Why do Casey Morales readers call themselves Mangoes?

That’s a fun question with a silly answer.

In The Batter’s Box, book 4 in the Nashville Spicy series, we’re introduced to a fictional baseball team who perform with a flair similar to the Harlem Globetrotters on the basketball court. The team is called the Memphis Mangoes.

Here’s the chapter where the book’s characters attend a Mangoes game for the first time.

Chapter 21


I’d been on precisely one pseudo-date with my favorite minor leaguer, but the thought of seeing him again made my heart bounce around my chest faster than a squash ball rebounding off walls. Plus, I got to spend the entire night with Ty, Gabe, and Ben. I didn’t know the guys well, and had never met Ben, the twelve-year-old deaf kid Ty had taken under his wing, but Miguel talked about Ty and Gabe like they were the most adorable couple alive, and that I had to see, especially since I was pretty sure Miguel and Sam were the cutest couple ever. Those two were saccharine covered in honey dipped in sugar topped with chocolate . . . with a candied cherry on top . . . and whipped cream.

And, just like that, I was hungry.

And nervous.

I knew Gabe and Ben were deaf, but from what Miguel said, Gabe lipread well enough that I likely wouldn’t struggle to communicate. Ben was a different story. The kid barely lipread at all, and I didn’t know a single sign. I wanted to get to know him, make him feel accepted, but couldn’t figure out a comfortable way to navigate, well, anything. How was I supposed to even say hello? Something that simple felt like climbing an insurmountable obstacle.

The doorbell saved me from diving further down the rabbit hole of self-doubt.

I opened the door to find Ty, garbed in a Sounds jersey and jeans; annoyingly hot, as always.

Gabe’s floppy brown hair poked over his shoulder, while a towheaded youngster peered through the crook of his opposite arm. I could just make out the leather of a child-sized baseball glove on his left hand.

“Hey, handsome. You ready for a fun night at the park?” Ty pulled me into a hug, and I did my best to ignore his frustratingly hard body as it pressed into me. I wasn’t into Ty, but I was breathing—and a guy—and his innate hotness was impossible to ignore. The fact he was so freakin’ nice made him impossible to hate.

Darn him to the most festive level of gay hell.

Gabe took advantage of my complete immobilization in Ty’s arms, leaned forward, and gave me a peck on the forehead like I was a toddler needing a sucker. Rather than demeaning, it was cute in the way only Gabe could manage. Cheeks full of dimples stared up at me as I pulled back.

“This is Ben,” Ty said, stepping aside like a theater curtain to reveal an awkward, freckled youngster whose hair was actually more copper than corn. The glove flew to his face, covering everything except his eyes. Those bright blue orbs stared, unwavering, as I kneeled and said, “Hi, I’m Cooper,” in an idiotic, exaggerated manner.

Ben glanced back to Gabe, who signed, I assumed, what I’d just said, though the giggle that escaped Ben’s lips told me Gabe had likely added his own dimpled touch to the translation.

“He’s deaf. Saying it slower won’t help. Just talk normally and they’ll figure it out. At least, that’s how Gabe and I make it work.” Ty’s hand rested on my shoulder as his sympathetic eyes grinned down.

“Are you ready for the Mangoes?” Gabe asked aloud while signing to Ben.

The boy’s face lit up, and his fingers flew. Gabe translated for us.

“He says he can’t wait. He’s heard about the Mangoes and all the crazy stuff they do but hasn’t ever seen them. Then he went on about some of their dances, and I got lost.” Gabe winked at us. “His signs get a little frantic when he’s excited.”

“Sounds like every kid ever,” Ty muttered, and we shared a chuckle.

We piled into Gabe’s car and headed to First Horizon, each kid excited for different reasons—and different players they hoped to see.

As we passed the turnstiles, men and women in Sounds T-shirts wearing foam mangoes on their heads handed Ben his own mango head thingy and a mango-shaped baseball that was really a stuffed animal, er, fruit.

Ben’s fingers barely stopped signing with Gabe as we ascended the elevator and entered our suite. His eyes were wider than his Mangoes hat as he strode down the line of gourmet stadium food splayed across the tables, then noticed the seats that peered down like the Royal Box at Wimbledon. Gabe’s smile never faltered as he ushered the boy around and soaked himself in the excitement of youthful eyes. It was one of the most beautiful things I’d seen in a long time.

“He’s good with Ben,” I said, more to myself than Ty.

“Yeah, he’s pretty awesome.”

I turned to find the model-esque mechanic beaming at his boyfriend from across the suite. I watched a moment, sure he would shake out of his stare, but he didn’t budge. There wasn’t anything in the world that could’ve stolen his gaze from Gabe in that moment. Gabe, engrossed in whatever conversation he and Ben were having, must’ve felt Ty’s eyes on him, because he glanced up, just for a second. When their eyes locked, I thought fire might bloom right there in the ballpark. In that one glance, that minuscule look, I understood what Miguel had meant about this unlikely pair. They might’ve been from different worlds, seen things differently, heard things differently, yet they were so clearly two halves of a perfectly matched set. In the blink of an eye, I watched hours of conversation pass between them, and my heart soared, and hoped, and dreamed.

“Ladies and gentlemen, it’s time to welcome the most fun team in all of baseball to Sounds Stadium. Get on your feet and give these boys a Nashville welcome. Here are your Memphis Mangoes!”

A chorus of voices followed the announcer, most of whom were kids, cheering and screaming; but rather than hearing the Rocky theme song or some other equally inspiring tune designed to get competitive juices flowing, the theme from The Greatest Showman blasted through the speakers.

“Oh, oh, oh, oh, oh . . . Ladies and gents, this is the moment you’ve been waiting for!”

Ben ran to the railing and leaned over, pointing at the man in neon green from head to toe, topped off with a top hat somehow greener than the rest of his outfit. A pair of players in Mangoes uniforms stood behind him, waving their arms in choreographed motions to every word and note.

As the song built into the familiar chorus, Mangoes players streamed onto the field from every direction to the screams of thousands of youngsters. Some of them skipped, others pirouetted, while a few played leapfrog with their mates. Cannon boomed in the background, and fireworks blazed beyond the center field wall. In a flash of color and sequins, dozens of teenage girls in bedazzled cheerleader outfits, lime from feet to bow, flipped and flurried their way onto the field, forming a triangle behind the singing ringmaster.

When I thought it couldn’t turn into any more of a spectacle, twenty silver-haired women shuffled their way onto the right field line, dancing and waving with every beat. Their uniforms matched the players’ but read Mango Mamas. Not to be outdone, the Man-Goes filled in the third base line, an assortment of elderly men of every size and shape wearing helmets, everything from mechanic’s goggles to Star Wars stormtrooper gear, all painted neon green to match their fruity theme. The grannies’ dances at least attempted to match the music, while the Man-Goes simply wobbled and waved through their motions.

When the final chorus kicked in, a high school marching band strutted their way onto the field, adding percussion and brass to the festive insanity playing out before us. The players, dancers, grannies, and grandpas converged into a colorful chorus line of motion. Any hint of chaos had vanished, as perfectly choreographed waves and kicks hacked and slashed through the final refrain.

Ben laughed throughout the whole thing, waving his arms in time with the beat, while Gabe giggled like a three-year-old being tickled for the first time. I glanced over to catch Tyler beaming as he watched Gabe and Ben, pride pouring out of him, so strong and free.
It might’ve been the happiest, funniest, most ridiculous moment of my life.

Then the announcer stilled my heart with, “Now, give it up for your Nashville Sounds!”
The crowd, already hysterical, broke into pandemonium usually reserved for major league playoff games or the World Series. One by one, the announcer introduced the players. I don’t remember when I stepped up beside Ben and started clapping, but by the time the voice cried, “Nate Stringer,” my hands were smacking above my head and Ben and I were high-fiving.

The players took their positions and began warming up, so Ben and I bumped fists one last time, and I turned back, only then realizing Gabe and Ty had stopped cheering and were staring at me. Gabe, expert in all things requiring signals, crooked a finger and pulled me toward him.

“Uh, hey. Sorry, I got a little swept up. That was so much fun.”

“Just wait. That was just the introduction,” Ty said.

Gabe now had his arms crossed, never a good sign for, well, a signer.

“You cheered awfully hard for Nate,” he said with a raised brow.

Heat flooded my face, and I was sure ten shades of red invaded my cheeks.

“Well, sure. I mean, he’s the only player I know. I had to cheer for him, right?”

Gabe cocked his other brow. “Uh-huh. Right.”

“Oh, look, they have egg rolls. Be right back.” I darted away, hoping Gabe would forget that little exchange and focus on, well, anything else.

The warmth of his shoulder pressing into mine told me he never forgot anything.
“Is there something you need to tell us?”


I didn’t really know these guys. Why would I need to tell them anything? Whatever was happening with Nate and me was none of their business.

Or was it?

He was Miguel’s friend, his little brother in baseball, or whatever they called it. And Miguel and Sam were besties with Gabe and Ty. Maybe they did deserve to know I was crushing all over their boy harder than a slushie machine crushing ice. God, my analogies were awful where Nate was concerned. He made me mushy, like a slushie with grape flavoring. Those were my favorite. They were sweet. Like Nate. He was sweet. But he didn’t taste like grape.

His lips tasted more like ChapStick, the unflavored kind. He’d have to work on that.

“Hi there.” Gabe waved a hand in my face.

“Oh, sorry, I kind of got stuck in my head. What were you saying?”

He giggled. “You like Nate.”

Damn. He just said it. It wasn’t a question. How was I supposed to respond to that?

I stared down at my egg roll longingly. It needed me. I craved it. We were meant for each other. More importantly, it would keep me from saying something stupid, so I shoved the whole thing in my mouth.

Gabe spit his beer laughing.

When he came up for air (I was still trying to chew, by the way), he said, “I won’t say anything. Just know you can talk to us, okay? We’re family. If you want, you can be part of our family too.” Then he grabbed his beer off the table and turned to take his seat with Ty, leaving me staring after him, speechless, unable to fully close my mouth thanks to having shoved all of China in it.

“Hey, Coop, come on, they’re about to start,” Ty called from his seat, so I grabbed a fresh beer and joined them to watch the game.

As the first Mango stepped out of the on-deck circle and headed toward the plate, Miley Cyrus’s ‘Flowers’ played over the loudspeakers while the batter sang into a long-stemmed white rose as if it were a microphone. When he reached the plate, he presented the flower to the Sounds catcher and gave him a faux kiss on his helmet. The crowd erupted with “Awww,” and I got the immediate impression I was the only person in the place who didn’t know how every single act would play out.


Line drive straight into Nate’s glove, a perfect out.

The batter snatched his rose back from the catcher and waved it angrily toward Nate, then stomped off the field toward his dugout like a jilted lover. Booster the Rooster, the Sounds mascot, waved a wing accusingly at Nate, like he’d had the gall to make a play on the poor batter’s ball.

The Footloose theme song brought the crowd to their feet—and the entire roster of Mangoes out of the dugout to perform a dance number behind the impending batter. Even the umpire wiggled his butt back and forth to the beat as the batter set his stance.

Another inning and a half zipped by before it was Nate’s turn to bat. We’d seen all sorts of craziness playing out as the Mangoes danced before pitches, flipped and tumbled around the bases, and even had one batter drop into a split and bat from that painful-looking position.

By the look on his face, Nate hadn’t expected the pitcher to strip off his jersey and lead his entire team in a Mangoes version of the chicken dance before flinging a strike past him. By the time the second pitch arrived, the Mangoes had shimmied and thrust their way through a Lizzo tune, and poor Nate was doubled over laughing. With the third pitch, the Mangoes danced to a fast, Chipmunks-voiced version of ‘Get Down on It.’ This time, Nate was ready, saddling up to the catcher and adding a little spice of his own to their mango salad. He even managed a hit out of that at-bat, knocking that pitch over the second baseman for a single.

The Mangoes found their groove in the eighth inning, knocking in seven runs and lighting up the fans with their electric slide each time a runner touched the plate. Nashville’s fiercely loyal home crowd didn’t seem to mind losing to their fruity friends from the west, and kids’ laughter could be heard from every corner of the parking lot as we made our way back toward the car. Ben barely stopped signing with Gabe, and the smile plastered across his face told me all I needed to know.

The Mangoes had been a hit—literally.

“Sorry we didn’t get to go down and see the players,” Ty said, his words dripping with barely disguised meaning.

I shrugged. “It’s alright. This was so much fun. I’ll talk to, um, the players another time.”
Ty snorted. “I bet you will.”

Ben gave me one last high-five as the guys dropped me off at my place, and we waved to each other as they drove away. It was remarkable how a smile on a little boy’s face could warm my soul so much. As I turned to walk inside, my phone rang, and the screen announced an incoming call from Private Number.

I didn’t usually answer calls from numbers I didn’t recognize, but something made me hit the green button this time.


“Hey, you. Did you have fun tonight?”

I did a happy dance right there on my doorstep.