Kerry and I were in the same reading session at GayRomLit, so we had a little baseball extravaganza going there. Kerry contacted me about doing a baseball-related guest post a while back, and I was like, “Of course!” I am all about promoting sports romances. So, without further ado, here’s Kerry. — Kate

I vaguely remember watching baseball as a child. My brother loved sports of all kinds, and I watched a few games here and there with no deep interest or allegiance to any one team.

But in 1998, things changed. I began to watch the Home Run Race between Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa as a news event. Soon, though, I started watching the actual games. And I liked them.

To me, baseball was more a scientific sport, all curves and trajectories. Games weren’t won by knocking the other guy on his ass. Actually, hitting an opposing player would get someone thrown out of the game. There was talk of the sweet spot and averages… and I was a goner.

Once I fell in love with the game, picking a favorite team was a no-brainer: the Atlanta Braves all the way, baby. And when a cute little second baseman I noticed during the Home Run Race went to play for them in 1999, I was even more devoted.

Come on, I am not going to sit here and pretend that I don’t notice the boys in their tight little pants. *swoon* Sure, I love the game, but I can definitely appreciate the scenery.

That year, the Braves went to the World Series against the hated New York Yankees (okay, maybe it’s just me that hates them). I managed to get tickets to the first game, which was played at Turner Field in Atlanta, and, even though I was in the nosebleed section and the Braves lost, I will never forget the wonder of that game.

In my new book Pine Tar & Sweet Tea, both Matt and René are former professional baseball players turned high school coaches. They both were closeted during their playing days, but only Matt has remained in the closet now that he’s a coach. They both love the game, and their lives are dedicated to the young men they lead.

To date, there has not been an active Major League baseball player come out publicly, although there have been players who have come out after retirement. While one hopes things are changing for gay players, there are still examples of overt homophobia by players, most recently a player suspended for having a homophobic slur written on his eye black.

It’s only a matter of time before an active player comes out. The 2012 Summer Olympics saw numerous out athletes competed, and recently an active featherweight boxer came out. NFL players routinely speak in favor of marriage equality. Hopefully soon the environment will be such that any athlete in any sport will feel free to be who they are.

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Thank you Kate for having me on your blog! And everyone, please visit the tour kickoff post to enter the super-duper tour giveaway.

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About Kerry:

Kerry was born and raised in Alabama, and she grew up swearing she was going to get the hell out of Dodge the instant she could. Turns out Dodge ain’t so bad, and she never left. Alabama’s version of a city girl, she married a country boy, and the adorkable couple lives in a small town with their two socially awkward dogs.

Kerry loves to write about love, and it turns out most of the voices in her head are men. She also loves to write about the South, so most of her stories end up there, one way or another.

A tomboy and a geek from way back, Kerry has a day job but dreams she will one day write full time. She has a weakness for yaoi, Japanese stationery, YA, and ginger-haired singers from Britain. She owns an impressive t-shirt collection. Nowaki & Hiroki are her homeboys.

Links

Website: http://kerryfreeman.com/

Blog: http://blog.kerryfreeman.com/

Monthly Newsletter: http://eepurl.com/pkZ95

Twitter: https://twitter.com/kfwritesbooks

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/authorkerryfreeman

Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/4759363.Kerry_Freeman

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And check out an excerpt under the cut:

Pine Tar & Sweet Tea
by Kerry Freeman

edited by Jules Robin
cover by Fiona Jayde
published by Loose Id

Contemporary M/M
118 pages

Buy at Loose Id: http://www.loose-id.com/pine-tar-sweet-tea.html

Buy at Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Pine-Tar-Sweet-Tea-ebook/dp/B009O74DVC/

Buy at ARe: https://www.allromanceebooks.com/product-pinetarsweettea-970104-145.html

Blurb

After playing eleven years in the Minor Leagues, Coach Matt Hawley has returned to his tiny Alabama hometown to lead his old high school baseball team to their first state championship. At the other end of the state, René Días, who left the Major League after one season, is getting his team ready to defend their state title for the second straight year. One is in the closet. The other is between relationships. Neither has any intention of hooking up at the state tournament.

Then they see each other.

Pre-game lust turns into an intense one-night stand neither man can forget, and when their best friends embark on a romance, Matt and René are thrown together again. This time they decide it won’t be for just a single night. But the fear of disappointing his minister father and shaming his family forces Matt to keep one foot in the closet, even as he and René find their lust is maybe something more. He’s going to have to make a choice between between his family and his freedom.

Excerpt

The clubhouse was sweltering, and René took his cap off to wipe his brow. The rows of lockers and wooden benches always reminded him of playing in the majors, where reporters wouldn’t even wait for the players to get fully dressed before accosting them for quotes about that night’s game. He’d never quite become comfortable with holding court while dripping wet and towel skirted. Then again, he’d never quite become comfortable with a lot of things he encountered his one year of major league play.

“Good afternoon, Coach Días.” The umpire walked toward him with an extended hand. “Good to see you again.”

René shook the umpire’s hand. “Good to see you again too. Hopefully you’ve had a good year.”

“A very good year. Thanks for asking.” The umpire nodded at David. “Hello, Coach Reynolds.”

“Hey, Bob,” David said, smiling. “No need to be so formal. We’re old friends by now.”

“Let’s just say I definitely wasn’t surprised to see your team back in the finals.” The umpire smiled. “Gonna be a great series, that’s for sure. Your opposition looks good.”

René’s ears practically twitched at the mention of the team from North Alabama. “Have you met their coach yet?”

“Met him this morning. He’s quiet, seems pretty serious. Nice fella too.” The umpire chuckled. “Speaking of which… Hello, Coach Hawley.”

The gracious greeting René planned stuck in his throat the instant he turned and gazed into a pair of intense blue eyes. René forced himself not to gaze up and down the opposing coach’s tall, tight body, but he couldn’t help following as Hawley slowly licked his lips. Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, the man had the most incredible wheat-blond hair just begging to be pulled.

David cleared his throat. “Um, Coach Hawley, I’m David Reynolds, Mobile’s first-base coach.” He shook Hawley’s hand. “This is René Días, our head coach.”

René finally remembered he was supposed to talk. “Nice to meet you, Coach Hawley.” René held out his hand.

Coach Hawley wrapped his long fingers around René’s hand and held on to it. “Nice to meet you too. Call me Matt, though.”

“We’ve been looking forward to playing your team.” René smiled when Matt’s grip tightened. “I’ve heard great things about how you’ve developed the team since you took over this year. Congratulations on your first state final.”

“Thank you. This is your school’s third year in a row here. That’s a sure sign you’re doing something right down in Mobile.”

If there was a sure way into René’s good graces, it was to compliment his team. He could think of plenty of other ways the gorgeous Matt Hawley could impress him—most involving them being naked together—but they had a few baseball games to play. René released Matt’s hand and tried to ignore David’s bug-eyed look at his side.

The meeting with the umpire was a formality. They discussed the rules of the best-of-three series and the umpire’s definition of the strike zone, and the coaches gave the umpire their batting order. René concentrated on each word of the umpire’s speech and blocked out the coach next to him. Baseball was serious business, and he couldn’t let Matt, however tasty he appeared to be, distract him. But as soon as the meeting was over, René found himself locked into that deep blue gaze again.

Matt swallowed slowly. “Well, René, it was nice meeting you. Good luck.”

“Thanks.” René could feel his cheeks heat. “Good luck to you guys too.”

Taking two steps back, Matt pulled on his baseball cap and smiled before turning to walk away. René couldn’t take his eyes off the slow sway of Matt’s hips. For just an instant, he imagined digging his fingers into those hips and the kind of bruises it would leave on Matt’s fair skin.

“Down, boy!” David punched René’s arm. “And retract your tongue before you close your mouth.”

René suddenly remembered where he was. “You think he noticed?”

“You’re kidding, right? I would say he noticed you every bit as much as you noticed him.”

“I meant— Oh!” René stared toward the door. “Cool.”

David shook his head. “Son of a bitch,” he muttered as he stomped off. “Biggest game of the year, and now he decides to take the dick out of storage.” He spun around and faced René again. “Just great!”

René jogged over to David and threw his arm around David’s shoulders. “Aww, come on, baby. Don’t be jealous.” He guffawed when David shoved him away. “You’re still my favorite guy, even if you kiss like a girl.”

An extended middle finger was the only farewell David gave him. Still chuckling to himself, René pulled his cap down over his eyes, adjusted himself, and walked into the sunlight to begin batting practice.