A/N: Covid-19 does not exist in this story's timeline.

Hit By Pitch

Jaycob Pavoni spotted Andy Ackerman as soon as he walked into Mason's Restaurant. The Phys Ed teacher waved the math teacher to his booth where he was sitting with a mixed drink in front of him.

"Jake, thanks for coming," Andy said as Jaycob slid into the bench across from him.

"We could have met at work," Jaycob said with confusion. "We see each other practically every day."

"I wanted to do this away from the school," Andy explained.

"Do what?" Jaycob asked.

"Something to drink?" Andy asked, signaling for the waitress.

"Rum and coke is fine," Jaycob said to the waitress who appeared at the table. "What's going on, Andy?" he asked when the waitress left. "Why all the cloak and dagger stuff?"

"Oh, so you want me to cut right to the chase," Andy realized. "No small talk first?"

"You wouldn't have asked me here just to shoot the shit," Jaycob said knowingly.

The waitress returned with Jaycob's rum and coke.

"Thanks, Betty," Andy said with a grin, watching as the waitress walked away.

Jaycob knew Andy Ackerman long enough to know that he always had a plan, always had an agenda, always had a purpose.

"So?" Jaycob asked, taking a sip from his drink. "What's the deal?"

"I'm resigning as the baseball coach over at Miller City," Andy announced.

"Oh?" Jaycob was legitimately surprised. "It's only been three years. What about your grand plan of using the Mudhens as a resume bullet for the next step up, hopefully Green College?"

"My marriage is in trouble," Andy announced heavily. "Terri doesn't like my commute. Takes too much time away from the family driving 45 minutes round trip every day in the spring."

"I can understand that," Jaycob replied.

"It was one of the concessions I made in counseling," Andy revealed.

"Counseling?" Again Jaycob was surprised. "Geez, are things really that bad?"

"Things haven't been going well for a while," Andy sighed. He leaned over the table. "She had an affair to get my attention," he said softly.

"Jesus," A stunned Jaycob said with disbelief. He didn't think Terri was that kind of person.

"We got two kids, Jake," Andy grumbled. "I can't walk away now."

"Well, I'm really sorry, Andy," Jaycob said with sincerity. "You had a good thing going with that team."

"It's really tough giving it up," he said with regret.

"Well, your wife and kids are more important than baseball," Jaycob reasoned.

"I knew you'd understand," Andy said with relief.

"Anything I can do to help?" Jaycob naively asked.

"Well, now that you mention it, that's why I wanted to talk to you," Andy admitted.

"Anything," Jaycob vowed.

"I need you to resign as head baseball coach of the Mt. Griffin Mountaineers," Andy bluntly announced.

Jaycob laughed, thinking Andy was goofing around but then he saw the serious look on the guy's face and Jaycob looked at him blankly.

"What are you talking about?" Jaycob frowned.

"I want to come back and coach the Griffs," Andy said.

"You left," Jaycob said.

"Just as coach," Andy reminded him. "I haven't lost any seniority staying on at Griffin as Phys Ed teacher. So, according to union rules, I'm entitled to getting my job back."

"You left," Jaycob said again, more heated this time.

"Do you really want to drag Jo, the school, the school committee, the team and the union through this?" Andy asked.

"Did you talk to Jo?" Jaycob asked with suspicion.

"I may have floated a trial balloon," Andy revealed. "You know," he added. "I'm the one who recommended Jo hire you as my replacement. She could have just as easily gone with Stats McGee."

"You expect me to walk away from the team and the commitment I made to those guys?" a stunned Jaycob asked.

"You've only won 12 games in three seasons, Jake," Andy said candidly. "I won 12 games with the team my last season here."

"You know we had a lot of turn over and have a young team with just fourteen players," Jaycob said defensively. "We've been rebuilding."

"Who do you think is going to win in the court of public opinion?" Andy asked. "I'm the legend around here."

"You're asking me to quit the team because your wife slept with someone else?" Jaycob asked bitterly.

"That's not for public consumption, Jake," Andy warned angrily. "I told you that in the strictest of confidence and I expect you to honor my privacy with respect and class."

Jaycob sat back on the bench. "Boy, you always get what you want, don't you?"

"Always have," Andy said proudly. "When you're one of the best ball players ever to come out of Mt. Griffin High School, you get certain privileges."

"You're a gym teacher."

"And you were a lousy ball player," Andy snipped in response. "I need you to submit your letter of resignation to Jo tomorrow before I quit Miller City."

Jaycob peered at him with squinted eyes. "So it will look like you're leaving the Mudhens to replace me in a noble honorable step down gesture for the good of the school," he realized. "To look like a True Griff."

Andy nodded affirmatively. "It's all about image."

"You're a bastard," Jaycob growled. "No wonder Terri stepped out on you."

"Can I count on you or not?" Andy snapped.

"I've been covering your ass for twenty-five years," Jaycob complained.

"You liked riding my coattails," Andy reminded him. "Don't start whining about it now. You think the school committee would have hired you to coach the team without my input and okay? You had your three years of fame and glory and you still screwed it up because you're a lousy coach. Suck it up and walk away."

"We're done," Jaycob told him. "This is the last time I bail you out, cover for you, defend you, protect you, or have anything to do with you."

"Whatever you say," Andy shrugged. He leaned across the table. "You're just a math teacher, Jake."

Jaycob stood and threw a ten dollar bill on the table. "This is the last time you hit me with a pitch," he said.

"Just resign for personal reasons," Andy ordered. "Tomorrow. And make sure Jo lets the News and Dispatch know. I'll resign next week and Jo can submit my name to the Mt. Griffin school board the week after for the Griff Job."

"You're still no better than me," Jaycob said.

"My stats say otherwise. So doesn't my resume and press clippings. I made it to Triple A. You washed out of the Serguci League."

"All that may be true," Jaycob replied. "But I'm still the better man."

Andy didn't respond as Jaycob left the restaurant.