Kate Bono – YA Contemporary – LEADING OFF
On the baseball field, seventeen-year-old Alex Kingstin hits more homeruns than all the guys on her team combined. But off the field, she’s never made it to first base.
When Alex’s Major League dreams lead her to try out for her high school’s all-boy team, she begins practicing with her childhood friend and varsity shortstop, Jackson. One look at him makes her heart rate skyrocket, but she knows he’ll never like someone who’s a better player than he is. Especially a girl who’d rather be covered in mud than wear makeup. So, Alex trades her sweatpants and ponytails for tight jeans and curls, and when they practice, she fouls her bunts and misses her hits on purpose. Her plan works, and the two start dating. But when Alex makes varsity—stealing Jackson’s shortstop spot—she finds there’s something worse than being one of the guys: being labeled a liar and a hustler.
Shunned by Jackson and her teammates, Alex turns to the only guy who will speak to her, the hotheaded varsity captain, Connor. Suddenly, Alex is no longer the outcast. She thinks she’s finally been accepted as part of the team, until she learns the actual motivation for their treatment: Connor spread a rumor that they slept together. She convinces herself to ignore the hurt in Jackson’s eyes as long as her teammates continue to accept the desirable girl the rumor makes her out to be.
But when the off-field drama threatens her future baseball career, Alex must decide who she truly is: the flirty girl who causes locker room fights and broken hearts, or the kick-ass athlete all the other teams fear.
LEADING OFF is a young adult contemporary novel, and is complete at 57,000 words. I’m a registered nurse and former Little League baseball player.
Thank you for your time and consideration.
The chair makes an annoying squeak every time I swing my legs, but I can’t stop. If I don’t convince Coach Stevens to let me try out for his baseball team, I won’t have a chance to be seen by any college scouts.
My dad knocks on Coach Steven’s door for the third time.
“You aren’t nervous, are you?”
“No.” I plant my feet on the floor. Only a few seconds later, the squeaking resumes.
“Then why are you so fidgety?”
“I’m fine.” But I’m not.
Coach is now twenty minutes late for our meeting, and even though his light is off, I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s hiding in there. When it comes to baseball, my dad can be a little overwhelming.
“Do we really have an appointment?” If this is some kind of ambush, I’m going to kill him. This is the first time he’s taken off work in months. He deserves the benefit of the doubt, at least for five more minutes.
“Of course. I told you he’s excited to meet with us.” He doesn’t look at me when he answers.
I push to my feet and join him at the window. The baseball field is covered in snow, and icicles hang from the infield fence, but I imagine the dirt freshly raked with newly painted lines. I’m at shortstop running backwards with my glove in the air. My pulse quickens, and I touch the cool glass with my fingertips.
“He has to let me on this team,” I whisper. It’s about more than the college scouts. I belong on that field.
My head snaps toward the sound of hurried footsteps. Coach Stevens rounds the corner. The second our eyes meet, he scrunches his nose and raises his upper lip—the same way he did the last four times he told me no.
Coach Stevens reaches his hand toward my dad, and they shake. He doesn’t acknowledge me. I exhale slowly and force my lips into a smile. We follow him inside. I sit on a stiff chair in front of his desk, clutching the smooth metal armrest. My dad is so close to the edge of his seat that he might slip off.
The office walls are covered in team pictures, and I study the faces. The players all look the same: Tall, muscular guys with blank expressions. The photographers must have told them not to smile. If I make the team, I’ll smile anyway.
Coach Stevens adjusts the thermostat, then he sits. Small creases appear on his forehead and he glares at me with his left eyebrow raised. My face is starting to ache from holding this fake grin.
“Mr. Kingstin, I’ve reviewed Alexandra’s statistics that you sent over. But like I told you, I can’t allow a girl on the baseball team. Our softball team is one of the best in the state, and I’m sure Coach Jones would love to have her.”