The following week, March surprised everyone with near-record temperatures. Mike checked the weather report three times before leaving the gym, and when it still predicted a high of sixty-five with zero precipitation, he grabbed two gloves and baseballs from his office before driving to Pine Point Elementary.
“Thought we might do a little preseason training,” he said when he walked into Room Eighteen. He held up the gloves. Silas almost fell out of the rocking chair, and his eyes lit up. He ran to Mike and took one of the gloves, stroking the soft leather, and laying it next to his cheek.
“Mr. Mike, we always do read-alongs on Fridays at two o’clock,” Caleb informed him with a worried expression. He turned to Sienna. “Miss Cruz, we always—”
“I know,” she said. She put one hand on his shoulder and steered him to a seat at the table. “But since the weather’s so nice today, how about we read two books instead of three, and then if there’s time, we’ll go outside and play catch.”
Caleb eyed her with doubt, but he didn’t say anything else. After Mike had finished Where the Wild Things Are and I’m Going to the World Series!, he picked up a glove again. “Who can tell me what this part is?” he asked as he ran his fingers over the inside.
“Pocket!” Silas called out. He clapped and beamed.
“You’re right. That’s where we always want to catch the ball.” Mike picked up a ball in his other hand. “Now, does anyone know why baseballs have stitches on them?”
Silas grew sober. Caleb’s face screwed up in concentration. No one answered.
“Well, one thing the stitches do is keep the inside part where it’s supposed to be. There’s a center of rubber inside this leather, but the rubber has to stay on the inside.”
“Can you imagine if our insides were on the outside?” Sienna asked the class.
“Ewww!” said one of the twins.
“We don’t have stitches, but what do we have?” she asked.
“Skin,” Caleb answered. “Lots of it.”
“Right.” Mike said with a grin and tried not to think about Sienna’s perfect skin, or how it tasted after a shower. “The second thing the stitches do is give the pitcher control when he’s throwing the ball. He can hold the ball a certain way, and spin the ball a certain way, to make the stitches catch the air and move.”
The boys stared without speaking.
“Too much?” Mike asked in a low voice.
Sienna smiled. “Maybe. Let’s skip the mechanics for today and just take advantage of this sunshine.” She clapped her hands three times. “I want everyone to put on their coats and line up at the door. We have fifteen minutes before dismissal, and Mr. Mike is going to go outside with us and show us how to throw and catch a baseball.”
The boys tumbled over each other in their eagerness. Dawn moved at a slower pace. By the time she joined them at the door, the others had already inched their way into the hall and toward the back door.
They were the only ones on the playground, which made it easy to pair up and practice throwing. Silas took one glove, Mike kept the other, and the twins and Caleb took turns throwing the ball to them both.
“Not bad,” Mike said. He struggled to keep from laughing every time a toss went wild. Billy had the least control of them all. Most of his throws ended up in the weeds or under a tree ten feet behind Mike. But no one seemed to care. Bailey retrieved them, and sometimes Caleb measured the distance of the errant throw by striding to the tree and back, doing calculations in his head.
“They’re a funny bunch, aren’t they?” he said to Sienna as she reined them in after ten minutes. “I don’t mean funny bad.” He wasn’t sure what he meant.
“Yes, they are,” she agreed. “But they’re my funny bunch.” She took his arm. “And yours too, now that you’re spending so much time with them.”
Spring Secrets releases on May 17th - or you can pre-order it today at any of the links below! (Check and see if the Samhain store is still running a 30% off special)