Disclaimer: This is AU. I do not own any of the characters from Grey's Anatomy. I just manipulate them to my will. Also, any line or phrase or setting that seems remotely familiar from any other show, movie or book, also not mine. I borrow…
AN: Ok so… I'm back. Through the vote, it seemed the Softball and Firefighter stories were the front runners. Then I picked because I'm a softball player. Have played since T-Ball and Coach Pitch. So all aspects of the game should be pretty much on point, but anything outside of what happens on the field I take literary license. I have no clue how National teams travel or stay, I have no idea how the Olympic thingy is set up so… just go with me? Ok? Thanks ya'll. Now… Enjoy!
The sun is climbing high in the sky as blue eyes scan the scene in front of her. Women… women everywhere. Normally that would bode well for the blonde haired female, but today that just means there is more competition to take on. Women of all shapes and sizes, all different colors and backgrounds are here, fighting for the same dream… the same hope that she has. That little voice in the back of her head is telling her that maybe she has made a mistake. That maybe she is setting herself up for failure again. How can anyone stand out from the crowd this large?
She's pulled out of her thoughts when a very exasperated voice asks "Name?"
"Uhhh…. Arizona Robbins." She answers, clutching the bag over her shoulder even tighter. She watches as the young man sorts through the mass of numbered placards, and then hands her hers and a couple of clothes pins.
"Pin that to you where it is visible. And then go warm up. Try outs will begin within the hour. ….Next." The guy recites, gesturing for Arizona to continue on to the softball diamonds behind him.
"Thanks." Arizona says weakly, heading off towards the closest field as she fumbles to get her '89' pinned to the fabric of her shirt. Once her sign is situated comfortably, she finds a spot to set her bag. The dugouts are busting at the seams with women and equipment bags, so she takes a spot along the first base line fence. Arizona takes a seat in the soft grass and starts to lace up her cleats while she gets a better look at the complex. It's a set of four fields laid out like the petals of a four leaf clover. Bleachers and awnings for shade run the intersection, and is full of spectators waiting to watch a free show. No faces look familiar in this sea of people, but its hard to pick a single person out in a crowd of this size.
"Hey…" A voice from beside her calls. "Wanna throw?" The woman asks.
"Sure." Arizona answers as she quickly ties her last cleat, pulls on a sun visor and grabs her glove.
"My name is Susan." The woman says, and holds out her hand.
Arizona smiles and shakes, replying with "Arizona." They back away from each other and slowly begin to toss a ball back and forth, just warming up their arms and their minds.
"This your first tryout?" Susan asks, taking a step back to increase the distance.
"Am I that obvious?" Arizona replies with a nervous laugh.
Susan shrugs and says "This is my third. Just relax and play your game, and you'll be fine. The coaches are nice, but they are tough and know a good player when they see one."
"I thought we are all good players, that's why were here. I mean… it IS Team USA. No amateurs here." Arizona states, looking around at the nearly hundred other women around them, all starting to throw with partners and stretch out.
A crooked smile crosses Susan's face and a chuckle falls from her thin lips. "There's a difference between college good, and Team USA good, chica. You'll see real fast." A sharp blow of a whistle and 100 pairs of eyes dart to the dark skinned man striding out onto the field. Feeling the time has come, all the women cram together to hear the welcoming speech.
"Welcome everyone to this year's open tryouts. My name is Richard Webber and I am the Head Coach of Team USA. There are a lot of you out here today, and I want to assure you that each and every one of you will get to show me your stuff." Webber surveys the numerous faces around him. All the women who have showed up just for the opportunity to play for their country. "…As you all know, Team USA fell to Japan at the last summer Olympics. So this go round, we are going to bring the gold back home where it belongs." A round of cheers and applause filters through the air, everyone wanting to show the rest of the world that USA is the ultimate softball machine.
"Alright… A few notes before we begin. This is a one day tryout. If anyone is selected to join Team USA, your names will be posted on that board…" Webber points to a large announcement board at the middle of the intersection between the four fields. "If you're on the list, great. If not… there will always be another tryout. …Secondly, today is going to be a scorcher. So stay hydrated. No leeway will be given to you just because you get heat stroke. And finally, play fair and have fun. …So if you are all ready, line up into pairs. I want four laps around the outside of the complex." At the blow of his whistle, two lines of 50 women start to jog.
By the time Arizona starts her second lap, sweat is already making its way down her forehead and the nape of her neck. Running isn't a problem for her. She grew up with it, having a Marine Corps Colonel as a father meant that morning PT was a priority. And just like Susan said, she can already tell which players are starting to drag behind, sucking oxygen so hard that they sound like they are dying.
Taking a seat on the bleacher under one of the shade awnings, Callie Torres leans back as she takes a long pull at her ice cold water. Its not even 10 am yet but she can tell its going to be a hot one today. Dark brown eyes look over the mass of women who have collected at the fields today, just hoping to join her and the rest of Team USA in their quest for gold this year. Ladies of all different shapes, sizes and colors have large numbers pinned to their bodies, and the look of anxiety and excitement mixing together on their faces. Its not often that Team USA has open tryouts like today, but every now and then there is the need to find undiscovered talent. And going into the 2012 summer Olympics, Callie thinks her team can use all the help it can get.
"Torres…" A man calls out. Peeking over the top of her sunglasses, Callie spots a tall, good looking man striding toward her, a clip board in hand.
"Coach Sloan." Callie greets him, turning back to the women who have just amassed around the head coach.
"What are you doing here? It's the team's day off. That means you get to spend it AWAY from the fields." Sloan says with a smile as he sits next to his player and friend.
"What can I say? …I have no life off the field." The Latina sneers. For the past four months she and the rest of Team USA have been practicing six days a week. So when they get their one day off, the last place any of them want to be is at the softball fields. The two friends watch as Webber gets the women running, already taking numbers of those who catch his eye.
"Think we'll find anyone today?" Callie asks just to fill the empty air.
"Maybe. Maybe not. We'll find out soon enough." Mark answers, looking over the list of women in his hand. Even for the woman loving player that he is, it's a lot of ladies.
"Sloan!" Webber calls, waving Mark onto the field as the first few prospects finish their nice leisurely jog in 85 degree weather. "Let's go!"
"Enjoy the show, Cal." Mark says with a pat on his friends leg. With that, the coach strides back out into the blazing sun, prepared to make or break the dreams of 100 girls. Callie just waves, and then gets comfortable. Even if it is her day off, there is nothing she'd rather be doing than spending time in the dirt. Its what makes her tick, its her drug. Her ecstasy. She lives to play, and plays to win. She only wishes that she could be out there with them, getting hot, sweaty and dirty as well.
Th sweat is just rolling down Arizona's arms and back as she fields grounder after grounder. The balls come flying off the coaches bats at break neck speed, but she doesn't let a single one past. Dribblers, bouncers, line drives… it doesn't matter. Arizona Robbins is a fielding machine, and ball after ball hits its target of the first baseman's glove. The loud slap of leather against leather, the slight cringe of the first base man's face just urges the blonde on harder. Today isn't about taking it easy, or starting slowly. It's about pushing hard. Every. Single. Second.
Another round through the line, and Arizona is up again. The sweat burns her eyes, but she keeps her focus. The crack of ball against bat urges her into action. The yellow object flies to her left, and on instinct, she throws her body towards it with everything she has, laying full out in the dirt. With a practiced move, Arizona somersaults and ends up on her knees, ball in hand, and guns it to first. A slap of the glove and all eyes turn to see who send the bullet flying.
"That's what I'm talking about, Blondie." One of the coaches call as Arizona picks herself up and brushes the red clay off her front. "That's what USA grade looks like people." Several women turn and give the blonde the evil eye, but the action is soon back and balls are being hit in every direction.
Since the start of tryouts, several other USA players have trickled in and out to see what kind of talent may be joining their team. Most don't stay longer than a few minutes because it is, after all, their day off. But Callie stays. She silently keeps track of her own list. There are a few women who seem to have the skill and the drive that would be required, but only a couple of those trying out have the passion. The mix of drive and love, need and want. It's a delicate balance, between skill and heart. But when you have it… if you can find another player that has it… that can turn a great team into an invincible team.
Just as the group of women are breaking off into smaller masses, one set going to do fielding exercises, the other to show off their skills in the batters box, a woman takes a seat next to Callie, her steel blue eyes roaming the many hopeful faces in front of them.
"Anyone looking good?" The woman asks.
"Couple." Callie answers shortly, concentrating on a thin brunette who just laid down a near perfect bunt. "What are you doing here?"
"Same thing as you. …Checking out the prospects." She answers. Silence lapses as both women watch the show. Callie takes note of the blonde who just ate dirt but somehow managed to suck up the ball and fire it to first like it was nothing. Every now and then the occasional person would pass and ask for autographs which Callie gladly signs. Its not the reason she plays, but it is a very nice bonus. To be known as one to the best, there is something very satisfying about it.
Hours pass, and its obvious that the heat and sun have taken a toll on those trying out. But with an occasional water break and breather, they all push through the pain. Numerous small injuries occur, from raspberries from sliding the wrong way, to a busted lip from a stray ball, and even a few black eyes. But there is no crying in softball, and all the women hang tough. This could be, after all, the only chance they get to tryout for Team USA, and everyone wants that exclusive jersey.
After their ten minute water break, Callie watches her close friend and coach saunter over towards her. "You just gonna sit on your ass all day, Torres?" Mark asks with a cocky smile as he wipes the sweat from his brow.
"It IS my day off." Callie replies cheekily. "I'll spend it how I please."
"Ok… just wondered if you wanted to suit up and take a couple of these pitchers out for a test drive." The man says with a shrug.
He turns to leave the Latina, but Callie, hearing that she could get some playing time shoots up out of her seat. "I'm coming!" She cries, running after the man. "Mark! Hold up, I'm coming."
"Ok, ladies!" Webber announces as this group of 25 women have completed their sprints around the bases. Having divided all 100 plus women up into four groups to be able to see each one individually, they have been rotating around the four fields all day. One field is fielding. Another, batting. The third is working base running. "Now that you've been to each station, we are breaking you up into your positions. Infielders report to field 1. Outfielders, field 2. And those of you who are pitchers and catchers head off to field 3." With those instructions, the group dissipates as the women head off to their respective fields. As Arizona turns to head to where she is suppose to go, she sees the other 75 women also heading in all different directions, following the instructions that the other coaches have given.
After grabbing a couple gulps of water, Arizona jogs off towards the field marked with a big 3. The blonde can play several positions very well, but ask her what she is and she will tell you 'I'm a pitcher'. Any other position comes in a distant second.
By the time her cleats hit field 3 she is probably the thirtieth woman to arrive. Some are pulling on their own catching equipment, and others are warming up their pitching arms. Taking a couple minutes to thoroughly stretch out her right arm, Arizona lets her eyes wander over her competition. She knows that Team USA is only looking for one or two girls, that their team is already full of talent. Nearly all of these women will be going home without that golden ticket, and Arizona is well aware that she may be one of them.
"Alright ladies!" A taller man with a clip board announces, a woman decked out in a set of red catching gear right behind him. "I want you to pair up with one another. Keep the pace slow. I don't want you throwing your arm out before I get the chance to get a good look at you."
After Mark finishes addressing those trying out, he turns to Callie and says "Just mingle, but don't tell them who you are, alright?"
"You got it boss." Callie answers, then heads off to join the mass of pitchers and catchers. After a minute, every catcher is paired up with a pitcher and they line up in two lines. The pitchers slowly warm up, backing up more and more until they are standing at the distance of mound to home plate. Smacking of balls against gloves soon fills the air and it makes Arizona smile. Having paired up with a catcher fresh out of college, the blonde can't help feeling like she's the oldest in the class.
"Feel good?" Tabitha, her catcher, asks as she tosses the bright yellow ball back to the pitcher.
"Yeah, I'm warm." Arizona answers, taking another step back and digging her cleat into the ground. Tabitha sets up, glove as a target, and waits. With a deep breath, the blonde's heart slows and her concentration focuses. In a smooth, practiced motion, Arizona pushes off her 'mound' and drives forward, swinging her arm up and around. With a flick of her wrist at just the right spot, the ball goes flying out of her hand and slaps the catcher's glove the next second.
"Damn." Tabitha growls, taking the ball in her throwing hand and shaking off her mitt. "You got some heat, girl." With that, the tension in Arizona's shoulders leaves her and now it's just like any old practice.
Every pitcher throws her best, and every catcher hustles after each pitch. Arizona is in her zone, and Callie is in her element. Mark makes his rounds, taking notes and numbers. His skilled and practiced eyes are able to detect the minute details that differentiate good from great. After taking a few notes on tryout #27, he comes up to stand behind #89. Blonde hair falling from under her blue sun visor, and strong thigh muscles pushing her off her mound, he takes stock of the player for an entirely different reason.
"Hey Blondie…" Mark calls, making Arizona whip around. "How fast you throw?" He asks.
"Uhhh… 60-ish." Arizona answers.
"How many different pitches you got in your arsenal?" The pitching and catching coach asks.
"Five, soundly. I'm working on a screw but its not quite there yet." The blonde says, nerves starting to bunch in her stomach again. With a nod, Arizona turns back around and sets herself up for a pitch. She can feel scrutinizing eyes on her, making her first pitch go sailing high over the catcher and into the next field.
"Damn it…" She growls, then grabs another ball.
"Take your time. No need to be nervous." Mark says, readying his pen on paper. With a deep, calming breath, Arizona winds up again and this time the ball hits its mark dead on with a loud slap. The blonde throws pitch after pitch, going through her entire arsenal, sending change ups and curves and sliders all over the place. By now other pitchers have even stopped to watch Arizona work.
Callie has also gotten drawn into the masses, seeing this young blonde pitch up a storm. Her own pitcher was good by normal standards, but the Latina has caught for some of the best in the country, and knows that her pitcher just ain't Team USA material. Mark, seeing his player standing in the wings, slinks back and steps up beside the still equipment clad woman.
"What you think?" Mark asks with a knowing smile. Callie, not wanting to say anything in either way, just shrugs her shoulders.
"Hey, 39!" Mark calls out, making Tabitha look up. "Take a breather." Then turning back to his friend, Mark claps Torres on her shoulder as says "Take her out for a spin, Torres."
Callie sends her coach a look, but willingly steps through the crowd and takes her place behind the mock home base. Brown eyes meet blue and both women steel themselves. Arizona, not seeing this woman even once during tryouts, calms her mind and prepares for another pitch. Callie sees this look of determination, and a slight pull in her gut tells her that this girl might just have what it takes to play with the big dogs.
The blonde winds up and the Latina readies on the balls of her feet. With a flash, the ball flies from pitcher to catcher, a loud slap being the only evidence of its travel. As her body absorbs the impact, a smile forms behind Callie's catchers mask because she knows that this one is the one. The one the team needs to have that added ounce of oomph. Spurred on my Mark, Arizona goes through her arsenal again. Somehow, as she goes Arizona throws harder and harder, the smack of ball against leather making her stronger and more hyped up. The burn of Callie's hand is the good kind, the kind that feels like strikeouts and victories.
"Alright, that's enough." Mark says after a flurry of pitches. Callie keeps the ball as Arizona turns to the coach. "Ya'll head back to field one while the rest of the coaches and myself compare notes." With a smile to her catcher, Arizona takes off at a jog with the rest of the women as they head back to the crowd.
Callie hangs back with Mark, pulling off her catchers mask and wiping her sweaty forehead with the back of her arm. "So?" Mark asks again. "What do you think?"
"She's good." Callie answers as she takes off her catchers mitt and finding red, irritated skin. "Definitely got the heat."
"Should see her field too. She's a hell of a shortstop." The man says. "Well, I need to go find the guys. Got a lot of hearts to break before the day is over. How about you actually go spend some time OFF the fields, huh? Get out, go hang with the rest of the girls."
"Maybe." Callie says. Her clothes are nearly plastered to her body from all the sweat that has collected from being trapped in the catching suit. "Try to let them down easy, killer." The Latina plays, sending her friend a wink. With that, Mark heads off to find the rest of the coaches to figure out which one or two of the over 100 women will get that all too exclusive Team USA jersey.
Once Callie has gotten her suit cleaned up and stowed away again, she gives one last group to the mass of women all sitting around the outfield, just waiting for the news. Her mind flashes back to her own tryout just three years ago. A year after Team USA fell to Japan. It was a bitter year, a 'rebuilding' year. And her team has come a long ways. They may not all get along perfectly but when it comes to the game, each member of the team puts 100% into it. They play with their entire heart and soul, and that's all she can ask for. Whispering a 'good luck' to all the women who have placed their dreams into the hands of four coaches, the Latina turns and heads to her vintage T-Bird.
"How long do we have to wait?"
"When are they coming?"
"How many are they taking?"
All these questions fill the air as Arizona sits with the rest of those who tried out. It's been a long, hot, and tiring day. But the feeling of dirt and sweat and just a hint of bloodshed makes the blonde feel like it was a successful day. No matter how it turns out, she had a good day on the field, and that's all she was hoping for. Her slight problem with authority figures sometimes makes her freeze. There was that one incident, that wild pitch that nearly clocked an unsuspecting woman the next field over, but all in all… she feels good.
"So, how you do?" Another voice asks. Peeking over her shoulder, Arizona sees Susan, her initial warm up partner from this morning. The woman takes a seat onto the grass next to the blonde and lays out flat, just like Arizona.
"Alright. Didn't get to tryout for short, got stuck with the pitchers and catchers, but I think I did well." Arizona answers truthfully. "You?"
"Ehhh… no better than the previous years. But, can only hope, right?" She says with a shrug of her shoulders.
Another twenty minutes or so lapse, but finally a silence falls over the mass of women when Coach Webber starts to stride towards the group. Arizona sits up, and waits on baited breath for her name to be announced.
"Ladies, ladies, ladies…" The older gentleman breathes out. "What a day. I've never seen more talent in a group of women as I did today. That being said, it was extremely hard to make a decision. We have posted our list on that board…" He points to the cork board at the nearest dugout. "If your name is not on it, thank you for coming out but we do not have room for you this year. And if your name IS on it, congratulations." Silence comes the next second as everyone waits to see if the man is done. When Webber turns around to walk off, tens of women jump to their feet and run as fast as they can to the board.
Almost immediately cursing and crying and yelling is heard as woman after woman is let down.
"One? !" A shorter woman exclaims. "They only took one? ! What the hell? This is bullshit!" Some agree, getting wound up with her, while most just shrug it off and accept that this year was not their year.
"You coming?" Susan asks Arizona as she stands and starts to head to the board.
"Ummm… I'll wait." The blonde answers. She doesn't want to look with a crowd. She doesn't want to show her sadness and disappointment to anyone, and she especially doesn't want to have to see the face of that ONE woman who was just so lucky enough to snag a spot.
Arizona Robbins sits, for five… ten… twenty minutes. Just waiting for woman after woman to read the board and stalk off disappointed. When only a handful of people are left hanging around, the blonde stands and walks slowly over to the paper flopping in the breeze. It feels like the death march, each step a step closer to the end or the beginning… depending on how you look at it.
Waiting for one last woman to unstick her feet from in front of the board, Arizona steps up and takes a deep breath, preparing herself to be let down… again. Preparing herself to let her family down… again. But when her eyes find the hand written name, her heart leaps.
Arizona Robbins #89
"Oh my god…" She whispers, then reads her name again just to make sure. "Oh my god." Realization slowly sinking in. "Oh my god!" She yells, jumping up and down, trying to find someone to hug. But no one is there, except for Webber who has taken a seat on the dugout bench. He walks tall, stalking up to the excited woman.
"Arizona Robbins, I presume?" Webber asks with a bright smile.
"Yes!" The blonde squeals, but remembers who she is addressing and quickly calms down. "Ummm… I mean, yes. Yes, sir. I am."
"Congratulations, and welcome to Team USA." Webber says, proffering his hand. Arizona quickly takes it and gives it a hard shake. "If you'll follow me, we got some thing to discuss." Richard turns to lead the blonde back to his car so they can sort out a number of other matters, but when the man's back is to her, the blonde can't resist pulling out one last little happy dance. And then just like that, her professional mask is pulled back down and she falls into step next to her new coach… and at every step, Arizona repeats "I made it. I made it."
AN2: So… tell me what you think. This chapter was a little choppy, jumping from girl to girl, but it should smooth out more from here. Just needed to introduce each one of the separately. Don't know how regularly I'll be able to update but I'll try for atleast ONCE a week. Let me know what you think…