Axe Man: The Peaches

Brian Sanger came to Atlanta in 1991, when the Braves went from being lovable losers to the powerhouse team they were to remain throughout most of the nineties. He found himself caught up in the fervor and after watching the team win the World Series in ‘95, decided that watching baseball wasn’t enough for him. He researched and found a city league in Atlanta, and within a few years of discovering his love for the game, found himself out on the field, where he developed into a decent shortstop, with a point three one five batting average. While in the city leagues, he befriended Lee Raines, a data analyst with Bickering Plummet, who works one floor down from Brian’s department, though they have never worked together. The year after Brian moves to Avondale Estates in 2003, Lee creates a team in the DeKalb County leagues called The Peaches, comprised of gay and transgender male players, and invites Brian to join the team. Since Lee is a shortstop, Brian moves to centerfield, where his strong right arm becomes a major asset to the team.

At first, the other teams have quite a time making fun of The Peaches, calling them The Sissy Boys, along with a lot of less polite names. Lee, captain of the team, stresses the basics of the game and insists on teamwork from day one. Standout players are expected to mentor their less accomplished teammates, and, at team meetings, everyone has a say, regardless of his place on the team. Practice is mandatory, and anyone who misses more than two without a valid excuse, is dropped from the roster. Despite the work involved, the first rule is for everyone to have fun and enjoy the camaraderie.

When they take the field for their first game, the jeers of the opposing teams’ fans, prompted by the team’s peach colored uniforms, and practice of singing Broadway numbers during warmups, are soon silenced, as they show themselves to be fierce competitors, with a good bit of flair. By the end of their first season, the team has garnered quite a few fans. They hold their first end of year awards soirée, catered by teammate Hector Rivera, and at the end of their third season, they invite the other teams in the league to join them. It quickly becomes the social event of the season, along with the preseason mixer the league sponsors.

The star pitcher for The Peaches is Stan Markham, an expressive man the team calls “Swish”. Other teams derisively referred to him in that manner when he started with the team, due to his mannerisms off the field, but the team now maintains that the name represents the sound his pitches make when they go past the batter. Few in the league look forward to playing the team when Swish is on the mound. A very flamboyant personality off the field, when he suits up and takes the mound, he’s deadly serious, with a thousand-yard stare that chills the blood of even the most fearsome of batters. His fast ball has been clocked as high as 100.5 MPH, and his change-up has yet to be hit by an opposing player. His reflexes are lightning quick, and once, he caught a line drive, spun about, threw out the runner at third and was halfway back to the dugout before the batter even realized the inning was over.

Being the chief male influence in his family, Brian sees it as his responsibility to be a father figure to his nephew, Ishmael, and fosters Izzy’s interest in baseball, taking him to games, player appearances and training camps, and teaching Izzy the finer points of how to hit a ball and field. When Izzy shows an interest in pitching, Brian asks Swish to give the boy some pointers. Izzy shows a talent for it and picks up everything he’s taught quickly. Swish helps Izzy cultivate his fast ball and changeup and makes some suggestions on how to deliver a slow curve. Swish notes that Izzy can pitch just as well with his left hand as with his right and encourages Izzy to develop the talent. Charlotte decides against letting Izzy play little league, however, worrying that his studies might suffer, after she had to cut back on his musical practice for the same reason. She agrees, though, if his study habits improve, he can try out for the team in high school.

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