think my mom has a point about college.”

“There’s nothing keeping you from continuing your education. There are a lot of programs out there where you can study and play professional baseball at the same time. Just don’t enroll before you’re drafted, and you’ll make enough money to go to college a million times over.”

“I promise you by the end of next week you will have my decision.”

Ed Braun nodded. “It’s a big decision kid, and it’s a lot of money to think about. But if you get hurt in college or something happens, then that money is out the window.”

“I appreciate your concern. I know which way I’m leaning, but I promised my parents I wouldn’t choose until after I turned eighteen.”

Ed Braun flipped through his notepad and smiled. “So in ten days?”

Shawn smiled. “Probably so. You’ll want to come to my birthday party.”

Ed nodded. He could read between the lines. “I’ll be sure of it. Well, it’s getting late and I’m sure you need to rest up. How is the arm anyway?”

“It’s good. A little tender, a little sore, but it will be back to normal after a good night’s rest.”

“Make sure you take care of that thing, it’s worth millions.”

“Let me show you to the door,” Skeeter said.

“It’s been nice talking to you again Mr. Braun,” Shawn said as he once again shook the man’s hand. “I look forward to seeing you at the party.”

“And I look forward to hearing some good news.”

Skeeter and Ed Braun left the room, leaving Shawn alone with his mother and brother.

“Are you trying to frighten them away?” Shawn said to his mother when he was sure Mr. Braun was out of earshot.

Angie was confused. “What? What did I say?”

“They know about my arm, and they know what to look for. You don’t need to put in their minds the possibility of injury. Thank God he didn’t ask for any strength test tonight.”

“I was just being honest and looking out for your best interest.”

Shawn hung his head. “I know. But it’s a lot of money we’re talking about, and I don’t see how I can turn that down. I know you want me to go to school here locally, either at Cumberland or UT, but I don’t know if that’s the best for me. Mr. Braun is right, if I get injured in college, I can lose a lot of money.”

“So you made your decision?”

“I made my decision a dozen times over but never the same choice twice in a row. I can’t keep colleges or pro teams waiting much longer though; they have the right to know what I pick so they can make their plans. I’m really going to have to come up with something solid in the next week, or I might not choose anything and have to work at your daycare the rest of my life.”

“That’s not happening,” Angie said with a smile. “Why don’t you get ready for bed and think about things in the morning. You still have to come down from the high of a perfect game anyway. Right now you probably think you should start for the Mets tomorrow.”

Skeeter was opening the front door for Mr. Braun, but there was something gnawing at him. “You don’t have to worry about my son’s arm,” he said. “My wife likes to plan for the worst but hope for the best, you know the type.”

Mr. Braun looked out the door towards the driveway. “It’s a risk that teams take with all these high school kids. It’s part of the business. We do all we can to minimize those risks and pick people who we think are going to be healthy in the long run, but things happen.”

“And you think one of those things is going to happen to my son?”

Mr. Braun remained silent.

“The Mets are still planning on using their first pick on my son like you said though, right?”

“If your son makes himself available for the draft, and to be honest, it would be downright foolish if he didn’t, it’s a foregone conclusion that the organization will take him with the first overall pick. The Mets have a long, proud history of producing top line pitching, but have also made some ill-advised moves that let that talent go elsewhere: Tom Seaver, Nolan Ryan, Scott Kazmir. It would be a public relations nightmare if they didn’t take your son. The organization is low on quality arms in its system, and as long as everything goes according to plan, Shawn will be in the majors in a few years.”

Skeeter made a career out of reading people and something told him that Mr. Braun was holding back. “You don’t agree with the pick?”

“To be honest, Captain Sweet, I advised the team that the best course of action is to trade the pick away. Right now, Shawn is the hottest commodity in the draft as far as pitching goes, and there are few kids as close to being ready for the big leagues as he is.”

“So why the reservation?”

“I’ve seen your son pitch a handful of times, more than any other scout out there. The way he pitches, that anger is frightening.”

“He’s just a fierce competitor,” Skeeter came to the defense of his son.

“I’ve been around the game for a long time, Captain Sweet; I know the eyes of a competitor.”

“And you don’t think that’s what my son has?”

“Not at all. I think Shawn has the look of a homicidal maniac looking for the next life he could destroy.”

“As long as he is destroying lives with Ks and outs and in the context of the game, isn’t that what matters. So he shatters a few dreams because they don’t get a hit off of him; there are other things in life, and my son has never had any issues off the field. Though it may not look like it, he has that temper under control. He even has a name for it, he calls it beast mode, and he only enters it when he is competing. It doesn’t even come out in practice. He’s a good kid; he never gets angry about things in day to day life. He just channels all that frustration into the beast and uses it to his advantage on the mound. Outside of that quirk, he does everything by the book. He doesn’t swear, he doesn’t drink, doesn’t do any kind of drugs and he isn’t out all hours of the night. ”

“No,” Mr. Braun cut Skeeter off in fear that the list would never end. “Shawn has been a model citizen: he goes to church, volunteers with little league teams, and probably helps little old ladies cross the street in his spare time. The problem isn’t that he is looking to destroy other people’s lives, but with the violence in which he throws his pitches, I think he’s looking to make a victim out of himself. He thinks he has ‘the Beast’ under control, but I hope that animal never gets uncaged because the carnage it leaves in its wake would be of Biblical proportions.”

Skeeter wanted to say something, but he couldn’t come up with anything. He was well aware of how his son threw a baseball, and no amount of trying could convince him to do otherwise; Shawn still approached the game with needless recklessness. Though he said otherwise, Skeeter knew these outings took their toll on his son, but the results were hard to argue with.

“Your son plays the game the wrong way, Captain Sweet,” Mr. Braun continued. “He plays it well, but he doesn’t have the love of the game that will ensure a long career, or a career at all. It’s like he is out there to prove something, which wouldn’t be a bad thing in and of itself. But instead of proving he is better than others, it looks like he is more in a battle with himself. I can’t put my finger on what demons he is fighting out there, but if he doesn’t play for the love of baseball, the game will swallow him whole, and in the end, he’ll wind up destroying himself.”

“I’d have to disagree,” Skeeter said as he ushered the man outside. “But if that’s your opinion, why would the Mets take my son when there must be a thousand others who can take his place and not have such a grim prospect.”

“Like I said, if they didn’t pick him it would be a public relations nightmare. But if I was Shawn, I wouldn’t let this opportunity go to the wayside. If he gets hurt in college, he is going to lose out on a ton of money. And I think the odds are better than fifty-fifty that he winds up tearing something if he doesn’t get control of himself.”

Skeeter nodded. “We’ll take that into consideration.”

“Have a good evening, Captain.”

As stated, I hope in the end I can get a few reviews out of posting on here. If you don't want to wait for me to post in 4000-5000 word chunks, the book is available on Amazon:

Phenom (God Bless the Child Book 4) - Amazon US

Phenom (God Bless the Child Book 4 - Amazon UK)

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The scout is telling the Dad

The scout is telling the Dad the truth, and I am pretty sure many, many scouts over the course of years have seen their fair share of players like Shawn. The key words spoken by the scout are "playing for the love of the game". You can be the greatest ever, but in the end you do need to have "love of the game"; whichever game it may be. Other than that, you are "playing at the game", but you don't really feel "the game" deep down in your soul. And yes, as the scout also said, you CAN see it in a person's eyes and face.

"beast mode"

I worry about his anger too. Especially since a lot of it since related to his masculinity. That's gonna be a problem when Jenny's secret comes out.


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