Baseball, baseball, baseball!!! That's been the only thing on my mind for the past few days. There is no better way to show how hyped up I am than to write a sports fic related to baseball.
Disclaimer: I don't own Princess Nine, but I would like to imagine that someday a girl is going to play in the major leagues. Princess Nine definitely made that happen.
Playing in the American League
Looks like Abraham's in a jam. The 2-0 pitch and a ball, low and a little too close to the shin. This season he's been struggling to hold his ground. He isn't giving the kind of relief as expected and the fans aren't too happy with this trade. Hard to say—a wild pitch, Rodriguez gets on second. That was good running by Rod. The ball was just a bit shy from the second basemen, Langley's, glove and Rod was able to sneak on. Looks like L.A. is turning to the bullpen again. They need to make this last game to get to playoffs. 5-4, top of the eighth, L.A.
"Arg! You call that a pitch?! Go back to the minors!" A young woman hollered in accented English from just a few rows behind the home plate. She clawed at her red, wavy hair in frustration.
"This is unsportsmanlike," Yoko answered Seira's remark, roughly dragging her tall friend back into her seat. Yoko dusted her pretty, manicured hand afterward.
"Don't give me that unsportsmanlike crap! Abraham sucks! His form sucks. His deliveries suck! I can see his pitch a mile away!" She spat vehemently.
The fans looked over at the flamed-haired woman. She was very distracting with all her screaming in Japanese. They ignored her shouts that were in English earlier and now wondered what she was on about in her native tongue. No one was arguing against her or stood in defense for their home team's below average reliever.
"What do you think, Fifi? Uh-huh, I think so, too," Yuki was talking to her doll. She looked to the other two, "Fifi says that Ryo will save the day."
Mao, the one sitting beside Yuki, smiled. "Yeah, I know she will."
"I haven't seen her all season! What makes you think they're going to bring her out today, huh? Luck?!" Seira cried, blowing at the bangs falling into her fiery eyes. "Look, I just don't think anyone has the brains to bring out an ace pitcher because she's a young girl."
"Young woman," Izumi corrected. The navy-blue haired beauty flipped her ponytail back over her shoulder. "Young girls are not allowed to play with the big boy leaguers."
"Says, who? With the way these wooses play their games, I think a team of infants can take 'em out."
"I think we should all cheer when Ryo comes out," Nene interjected enthusiastically, ignorant of Seira's stress. "I don't feel any energy coming from this crowd even though we're leading."
"New York's very close to scoring for your information!"
"Chill out, Seira. Baseball is supposed to be relaxing when we watch," Koharu murmured in the seat just in front of Seira. She turned a little to wave Seira off her feet. "It's embarrassing for you to draw attention from the team when Ryo is about to come out any minute. Save some of your energy for Ryo."
Hikaru's hoarse laughter broke the tense bickering and flying of reprimands. She elbowed Seishiro in the ribs. The man didn't even budge, his eyes trained to the field and his fingertips pressed together. He was in deep concentration, delving right into the game and the impending moment for Ryo to shine. "Seira should follow in Seishiro's form. He's just so calculating, it's amusing."
"Huh? What?" Seishiro asked blankly.
"Worried about your best friend, huh?" Hikaru sulked.
"You want something to drink?"
"Pick your nose with?"
"Yes." He wasn't paying her any mind, she noticed, so she growled at him and stood to leave her seat.
Seishiro didn't seem to notice until Kanako, sitting on his other side, pointed it out to him. "Your girlfriend just walked off."
"God!!" Seishiro got up and, with a slap to the arm of his chair, went after her.
"Hey, get me something at the grandstand. I feel like chucking things at this Abraham guy," Seira shouted after Seishiro.
"Wai! Look! It's Ryo!" Nene shrieked at the top of her lungs. She waved her red and silver pon pons in the air. "Ryo, Ryo, Ryo!"
Everyone averted their eyes to the home team's bullpen. The girls who played together at Kisaragi had not even noticed their pitcher and former captain step onto the field in the midst of their frustration. A field, in the middle of a game, an elimination game, on an American baseball field, Ryo Hayakawa was out of the bullpen. Looking slim and perfect in her new L.A. uniform and wearing a big number "1" on her back she walked with pride and energy. She was dainty and feminine looking as she walked by Abraham, brushing shoulders. The veteran said something to her and Ryo took the words of advice with a wide grin, genuine, sure, and fast on her face. The fans were dead silent. One could hear the popcorn-cotton candy-guy rattle his bags in the kind of atmosphere that reign over the park. Even Nene was silent for the moment as Ryo made her journey to the mound.
She was born to this sport and born to this world. Her eyes hanging low and her dominant fist in the thick leather of her glove gave her the masculine aura that seemed a contradictory to her light, trim body. She stood rigid, yet relaxed, her toe digging into the dirt. Ryo let out a relieved sigh as if she had been holding her breath while warming up in the bullpen. This was the real warm up for her. She had spoken to one of her American pitching coaches, who had pulled her in and out of the bullpen in the last few months, treating her like a glass doll. She hated it. The hesitation was there all the time. People in Japan had treated her the same way when she just started pitching. Back then, she never would have thought, she would have to go through the same treatment again. They were only fearful that she would injure herself, since baseball was not quite the sport for females. Strenuous work was all on the tendons of the triceps and biceps. In addition to that, there was something else, health-wise, to worry about.
"Wai, Ryo!" Nene screamed, ending the deafening silence. "Yay, Ryo, our ace pitcher!"
"She's supposed to be a start—" Seira's exclaim was cut short by Yoko's hand.
"You need to shut up and watch the game," Yoko hissed.
"Don't tell me what to do!"
"Yo, Ryo! Over here Ryo!"
Ryo raised her eyes and beamed at her loud friends. She waved and Nene looked about to burst with excitement from their ace pitcher's warm acknowledgement.
"Look, she noticed us!"
"Yes, Nene," Kanako said with a giggle.
Izumi blushed. "You girls are drawing so much attention. Everyone is staring at us."
Ryo's intent eyes swiveled from her friends to the batter that was taking the left side of the home plate. He was incredibly focused as he looked back at her. Ryo squinted, lowering her eyes to the catcher and smiling. She released her first pitch.
What's this? They are finally bringing out the rookie, her name Ryo Hayakawa. She signed with L.A. for a one year contract after playing in Japan for five years. Hayakawa: she's a real celebrity in Japan. You know, her father was also a left-handed pitcher and before she signed with L.A. she was rumored in Japan to have inherited her deceased father's pitching arm. She has a special pitch that everyone talks about—first pitch, curve ball, high. Not so fancy a pitch as I was expecting. The pitch, ball two. And the catcher is reaching the mound.
Ryo followed her new friend, Allen with her alert eyes as he jogged to her side. Allen was the catcher for their team and Ryo had been building the chemistry between pitcher and catcher at every practice before meeting up to the day she would finally pitch. She always believed that the connection between the catcher and the pitcher was one with the perfect combinations for the best executions. Allen slipped his mask off and smiled at her. He rested his hand to the curve of her lower back and rubbed a little. Ryo loosened her muscles in response and gave into smiling back at him. He whispered something into her ear and received a knowing pinch to the upper arm from the only female teammate before he stepped off the line.
Never in baseball history have I seen this odd, playful display between catcher and pitcher. And the pitch… Outside! Ball three! Allen Greenback is standing up and staring at Ryo. Let's hope he's not actually glaring. I think we're all wondering if anything is going to happen—New York takes first base. L.A.'s manager looks at ease. New York's power hitter is up. He hits one to second baseman and Las Angeles makes a double play! Third up is...
Ryo let out a breath. This batter… He gave her a cocky smirk that made her want to sock one at him. Why the heck was she even listening to that coach of hers? She thought she felt the crowd sneering at her already in the intense light and heat. Well, everything she ever learned was because of Coach, so she better listen tonight. Still, it hurt to finally come out and make it seem so easy for a team that had been trailing by fifteen games from the first place team in the AL East division! Not, just hurtful, but humiliating. It made her want to crawl under the grass and sleep. All would not be well until somebody let her make a pitch she wanted to make. But… Even Allen was in on this. It was all part of the plan to shock these adversaries. They had not expected a potential World Series team to fling out a woman to close the game. They probably didn't think she could last another inning. That makes the prospect of winning and rubbing it into their faces, all too sweet nectar from a holy cup.
Foul to the left, caught by the short stop. And it's still 5-4, L.A, top of the ninth.
Ryo swept the back of her hand across her forehead and puckered her lips in impatience. She ran off into the dugout to meet up with the most lecherous man alive.
"Coach!" Ryo cried, brushing off the manager, who was handing her a towel and Allen, who was trying to give her more pointers. "Coach!"
"What's this yelling, now?" Kido Shinsaku, Ryo's long time coach and her father's best friend, looked wearily up at Ryo.
"Coach, the fans are going to boo me out of the park!"
"I don't hear a thing."
"Coach, the opposing team is giving me the look."
"And your teammates don't do that?"
"Not that kind of look. But the kind you get when you're running in the woods and suddenly encounter a hungry wolf!"
"How is that different from running on a baseball diamond and encountering a male teammate on first base?"
Ryo grabbed her laid back coach by the shoulders. "Coach, run me the plan again and I'll tell you what's wrong with it!"
"We went through this already. The manager thinks it's good, your pitching coaches think it's ingenious. What a way to play your final game before retirement, hey?"
"Now, go flirt with your pretty boy, Greenback, before he loses it because his favorite pitcher is neglecting him."
The manager pulled Ryo to the other end of the bench and draped a towel over her shoulders. He spoke a couple of words of encouragement before passing the rod to Allen. Allen rallied her as well, except he tried to sooth her at the same time.
"Hang on, Ryo. You'll get your chance."
"You hear. That rapid Japanese to my coach—you understand I am angry."
"It should make you feel especially angry since you haven't been out so often. You know, it's not so good for you and you're…"
"Allen! It is distracting when I am playing. This is real, not practice!"
"We have faith in you."
"If you do and they do, then why are we doing this? I think it is cruel to have them laugh at me."
"It'll be crueler for them to have a girl beat them up."
"Be cool, Babe. Be cool like you were in Japan."
"Alright Princess, you're up!" Kido's voice roared around the dugout.
Kido collapsed onto the bench again when Ryo left the dugout. His jersey was stuck to his back like a second skin. His eyes rolled back and his head dangled in the air, like he was fighting to take out scary ideas in his mind. Or he was just over-stimulated with other game plays.
"Yo! Coach Kido, looking hammered."
Kido lifted his head. "How did you get down here?"
"A friend let me in," said the fellow in the L.A. uniform.
"You rich boys always get your way."
Kido got up on his feet and the two of them leaned against the gate to watch.
Ryo was up and gone again. Her team was not going to score anymore, so it was her turn to close the game as fast as possible.
Looks like Hayakawa takes the mound again. She has given up a few hits tonight and she's been struggling to make cleaner pitches since the bottom of the eighth. I don't know what her manager is thinking right now, but something better happen or this game can turn the whole situation upside down for them. Maybe it's still too early to allow women into the game, even if she has that innate ability to throw the kind of balls we have yet to see.
"She's positively radiant. Now, that's a real pitcher!" Seira sighed, distinguishable stars in her eyes. "That pervert of a man is finally doing something right— we waited five freaking months into the season!"
"Maybe the world isn't ready for women pitchers, yet," Kanako stated whimsically.
"Yeah, Ryo's debut in the American league was to show the world what she could do," said Mao, grinning. "We all know that when you're popular in America, you're popular everywhere."
Izumi suddenly bolted upright in her seat. "Hey! Does anyone know where Hiroki went?"
That's a slider, 95 miles and low, ball one.
Ryo muzzled her face into her glove and let out a frustrated groan. Come on, come, Allen, give me the go already! She lowered her glove and chanced to peak over at the dugout to her right. The manager hung against the gate and laughed at something one of the line-man in the back said. What was going on? Her eyes glanced back at Allen's signal for a curve.
Oh, that was way outside!
How many more to go? How much more humiliation must she be put through?
Ryo dared to glance at the manager, who was finally looking aware and alert. He tapped his forefinger to the bridge of his nose three times and took off his hat. Once he placed his cap back on his balding scalp, he gave her a wink. It was time! And Allen signaled fast.
The World Series is literally three outs away from L.A. Ryo Hayakawa throws her third pitch and…
Everyone in the stadium suddenly rose from their seats. They received the crushing sound of ball hitting glove echoing in their silence. Allen had dug his two feet into the dirt as hard as he could to brace himself, but still took half a step back.
Ryo's glamorous smile opened to the person up at bat like a flowering blossom. His mouth was hanging open from the shock equivalent to the shock of the fans in the stadium. Ryo inhaled. Her mind was filling up with anticipation and the memories of her father.
The crowd has gone wild! You can hear the fans chanting her name now. Ryo! A 135 mile ball to Jez. There is still steam coming out of Greenback's glove from where the pitch hit. Good call by the home plate umpire. Strike one! Strike two! Her first strikeout! She strikes out almost as fast as her pitches are.
"Yeah, Ryo. Show'em!" The nine princesses chorused in the back.
"She always makes me worried for nothing," Kido sighed in the dugout after Ryo quickly ended it with two more strikeouts.
Ryo was running off the mound to meet Kido. "Coach!" She called over and over again.
"It wasn't her win, but it was certainly a nice save," Kido said. He thought he was talking to the guy impersonating an L.A. member, but the fellow was suddenly gone from his side.
Ryo was pushed back by her teammates inside the dugout. They were trying to get her out to receive the well deserved ovation that the girl seemed too excited to accept.
"I don't know what customs are like in Japan, but here in America, you're supposed to step outside and party!" Allen called over all the cheering.
Ryo received the catcalls from her teammates and the occasional pat on the head. It took the manager much energy to overpower the more zealous players to keep the closer on her two feet. After all, she couldn't be handled too roughly now. She bowed and waved to the fans as they screamed her name and beat their soles against the granite floors.
"Look at Ganmo-chan all grown up!"
Ryo twirled around and slammed into her boyfriend, who was wearing a uniform like hers. "What are you doing here, Hiroki?"
"Protecting you from the wolves," he whispered into her ear, pulling her into a tight, congratulatory hug. "I'm so jealous. You made your debut in America before me."
"You shot down New York's offer last season!"
"I had my reasons."
"This," he said, holding a sapphire encased in a crust of diamonds on a silver band under, her nose.
"Takasugi, no way—Coach!"
Coach Kido, who took one of the celebration bottles, stopped chugging for a minute to protest. "I didn't say anything, I swear!"
Ryo turned back to Hiroki. "Oh, Takasugi Hiroki you shouldn't feel obligated to marry me!"
"What are you talking about? I've been planning this for a year! Why the heck would I feel obligated?"
"Oh! Well… Then yes!" Ryo said hurriedly.
"Why do you sound so nervous?" He quipped, slipping the ring onto her finger.
"No reason! No reason at all!"
"Hey, Ryo! Has he proposed to you? That's great for you and the baby!" Allen cried, alcohol ridden as he was.
"Hiroki, I was going to tell you when I found out last week, but…"
"You're team knew and I didn't?"
"There's a reason."
"You still pitched?!"
"You see? That's just it!"
"I can't believe this… I can't believe this…" Hiroki stalked off, running hands through his brown hair in aggravation.
Ryo followed him in desperation only to fall back against Mao as Izumi and Hikaru jumped on her.
"Did Takasugi-kun propose?" Yoko was the first to see and ask about the ring on Ryo's left hand.
Ryo started wriggling out of Izumi and Hikaru's deathly grips. "Hold it you guys!" She was still watching Hiroki walk away with his head down.
"Don't you turn your back on me, you jerk! Listen up!" Ryo screamed, drawing the attention of reporters and cameras.
Mao hugged Ryo around the shoulder. "Watch your blood pressure. It isn't good for the baby."
The cameras flashed around them.
"You can't blame this on her," Yuki spoke in her aloof tone of voice, "It was a surprise to all of us, but for Ryo's sake we needed to give her that last time on the mound. If you knew, admit it, you wouldn't have allowed her to pitch tonight."
"Yeah, Hiroki would move Moon and Earth to protect those he cared about," Izumi muttered.
"I can't believe it!" Hiroki bellowed with emotion. "Ganmo-chan, how do you do it, huh?"
"How is it that you are my most favorite thing in the world?"
Ryo laughed at that, breaking free from her former teammates and resettling into his arms. Hiroki kissed her briefly on the cheek and secretly laid a hand on her abdomen. The cameras flashed madly.
The manager was taking Ryo out of the busy area and pulled her inside again. It was time for the after game conference and many people had questions.
What kind of pitch was that, Ms. Hayakawa? It seemed too fast to be a fast ball!
"It is the lightning ball. My father was the first to make a pitch like the ones I made tonight. He never taught me, but somehow I was born with an arm like his."
How do you think the team will fair this season?
"I have complete faith that Manager will bring them beyond the playoffs."
Will you reconsider closing again, guaranteed that the team will make it in this year?
"Because my husband says so. I think I can help men uphold their pride a little if I comply with husband's wishes for one time." Ryo answered politely, her eyes resting on Hiroki in the back.
You definitely showed men around the world that as slight as you are, you pack a mighty pitch! Ms. Hayakawa, has anyone in Japan ever hit one of your pitches before?
"Plenty, but only one got a homerun. It is because of him that I have improved over the years. I swore I would never let another man hit my balls out of the park."
Who was he?
"An old high school sweetheart. He plays for the Tigers in Japan right now."
Why are you retiring at such a young age? Here in America, men in their forties still pitch!
"I'm pregnant and the guy, who hit the homerun I pitched, is the father."
Ryo Hayakawa paused for effect.
Then, she leaned closer to the mic and asked in her cheery voice, "Will the gentleman in the back please wave for the good people?"