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Wow, some of you are really starting to enjoy this, huh? Enjoy it more with a brand new chapter! This one might even be a bit funny. That or, I'm way too easily amused.

Previously In Fastball: They say the greatest relief is having someone to listen to. When Danny confides in Sam, she convinces him to join the team. Maybe Danny's a little more whipped than he realizes…


Chapter Four:

Kinder's Challenge

Danny felt that sometimes…life could get easier, it really could in its own little way. But choices…sucked.

His lack of decision making skills proved worthy as he found himself staring at a two story white house with maroon colored shutters and a small, fenced in yard to the side. Two Husky dogs were bounding around the grass, too distracted while they played to really notice him and create a scene. Leading up to the house were wooden steps where the door to the house loomed ahead, making him extremely nervous.

Funny how such small things can make you want to run very far away, he thought, studying the card again. He hadn't wanted to call. He'd be way too inarticulate to do that. So now…he was being mocked by Kinder's house, standing brightly in front of him. He was here to tell Kinder what his decision was.

The fact was, he still didn't know.

He glanced around, shoving the card into his back pocket and sighing, running his hands across his hair, his blue eyes larger than normal. What was he chicken or something? He'd been so certain of his choice earlier when he'd been talking to Sam. Now…he was suddenly full of doubt and very indecisive.

It wasn't like he could just stand there all day. It was nearly getting dark and even if he still hadn't really really made up his mind, he figured it would be kind of creepy to wait outside a house at night just because he couldn't.

This was it. He had to do something. His hands clenched and unclenched at his sides and he wished his heart would slow down. He couldn't believe how nervous he was. Taking another deep breath, he quickly walked up the steps to the front door. This was just…a random choice, wasn't it? He could just tell the coach he actually did want to play and then it would be a few weeks of practice and…His stomach overturned uncomfortably at the thought and his hand froze, inches away from knocking on the door.

Why? he thought miserably, groaning. He ran both of his hands through his hair and sighing. How can one simple thing be so frickin hard? Unintentionally, he paced around the front porch, chewing on his thumbnail.

Distantly, he heard a dog bark and then another and decided he'd either need to get out of there or just knock on the door. The thought that he could play ding-dong-ditch seemed tempting as well because he personally felt like running.

Summoning up his courage once again, he swallowed hard and reached towards the door and was just about to knock when he got the urge to just walk away and turned around—nearly running into Coach Kinder who suddenly stood right in front of him.

"Hey kiddo, what's up?" he greeted cheerfully, seeming to be unaware that he'd nearly given him a heart attack. The two dogs that had been in the yard now had leashes on them that were in his hands.

"Hi…" he said awkwardly, not sure whether he should be relieved or terrified again.

"Burning a hole on my porch, are ya?" Pure amusement shook the coach's voice and made Danny blush furiously.

"You…you saw that?" he stammered.

"Ah, decided to take the dogs for a walk when I saw you," he replied, grinning. "Join me?"

"Sure," he replied, still uncertain.

They walked for a moment in silence, down the narrow street. Finally Coach Kinder sighed. "I've done the same thing every night for three years now. Every night, same time, I'll walk around the whole block with these two," he said, referring to the dogs. "Great way to stay in shape besides eating healthy. Nice to have someone different to talk to. Usually my daughter walks with me. But she's more interested in squashing every single bug she sees crossing her path and so…the trip's a bit difficult."

Danny laughed, unsure of what to say again. He hadn't known that the coach had had a daughter. It was weird the strange things he didn't know about some of his own teachers. Most of them loved telling personal stories…more then they loved teaching in fact. He could honestly say that Kinder was the teacher he knew the least about.

"Danni slow down," he suddenly said.

For a moment, he thought he was talking to him, but the coach was looking down at the dogs. Noticing Danny's hesitation, a chuckle escaped his lips. "Sorry kiddo. Krista, my daughter," he explained. "She's the one that named these two." He pointed to the one on the left first. "That one's Danni. Short for Danielle. And this one is Spirit."

"Interesting names," he stated.

"Ah, she's got a crush on that one kid, Danny Phantom," he said with a shrug.

Danny snorted, having a very strange visual run through his head. "Really now?"

"Five years old, she doesn't know any better," he muttered.

He couldn't figure out if the coach didn't like it or not. So far, he'd kept it fairly neutral. His curiosity peeked. "You're not a fan yourself?" he said, absentmindedly kicking at a rock on the ground.

"Ah, I don't know. The news doesn't really help things is what I personally think. I'd say if I ever had the chance to meet him myself, I'd have to decide what I thought then. But…I doubt that will ever happen."

They turned the corner as Danny remained silent, finding it humorous that the coach's doubt had already been proved wrong. But Danny couldn't tell a complete stranger who he was. That would really throw his chance at getting onto the team.

The idea that he'd just suddenly wanted to join the team was confusing him even more and he scratched at his neck thoughtfully, wondering where it had come from.

"How are you?" he asked, breaking him from his thoughts.

"Oh, I'm good," he replied.


Danny wondered how obvious he was. "A little."

"Changing your mind are you?" He grinned mischievously. "Thought you might want to…"

"I don't know honestly," he answered.

"Let me guess…the only reason you're here…is because a woman convinced you, right?"

He scratched at his neck again. "W-why?"

Kinder laughed, jerking a little as the two dogs got a little excited as a squirrel passed near. "Mother, sister, or girlfriend? Girlfriend right. Sam, isn't it?"

"How do you know this?"

"Women work in mysterious ways kiddo, learn that," he suggested, his eyes widened. "Personally, half the boys on the team now needed some persuasion from an important lady in their life."

"Really?" Danny asked.

"Oh yeah," he replied. "David, our usual shortstop…when he joined, I had to ask his mother first for permission."

Danny laughed, thinking of the husky jock. David was one of Dash's friends and every once in a while decided to join along in the daily torments. It was hard to picture that scene after seeing how tough he made himself out to look.

"Spent two hours trying to convince his mom that it didn't cost anything but a doctor's physical to join and that there wasn't any possible way that her insurance would rise if something were to happen…"

"Wow…" Danny was pretty sure he didn't want to say anything else or comment in case David was one of the coach's "favorites."

Kinder opened the gate as they approached his home again and unhooked the chain from the dogs' collars. As soon as the metal restraint came off, the two dogs bounded into the yard and he closed the fence behind them. "Here, come inside the garage with me."

He followed the coach around the corner of the house and they walked down a rocky driveway towards the garage. To him, it looked more like a white barn with how large it was. The building was about two stories high and nearly the size of two houses put together.

Kinder noticed his gaze and smiled. "I don't even park my car in there. It's more of a sports arena."

"Wow…" He silently wished he could say more, but every time he learned something new, he became kind of speechless. But what was he gaping about? His own home was a three story arsenal that looked like an alien spaceship had landed recently. He supposed he'd just never expected it.

He pulled open the sliding door and he stepped inside a brightly lit room. There was a basketball court at the far wall and the other walls were surrounded by metal shelves, all of which held sports equipment—some of the material things he'd never seen—tennis racquets and balls, baseball bats and gloves, basketballs, first aid kits, netting…He couldn't help but stare.

"So, have you changed your mind? Wanna play a little baseball?" Kinder started. "Your parents were pretty excited when I told them, but I think you noticed."

"Yeah," Danny said, raising an eyebrow.

"I'm guessing you really haven't made up your mind, huh?"

"I just don't know," he admitted.

"Tell you what…" He clapped his hands together. "I've been thinking a lot about what you said earlier…about the whole "one time, never gonna happen again thing, just a lucky shot" and I'll tell you what kiddo. I'll make you a deal," he said, standing up and walking over to a shelf lined against a wall.

Danny watched as he grabbed a bucket from one of the higher levels and gave a curious look inside to see it was full of vividly light green balls. He picked one randomly and tossed it up and down.

"I know this is a softball, but I save the real baseballs at the school," he said. He lightly threw it over to Danny, who caught it unexpectedly with one hand. Kinder raised an eyebrow and then pointed over at the far wall where a paintball target had been painted in red across the wall. "You throw that ball straight into the bullseye and you join the team. You miss and you don't have to. I'll give you three chances. Majority rules of course. If you miss, I'll leave you alone, but if you don't…"

Danny stared, almost skeptical. "I just have to throw it in the bullseye…" he repeated.

"That's the deal."

He was certain there had to be some sort of catch. Even though it was painted on, Danny slightly wondered if the target was going to move to test him out…whether it looked stationary or not. If that was…by some magical chance, the case, he was screwed...

Okay, he thought silently. Either hit the little red thing or not, but don't stand there like an idiot...

Coach Kinder moved back, perhaps paranoid that he might accidentally get beamed and Danny almost smiled, looking down at the green ball in his hand, but it quickly faded. Did that mean Kinder really believe he could throw that far off or was the coach…oddly giving him the space he wanted? He didn't know and didn't want to know.

He looked up again, his heart thudding wildly in his chest and finally—threw out his arm, releasing the ball and it flew through the air—striking the wall about a foot above the designated target.

A small part of him seemed to fall and he sighed. Knew it, he thought bitterly.

Kinder didn't seem discouraged at all, despite the fault. "Alright, two more shots. But here, let me show you something," he said. He walked behind him and grabbed his hand, swinging his arm back as if he were about to throw. "Release here," he told him, placing his hand even with his shoulder.

"Coach," Danny said, turning back to him.

"You're not going to do what I think you are, are you?"


"What were you going to say?" A smile played for some odd reason on Kinder's face, his light eyes sparkling.

"I...I...don't think teaching me is really going to help," he admitted, sighing. Like anything will help at all…

"Ah, just what I thought you'd say," he told him. "Well, if you really don't think you can, you're probably right."

"What?" He tried not to sound offensive, but that had been harsh. Despite his feeling towards it, he felt his fingers curl slightly, wondering why there'd been a sudden change in opinion. Hadn't Kinder gone through all that trouble to get him there in the first place?

"I'm just saying, if you think you can't, you probably can't. But don't feel let down. A lot of losers don't have it in them," he snapped.

Danny felt a twinge of anger run through him, making his eye twitch. "Excuse me?" he snapped, not bothering to hide it from his tone.

"I'm sorry, I forgot you really don't like that, do you? Well, it kind of fits, I have to say. That's what they all call you, isn't it? Mind me doing the same?" He tossed another ball his direction and Danny caught it haphazardly, trying to keep his anger on a leash. "I thought I really did see something in you actually. Guess the loser title doesn't ever fade away on the outside or inside, huh?"

"What is your problem?" he said, louder than necessary as he started feeling the faint burning sensation in his eyes.

"I'm saying you couldn't throw the ball because you're not good enough obviously," he replied calmly. "You couldn't even if you tried..." Danny stared, disbelieving. Kinder brushed his look off easily and whistled. "So, go ahead and try, prove me right that you actually can't do it, just like you and I and so many others know you can't, right?"

"Fine," he suddenly growled, gripping the ball and then throwing it as hard as he could towards the wall, his fingers tingling as the ball left his hand.

His anger faintly disappeared within the next second as it struck the bullseye head on. Shocked and ticked off weren't a good combination and he turned to leave when Kinder suddenly laughed. He whipped around, his furious feeling getting ready to explode when—

"Sorry for those loser comments. Had to get you mad somehow. Kind of worth it because it worked, huh?"

He turned to see Coach Kinder wearing a smile and blinked, but then got it, his eyes widening. "You...wait a second, you were trying to get me angry?"

"Yeah, pretty much," he replied. "You were shooting daggers at Dash earlier today so I figured it had something to do with your anger."

Relief and guilt and every other feeling suddenly seemed to hit him at the realization that he'd been set up majorly…And he'd done it.

"Oh...man...I didn't even...really..." He placed his hands near his head, his eyes still larger than usual as he couldn't help but stare at the target, far across the wall.

"To tell you the truth, we're actually father back than where a pitcher would normally stand, but you don't seem to have a problem with distance, huh?"

Danny didn't reply, swallowing very hard and trying to grasp the idea that he'd seriously just done what he had. Kinder laid a hand on his shoulder.

"See, I knew you could do it. You just got to let yourself know you can," he told him. "So...now that you know you really can, number one, get that "I can't do this" thing out of your head, alright?"

He glanced up at the coach, suddenly remembering all the right reasons to why he shouldn't be able to play, but what would he say? The fact was, he didn't even think it was possible for him to do what he had…but he'd just proved himself wrong. For the first time, he felt…almost certain.

"Kiddo, this is your decision," Kinder told him. "The fact is, you've got more talent than you realize. You…just haven't gotten the chance to shine. You can do this, I have faith in you. The question is, do you believe in yourself?"

"Maybe," he said after a moment.

Kinder laughed. "Okay, we'll work on that too. The second point is…try to...I guess, channel that anger into a goal...Worked the last time, didn't it? Bet you could do it a third time and a thousand times more. What makes you angry…use whatever that is…and throw...One last shot..."

He grabbed one more ball and tossed it lightly at him. He caught it and sighed, really trying to catch up with what the coach was saying. All he had to do was control his anger? What made him angry? Dash…for one; that had to be at the top of the list. But underneath that…

The thought that he could really play on the baseball team seemed so…addictively sweet. In the back of his mind, he still wondered how crazy he was for thinking about it, but he was suddenly…excited.

Sam and Tucker…maybe they'd been right about what they'd said earlier. Maybe if the coach had seen something in him from one small throw…maybe he really had the ability to do more.

He swung his arm backwards, still trying to come up with something that made him mad or agitated. It didn't take long at all and he gripped onto the ball, running his fingers across the crisscross pattern. He turned and threw as hard as he could, releasing the ball exactly where the coach had instructed.

It shot through the garage air and struck the bullseye head on once more, a loud noise echoing around them. Ignoring the nervousness that went through him, he almost smiled.

"Well, lookie there," the coach said, grinning. He turned, almost to face him directly. "So…you know what this means…"

"Yeah…" he said softly, swallowing hard.

Kinder stuck out his hand. "Sure you want to do this…"

A groan escaped his lips. "Coach…don't ask me, I won't ever give you--"

"I think you're ready kiddo," he said. "You know why?"

"Because…" He couldn't come up with anything.

"Because for one, you hit the target and did everything I suggested you to do. Controlled your anger into a specific purpose and you even let go of the ball where you were supposed to. And another, you just called me coach…'bout time honestly." He smiled widely.

"Oh…" Danny said.

He inched his hand forwards again. "Before I say something, I have to ask something else first."


"Right before you threw, you didn't picture Dash's head or some other jock as the target or something, did you?"

He almost laughed. "No…"

"Do you get along with Dash?"

"Yeah…" he said, layering on the sarcasm as he absentmindedly stared at the target on the wall.

Kinder chuckled. "Guess we'll work on that too." He held out his hand for the third time. "What do you say kiddo?"

Hesitant at first, Danny hoped he wasn't making a huge mistake and finally took the coach's hand and shook on it. Kinder smiled broadly.

"Welcome to the Ravens…"


Hee hee. Knew we'd have to get there eventually, huh? Enjoy the new chapter? It turned out to be a bit longer than I expected really.

For those of you who have heard the news, thanks for all the support and sympathy, I appreciate it greatly. I will continue to write on fanfiction until all of my stories have been completed. (Meaning you get me for about another four years). For those of you wondering how I am, I don't handle emotion well, so please don't ask. I'm trying to just get back on track. But thank you so much for all the care and support!

Please R&R! Here's your sneak peek! This story, among many others, will be updated until it has 10 chapters total. No stories above ten chapters will be updated and I apologize to those fans of 10+ chapters, but I really need to get working on some of my others.

Chapter Five: Practice Rounds

"Somebody's paranoid…"

He ignored his sister's taunting tone. "Whatever…"

"Oh, you just wait. You do this, you earn yourself a name. I'll be at every single one of your games to cheer you on and around you all of the time…"

Danny stared. "Is this the part where I'm supposed to get excited?"

Next Updates: (Most of which are already started or halfway through): Extremities, Jet Plane, The Boy At The Rock Show, The Ghost At Summer Camp, Relinquish, Life Sucks And Then You Die, Love Me, Love Me, Don't Look Under The Bed (New), Royalties (New), and Chosen. They'll be at least within the next two weeks. Infinity is currently being edited.

Lateraina Wolf