• Published 31st Jul 2022
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The Greatest Slugger of Them All - libertydude

Auntie Lofty had a past she didn't want to talk about. Scootaloo had a classroom that was dying to know.

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The Pitch

“-And that’s how I helped build Ponyville’s roads!”

Lofty clopped along with the rest of the schoolfillies, though with slightly more enthusiasm than the children could muster for the burly stallion in a hardhat standing at the front of the classroom. The fellow either didn’t seem to notice the children’s disinterest or took the reaction in stride. With a quick nod to Miss Cheerilee, he gathered up his tools and made his way toward the door.

“Thank you, Mr. Freeway,” Miss Cheerilee said, sitting at attention from her desk. Her dark cerise coat contrasted against the brighter classroom, yet her welcoming smile and calm face still radiated a warmth that made her seem right at home in the pastel-laden environment. She gazed down at a slip of paper before looking up at the class.

“For our final presentation of the day, we will be hearing from Scootaloo’s aunt, Mrs. Lofty,” Miss Cheerilee said in a light and pleasant voice. “Please give her a warm welcome, class!”

Lofty grasped the large box beside her and heaved forward to the front of the class. A large quilt covered the box, the design of a cozy stone home surrounded by mountains filling its patchwork. The same lackadaisical clopping from the students followed her up, though Lofty could just make out Scootaloo clopping a tad harder than the others.

Yet it wasn’t her niece who caught most of Lofty’s attention. As she parked herself up front, Lofty spied a little filly in the front row, furthest to her right. The girl’s mane was a pale violet, adorned with white streaks and a shining tiara propped upon the crown of her head. Her light magenta body, slumped and loose during Freeway’s talk, immediately sat up straight the second her eyes met Lofty’s. Nothing but friendliness filled her face, yet Lofty could see a gleam in her eyes not unlike that of a wolf spying a lonely sheep.

Hello, Diamond Tiara, Lofty thought, then gave the class a thin smile. Much like Diamond Tiara, the rest of the class seemed to gain an immediate interest the second Lofty placed herself before the chalkboard, still caked with dust from the day’s erased lessons.

“Hey, everypony!” Lofty said, giving a small wave. “Thanks for the warm greeting. My name’s Lofty, and I wanted to share a few things about myself.” She reached toward the box and uplifted the quilt.

The full scene of the home in the mountains spread itself for the class to see. A small brook eased its way past the stone house, a school of fish leaping up against the onrushing current. Faint puffs of smoke could be seen escaping the house’s chimney. A sextet of ponies, two full-grown and four smaller, stood beside the home, their faces inscrutable as their surroundings dwarfed them. What space wasn’t taken up by the snow-capped mountains was filled with evergreens, a different clash of emerald filling each tree and seeming to shimmer with each movement of the quilt.

“Ever since I was a little filly, I always wanted to quilt,” Lofty said, beaming. “I’d grown up seeing my grandmother and a lot of cousins do it, so you could say I got a head start for earning my cutie mark.” She pointed down toward her flank, where an image of a spool of thread and needle adorned her pale yellow fur. “And, despite what you may think, quilts actually are a big part of our Equestrian heritage. I was born and raised in Seaddle, and a lot of the early Equestrian settlers there weaved pictures into their quilts that told stories. Some of them were of famous ponies of old, like Flash Magnus and Meadowbrook.”

She looked down at the outstretched quilt and smiled. “And some of them were smaller stories about the families that made them, like this one. This,” she said, pointing to the stone house, “was the home my great-grandfather built when his family first moved there. When he finally built it, my great-grandmother made this quilt to commemorate their home.” She pointed toward the group of ponies standing outside the house. “That’s them, along with my grandfather and all of his siblings.”

Lofty looked out to the class and saw what she expected. Most of the children stared at her, only half-interested in the talk and eyes beginning to glaze over. One colt didn’t even bother looking forward and was blowing his pencil across his desk. The only exceptions were four fillies: Scootaloo, her friends Applebloom and Sweetie Belle, and Diamond Tiara. While the latter three seemed to hold genuine interest, Diamond Tiara’s seemed cloying and manufactured. The curves of her mouth stretched into a slight sneer, imperceptible to anypony who wasn’t looking for it, and her eyes continued their wolfish gleam.

She shot a brief look to Scootaloo further down her row, that same sneer plastered across her face. A look that said, “Oh, this is your ball-player aunt? Then where’s the trophies and pictures? Maybe she wasn’t as big a deal as you said, hmm? Maybe she didn’t even play baseball at all, you fibber!”

Yet so enveloped in her silent gloating, Diamond Tiara did not notice the contemptuous gleam in Lofty’s own eyes. They met Scootaloo’s, still facing her aunt despite Diamond Tiara’s mocking eyes boring into the side of her head. Scootaloo gave no outward sign that the time was right; no wink, no nod of the head, or any motion with her hooves. It was only the promises from last night and the unspoken bond between niece and aunt that told Lofty the time was right.

Lofty gave a soft sigh, her legs tensing. “Of course, all of this quilting stuff goes back far in my family,” she said, starting to fold the quilt back up. “And it certainly has played a big part in my life as well. But…” She gave a coy smile to the class. “I know quilting isn’t always the most exciting thing to talk about for some fillies. So I figured I’d tell you all about something else I used to do.” With that, she whipped the quilt off the top of the box.

A series of gasps went through the classroom. Inside the box sat an unmistakable gleam of gold, brilliant in the bright classroom and the sharp sunshine cascading through the windows. Amplifying the effect were the numerous glass photo frames reflecting the golden light even further from its dark abode. Lofty reached in and pulled the main cause of the shine: a small trophy depicting a pony catching a ball in midair, only one of her back legs touching the ground and her left front hoof stretching high to grasp the falling ball.

“This,” Lofty said, “is the Goldie Glove I won in my second year with the Seaddle Sluggers.”

“Ooh, ooh!” a bright yellow colt called from the back, raising his hoof excitedly. His grey-striped baseball cap bobbed atop his dark black mane. “Does that mean you were with the team when they were in the Marejor Leagues?”

“Pop Fly, please keep your questions until the end,” Cheerilee rebuked softly. “We need to hear all of Mrs. Lofty’s story first.”

Lofty smiled. “It’s okay, Miss Cheerilee. Yes, Pop Fly, I was in the team back when it was in the Marejor Leagues. That was a bit before your fillies’ time, so I’ll explain. Unlike today, where mares and stallions play together in the Equestrian Baseball League, we used to separate mares and stallions in baseball. Not because we didn’t like each other, but just because a lot of ponies were worried that stallions and mares weren’t on equal ground. Some ponies thought stallions would hit more homeruns and mares would steal more bases and things like that. So we had two baseball leagues: the Stallion Baseball League for the boys, and the Marejor League Baseball for the girls.”

She reached into the box and brought out a picture. Three lines of mares filled the picture, each bedecked in a uniform of white with dark green stripes. “I played a lot of baseball when I was in school and was decent enough, but I didn’t think it'd be much more than fun. Then, one day, a-” There was a brief wistful look upon Lofty’s face for a split-second, then her smile returned. “A scout saw me playing and told me to try out for the Seaddle Sluggers as a walk-on.”

She chuckled. “I didn’t think much would come of it. After all, scouts tell ballplayers all the time that they’ll be big stars, and how many of them actually get to the big leagues? Anyway, I decided to go just for fun and be able to say I did it.” She shook her head. “Wouldn’t you know it though, I got contacted the week after and told to report to the team house. I talked with my family and we figured, even if it wasn’t my first choice of work, the opportunity to play on a professional team doesn’t come that often, so why not take advantage of it?”

“How long did you play?” Pop Fly called out.

“Questions at the end, Pop Fly!” Cheerilee said, a little more forcefully this time.

Lofty laughed. “Five years, son. All of them for the Seaddle Sluggers and all of them as a right-fielder.” She gave the trophy a little shake. “This little girl was the result of a couple dozen sliding catches I did throughout the season.”

“Did you ever win another one?” a red-maned filly in thick-framed glasses squeaked out.

Cheerilee placed her face in her hooves. “Teachers don’t give instructions anymore, just suggestions,” she muttered under her breath.

Lofty shook her head. “No, sadly. Queenie Catch joined the League the next year for the Manehattan Maidens and pretty much kept me out of the running after that.” She reached into the box. “But even Berry Bons couldn’t stop me from getting these each year.”

Lofty pulled out a quintet of statues that filled both her front legs. Each had the same figure: a silver mare leaning on her back hoof as she held a baseball bat beside her shoulder. The other back hoof hung in the air, stepping forward for an oncoming ball.

“These are the Slugger Silvers I got each year I played,” she said.

“That’s for the League’s best hitters!” Pop Fly called out.

“That’s right, Pop Fly,” Lofty said, trying not to chuckle as Cheerilee simply laid her head on her desk and into her hooves. “I always got at least 50 home runs a season.” She pointed to one of the trophies, which had a slightly deeper silver than the others. “That trophy’s from the year I managed to get 67, the highest in the League for that year.”

Exclamations of excitement filled the room. Lofty looked out, smiling as the fillies and colts chittered excitedly amongst each other. She then found her eyes drifting towards Diamond Tiara for the first time since she started talking about baseball. No longer did a smug grin fill the filly’s face, but instead a gape of amazement. The second she noticed Lofty looking at her, however, her face seemed to stiffen and force itself into an artificial smile. Yet the edges of her mouth twitched, fighting to prevent itself from curving her lips downward and turning the expression into an outright grimace.

Lofty knew that look; she’d seen it on a dozen pitchers who suddenly realized that she wasn’t any ordinary batter. This was a batter the pitcher had to hate, to truly despise to work up the energy to get them out. Diamond Tiara couldn’t just take the loss and go back to the dugout, thinking over her mistakes and planning for the next game. No, she needed a win now, and if she couldn’t get that at Scootaloo’s expense, she’d get it at Lofty’s.

Diamond Tiara daintily raised her hoof. “Oh, Mrs. Lofty,” she said in a voice that tried to sound welcoming, but dripped with too much honey to be anything but fake. “Why did you only play five seasons? I thought most ball-players played for fifteen years or so. You weren’t injured, I hope?”

Lofty withheld a chuckle. Clever little filly, she thought. Despicable, terrible, and definitely a future business tycoon, but clever all the same.

“Oh no, Diamond Tiara,” Lofty said with the same counterfeit honey in her tone. “I simply got bored with baseball after a while. Things get awful boring when you become the best.”

Diamond Tiara’s visage darkened. A master of subtle insults, she could tell a rebuke from a mile away.

“Besides,” Lofty continued, “I found that all that travel and physicality took too much out of me to actually do my quilting. So, I made a choice to pursue quilting rather than stay in the League. It was fun for a while, but…” Her eyes seemed to gaze past the students and out the windows to the amber hills surrounding Ponyville. “Sometimes being happy is better than being the greatest.”

The rest of the kids began to pipe up, launching a hundred questions Lofty’s way. She took it in stride, answering everything from her relationship with Filly Hayes and who the toughest pitcher she ever faced was. Her eyes still returned to Diamond Tiara every few moments, however, and she found the filly pressing herself deeper and deeper into her desk. She did nothing to hide her frustration and anger toward the mare before her, but she said nothing throughout the rest of the class time.

I hope you don’t forget this lesson, Diamond Tiara, Lofty thought. Nopony likes to strike out twice.

Author's Note:

One of the most important things I wanted to emphasize in this story was that Lofty had a life before she met Holiday. That's the way it is with all couples, and I wanted to go against the grain that I thought would pop up with this contest (where Lofty and Holiday were just together always).