BLURB: Matt Blanco has had a hall-of-fame worthy career as the first baseman for the legendary Brooklyn Eagles, but age and a knee injury are threatening to end it. That’s when rookie Ignacio Rodriguez walks into his life. Matt has a policy of not getting involved with anyone for fear that they might share his secret with the world: that he’s a gay professional athlete. But this new rookie has him wanting to throw that policy out the window.
Iggy Rodriguez just got everything he ever wanted: a position in the starting lineup of the Brooklyn Eagles, his favorite team since he was a kid. Even better, he’s playing alongside his idol Matt Blanco. A locker room encounter one day reveals that he and Matt have even more in common than he would have guessed.
When Matt and Iggy fall for each other, they have a hard road ahead, their path to happiness blocked by injuries, trades, and the New York media hungry for a scandal. It looks like they will have to face the choice between love and baseball. Which will they choose?
“Brilliant! Moving! A wonderful romance and homage to baseball.” — 5+ Stars, Desert Island Keeper from Wave at Reviews by Jessewave
“At the end there’s not much more to say than pick up the book and enjoy.” — 4 stars from The Romance Reviews
All baseball players have OCD. That was the only explanation, Matt Blanco thought, for all the pregame ritual. He carefully went through his home-game routine: he closed his locker and tapped the door twice; he fiddled with the collar of the T-shirt he had on under his uniform; he touched the wall of the hallway leading out of the locker room. As he walked toward the dugout, he caught sight of June Redstone, an elderly widow of a former star of the team, and leaned toward her as he passed; she dutifully kissed his cheek.
He heard the din of the crowd roaring as he got closer to the field. The rise in volume was probably due to Matt’s teammate Jefferson Jones jogging over to the bull pen to warm up. Normally Matt would have trotted out to the field and waved, but today he had other things on his mind, namely his new teammate.
Matt was trying really hard not to think about his new teammate.
He sneaked into the dugout and pulled on his cap. The new guy was nowhere in sight, luckily. Shortstop Manuel Cruz sauntered over and plopped down on the bench, where he kissed the thin gold bracelet on his wrist, part of his own pregame ritual. That completed, he grinned at Matt. “You’re out here a little early,” he said.
“Eh. Warm-up was done sooner than usual. I figured I’d come and look at my adoring fans.”
“Sure,” said Cruz. “Did you hear about Miller?”
“No. What about Miller?”
Cruz leaned back, his smile smug. “As of Monday, he’ll be wearing a Red Sox uniform.”
“Oh fuck, no.” Matt didn’t especially like Evan Miller, but he was a terrific third baseman with a pretty high batting average.
“They took him and a handful of Triple-A guys in exchange for Rodriguez.”
And speak of the devil, who should appear in the dugout just then but Ignacio Rodriguez, apparently the Brooklyn Eagles’ new starting third baseman. It was his first time in the Eagles’ blue and red home-game uniform, but he wore it like he was born in it.
Matt had attended the big press conference the day before. He’d learned two important pieces of information: first, Rodriquez had been batting above .400 when he’d been in the minors, playing for the Pawtucket Red Sox, which was probably why he’d been such a hot commodity when it came time to trade players; and second, he was about the best-looking man Matt had ever set eyes on, if you liked your men Latin and young—which Matt did. Although, man, this guy was young. He also had close-cropped black hair, dark skin about the same color as Matt took his coffee, a long nose, a wide mouth, and a tight body. When Rodriguez grinned, light seemed to bounce off his teeth.
The stats were good. The other thing was a huge problem.
Cruz leaned in and whispered, “What do you think of the new kid?”
The new kid was talking to Bill Haverman, so Matt felt safe offering an opinion. “Good numbers, if you buy the sabermetrics.” It wasn’t always enough to have good numbers, though. Maybe that was an old-school opinion, but Matt’s experience bore it out. Players with good numbers didn’t work well with some teams. If Rodriguez bombed, it wouldn’t be the first time the Eagles had traded for an ace who ultimately had an abysmal season.
“That’s something,” said Cruz. “I talked to him yesterday. He seems like a nice kid. Also, Mistry’s finally off the DL.”
“Oh, I hadn’t heard that either.”
“Dude. Where have you been all day?”
“Dandy. Ain’t nothing wrong with me except that I’m an old man.” That, and his knee had been sore all week, but that wasn’t something he was eager to volunteer.
“Good to hear, I guess.” Cruz patted Matt’s thigh.
Terry Wistler, the batting coach, walked over and glared at Cruz. “Focus,” was all he said before he moved on to something else.
Matt looked at Cruz, who shrugged. “I was sloppy yesterday,” he said. “So what did you end up doing last night?”
“Friends of mine had a party,” Matt said. Cruz didn’t need to know that, at said party, Matt had met a hot guy who knew absolutely nothing about baseball. Matt had then taken the man to a hotel room in Brooklyn he’d reserved just in case. It pained him a little that he couldn’t say this to Cruz, who was probably his closest friend on the team after pitcher Roger May.
Roger wandered into the dugout then. Matt nodded at him. Cruz said, “Sounds fun. You get laid?”
“I got laid,” Matt said. He grinned.
Cruz thought sex threw him off his game, so he stayed celibate most of the season. Exceptions were made for special occasions—during the All-Star break, the night he’d hit his two hundredth home run—but he stuck to that for the most part. His abstinence, however, did not keep him from getting the scoop from everyone else. Matt thought for a straight man, Cruz was a terrible gossip.
“And you, sir?” Cruz said to Roger. “You and your lady friend have a good night?”
“Lauren and I are married now,” Roger said. “She’s not my lady friend; she’s my wife.”
“You pitching tonight?” Matt asked.
“Nope. I’m starting tomorrow.”
While Cruz and Roger shot the shit, Matt looked around. Rodriguez pulled his batting helmet out of its slot and weighed it in his hands. He put it back. He seemed nervous. As unofficial team captain, Matt knew it was his duty to go try to calm down the new guy, to be friendly and welcoming. But that would involve actually talking to Rodriguez.
Besides, just then Haverman started barking orders. For all intents and purposes, the game had begun.