Home Run: A Novelby Travis Thrasher
A novel based on the major motion picture starring Vivica A. Fox and Scott Elrod, Home Run is an inspirational story of the hope and freedom God offers each of us.
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A novel based on the major motion picture starring Vivica A. Fox and Scott Elrod, Home Run is an inspirational story of the hope and freedom God offers each of us.
- Cook, David C
- Publication date:
- Edition description:
- Media Tie
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- Product dimensions:
- 5.40(w) x 8.20(h) x 1.00(d)
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FREEDOM IS POSSIBLE
By TRAVIS THRASHER
David C. CookCopyright © 2013 Carol Mathews
All rights reserved.
Fifty thousand fans filled the seats just outside the clubhouse, yet Cory Brand felt alone. Alone with an aching knee despite the handful of Vicodin he'd already downed.
There was no way he was going to let them start digging around his knee. The next thing they'd be doing would be telling him he'd have to get season-ending surgery. He wasn't going on DL, not this early in the season, not when he was in the middle of a slump in the final year of his contract with the Grizzlies.
I've been dealing with pain all my life. I can deal with this.
It was the middle of June, and he was moving slow. His knee wasn't getting any better, even though a week ago he'd told the trainers it was fine. If you hit the ball hard enough, he rationalized, you didn't have to kill yourself racing around the bases. All it took was one right smack. Something that had become a little more difficult as of late.
The mood before the game was about as exciting as the last five games the Denver Grizzlies had played. Cory took a sip from his thermal travel mug with the team logo on it as he sat in the chair in front of his lockers and glanced at the nearby television screen. His two lockers stood between those of the two other all-stars on the team. Once the idea of having a locker in a major-league clubhouse would have been unthinkable. Now it was just another one of those things he took for granted.
Sometimes you dream about something your whole life only to forget about it once the dream has arrived.
Because even dreams can be a lot of work. A whole lot of work.
"It's a blessed day here at the ballpark!"
The chirpy announcer on the screen sounded extra happy as he waxed poetic. Cory took another sip and rolled his eyes.
Yeah, another blessed day to take people's money.
"The spring heat is baking all this love into one slice of nostalgic, all-American pie."
On the screen a banner read Young Life Welcomes You! Happy Father's Day!
So that was the big deal. Explained why the announcer was giving it his A-game. Fog still filled Cory's head from last night—at least what he could remember about last night. Now he had to go out and smile and celebrate all the love and joy of fatherhood.
That's why it looked like a circus out there. The monitor showed the field littered with lots of fathers playing catch with their sons and daughters. The excitement was almost enough to make everybody out there forget about yesterday's loss. Or the losing streak the team was on. But not the subdued guys in the clubhouse.
"What's up, Brand?"
Rogers didn't seem to care much for Cory and his habits, but he kept his mouth shut and kept his faith to himself. Rogers had his cross and Cory had his coffee mug, but in the end both served the same purpose. Fuel and motivation to make it through another game in a very long season. They were men with jobs to do. Rogers had two lockers just like Cory did. Along with Mayhee, they made up the all-star row of the Grizzlies clubhouse, the guys closest to the exit in case the media got a little too overbearing. Cory had heard that Willie Mays had had only one locker, but times were different now, and stars got two and sometimes even more.
His mouth felt dry, and his eyelids didn't want to rise. Cory took another sip and thought of the kids out there playing. Personally, he'd rather be smiling at them than at those overbearing, overweight fans who only lived to ridicule you once your season was taking a nosedive into the dirt. Kids hadn't mastered the art of booing yet. Even though it just came with the territory, the criticism annoyed Cory, especially on days like today.
Cory's usual game-day routine involved cranking his iPod and listening to a little Foo Fighters, but his head hurt too much to do that today. He looked around and saw that Benny was rocking out with a pair of yellow headphones on that made him look like one of those guys on the airport tarmac who steered planes to their gates. Nearby, Gonzalez stood shirtless, showing off his carefully chiseled physique. You'd think a guy so disciplined and ripped could hit a ball a little better, but everybody knew it wasn't just about strength.
Cory once heard a guy sum up the science behind hitting a home-run ball. It had been interesting for the first thirty seconds, then began to bore him. He'd always been that way with baseball. The whole numbers game, for instance. Bored the life out of him. The history of the game. The incredible "aura" and all that nonsense. None of that did anything for him except make him thirsty.
He'd let others be enamored with this little round thing that you struck with a wedge of wood. The same way he'd let everybody else talk about his so-called batting slump and his so-declared career-worst .256 batting average this year.
Those things didn't bother him. What bothered him was the buzzing of flies in his head and the throbbing pain in his knee. He was already doing something for the former and decided to grab an ice pack for his knee.
Their relatively new clubhouse was eighty-five thousand square feet of space, with televisions all around and leather couches and love seats in the middle. On some days it still didn't feel big or luxurious enough. On days when the night games and flights back home seemed endless and it took a lot more to get the body and mind up for the game, Cory felt like he was in an expensive commercial made for someone else.
"Hey, Brand, how'd you make out with that chick last night?" It was Bruce, their tank of a catcher, asking.
"Same as always," Cory said, clicking on the flash of his grin.
Bruce just shook his head and moved on.
Cory couldn't even remember her name, if he had to be honest. It was something ending with ee, like Stephanie or Emily. She'd wanted to come over to his condo, but he hadn't been that drunk. The last thing he needed during a season like this one was to come home and find some woman boiling a rabbit in his kitchen.
By the time Helene rushed into the clubhouse in her typical high-caffeinated manner, most of the players had already gone out to the field. The start time for the game was five. Cory was taking his sweet time. Because of the knee. And maybe because he knew what awaited him outside.
"What's this I hear about you chatting with Capano last night at the fund-raiser?"
"Relax, Helene. You're the only girl for me." He admired her legs as always and grinned. "Though he did offer me his firstborn."
His fashionista agent looked as if she was dressed for a movie premiere and not a Denver Grizzlies home game. Cory laughed at her high heels that seemed to sparkle. Her chocolate skin looked smooth and soft, but Cory knew the rough and tough fighter beneath the sexy exterior.
Helene barely paid his joke any attention as her thumb worked her iPhone.
"You'd have to be really drunk to think that was a good deal," Cory added.
Which, in fact, I really was.
"That animal would eat his firstborn if it meant signing a new player."
Cory tossed the ice bag on the floor and then rubbed his temple. "Last night was all pretty much a blur. I don't think I signed anything."
Helene ignored his comment. She was like a parent who was physically in the room but hadn't left her work and office behind. Not that Cory really knew anything about that.
"How's the knee?" she asked as her eyes moved from her phone to his leg.
She was probably noticing how he wasn't standing. Not yet.
"It's never felt better," he said. "Give me a minute."
There were lots of things he spoke about with Helene, but his knee wasn't one of them. If pressed, he'd tell her the same thing he told everybody else. It was fine. Wonderful.
A knee doesn't hit baseballs. A knee doesn't spend the game in left field waiting for pop-ups. A knee doesn't really matter unless it's completely gone.
Cory knew that Helene had other players on her roster. None as big as Cory Brand, of course. But that didn't mean she couldn't find the next young stallion ready to play ball and make everybody millions. She'd gladly hop off the saddle and jump on another if she knew that fame and fortune would follow.
His eyes followed her shapely figure out the door. With only Benny still left in the clubhouse, Cory stood up and shook his leg to get some feeling back in it. As usual, he could feel the click of cartilage—it was like hearing something not quite right in the engine of your car. Eventually you knew it was going to have to be looked at.
He sighed and reached for the thermal cup. A bottle of Ketel One was wedged in some clothes in his duffel bag—the first bottle he'd spotted at the condo. He wasn't picky. He found the vodka and emptied the rest into the Grizzlies cup.
It took him a quick swallow to drain it.
He didn't rush to hide the empty bottle, nor did he look around to wonder if anybody was watching. Nobody paid any attention to him in this room. It was out there, in the open air and bright lights under the heavens ... that's when the world paid attention to his every move.
One hundred and sixty-two games. Those were the moments that mattered. These minutes right now, they were just throwaway minutes when he could do whatever it took to get ready for those games.
Some days, like today, it took a lot more than it used to.
* * *
He hears the screaming and makes sure that Clay is still asleep.
Some nights are worse than others.
He holds his breath, thinking that it might help the anger just outside the door go away. He can't make out the words, but he knows the conversation. Dad sounds like a bulldog. Mom sounds like a bird. But she holds her own.
Mom always holds her own.
He waits, listens, wonders if he should rush out there and help her. Wonders if there's going to be some big crash from Dad's hand. But Dad never touches her. He shouts and screams, but that's all.
Sometimes in the morning, Mom will smile and give him a hug and tell him everything's going to be okay.
Sometimes she even tells Cory he's going to grow up to be a great baseball player.
If he ever does, it'll be because of her, not because of the monster she married.CHAPTER 2
On a day when he should have been celebrating and feeling a deep sense of pride, Clay Brand sat in the stands next to his wife, staring at the field and worrying that everything was about to go terribly wrong. They were just above the dugout, overseeing a team of ten- and eleven-year-olds, and so far everything had been perfect. The weather and the chance to get on the field and throw balls around and even the invitation for Carlos to be the batboy. It was a dream come true for Carlos.
Of course, Carlos was their dream come true.
For a moment Clay replayed the game of catch they had just enjoyed. For the ten-year-old kid born and raised in Guatemala, it had probably been just that. A game of catch while standing on the grass of Samson Field. But for Clay and his wife, Karen, who stood nearby taking pictures, it had been more. Much more.
Carlos was an answer to prayer, a prayer they had uttered hundreds if not thousands of times. A prayer that had gone unanswered for a very long time.
"What should I ask him first?" Carlos had said. "I got a lot of questions." The joyous smile and the bright eyes were lit up as big as stadium lights after sunset.
Clay had simply smiled, the proud father of a boy who was excited to meet his famous uncle for the first time. "Whatever you want, slugger. It's your big day."
Karen had shared her doubts, but every time, Clay had told her everything would be okay. In his mind he saw the picture of their family—not just the two of them with Carlos in the middle, but Cory standing next to them as well. Cory was always a part of this family, no matter what Karen might think or how little they saw him.
"I want to know his favorite player," Carlos said. "And how to hit a curveball. And what he likes to do on the weekends. You know—when he's not playing baseball."
Clay could probably have answered that question himself, but the answer would have been R-rated. For now, it was simply important that Cory meet his nephew for the first time. And what better day for it than Father's Day?
"So Carlos. Ya think you're ready?"
"Only for like four hundred hours now," Carlos gushed. "I can't believe Cory Brand is my new uncle."
Clay had thrown his son the ball and then walked over to him. It was a good thing he was wearing sunglasses, because his eyes had teared up, and Carlos would have asked what was wrong.
The love—love he had questioned would ever come—burst out of Clay's heart and rushed into every inch of his body. He still couldn't believe God had granted it. Adopting a child wasn't a simple and easy process. Several of their friends had tried to no avail. But God had opened the doors, and through it had walked this ten-year-old bolt of energy.
Nothing is wrong, Carlos. I just still can't believe you're my son.
Clay had taken the ball back and joked, "Yep. Cory's a pretty big deal."
But inside all he could think was that Carlos was the big deal. And he hoped—he hoped and prayed—that Cory would get over himself for just a short while and realize the same thing.
Now, as most of the players were already out on the field but Cory was nowhere to be seen, Clay began to worry. The commotion of getting all the Bulldogs and their fathers off the field and into their seats was an accomplishment in itself. Clay had kept stalling, hoping his brother would come out and say hello to everybody. He understood that Cory was about to play a really big home game, but he still had hoped ...
No, I don't get it. Cory should've gotten his butt onto the field when we were all down there.
The look on Karen's face had said it all. It was the same look she gave him every time he mentioned his brother.
Now the typical look of cynicism was accompanied by concern.
"Do you think Cory will remember that's Carlos down there?" Karen asked.
Clay glanced out to the field, where Carlos was talking Jesse Rogers's ears off. The all-star pitcher didn't seem to mind.
"I have no idea."
"Or who Carlos is?"
Clay only shrugged.
I should've made 100 percent sure that Cory got my messages.
But who didn't get three voice mails and four emails? Clay couldn't count how many times in the past he'd talked to Cory and his brother had said, "Yeah, yeah, got your messages." But this wasn't a simple Happy Birthday or Merry Christmas or We're all thinking about you today. Telling Cory about Carlos was a lot more than that.
He's gotta know we're all here. He's just busy.
Karen laughed and nudged his arm. "Oh my gosh. Look at him."
Carlos was now flanked by members of the Grizzlies team. They seemed to know who he was, because they were treating him special, letting him chatter and ask questions as he pointed to their shoes and gloves.
"What happens if Cory doesn't know?" Karen asked.
"It doesn't matter," Clay said, no longer thinking about his brother. "We still get to take Carlos home."
If Cory doesn't know, then he's going to miss out on the best thing that's ever happened to me.
"You know," Karen said in a voice that always reassured him, "he looks pretty good on that field."
Clay sighed. "Yeah. Well, judging by his uncle's example, I'm sorta hoping he becomes a dentist."
* * *
Cory looks at the pitcher and smiles before stepping up to the plate. He doesn't do it to taunt or to tease. He just can't help himself. He wants to come up to this plate ten more times and swing away each time just like the one before. He knows now what it feels like—what the motion and the swing and the sound all feel like—and he doesn't want those feelings to go away.
The pitcher is tall, probably twelve years old like Cory, but he's got fear dumped all over him. The poor guy just wants to go home. He probably thought he was pretty hot stuff, whipping the ball like that and striking out all the other kids. But Cory knows now he's not like the other kids.
This is his fourth time at bat. The last three times resulted in three home runs. The last one got the entire crowd cheering like it was some championship or something. People even cheered his name. He hears Clay's voice above the others. His little brother never misses a game.
Cory still doesn't have any kind of routine for getting ready to hit. At home, the balls have always come fast and furious. At home, he's had to swing in order not to be hit. There's never been time for a routine.
Excerpted from Home Run by TRAVIS THRASHER. Copyright © 2013 Carol Mathews. Excerpted by permission of David C. Cook.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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