Sports

Whistles, genetics, trophies, oh my!

We start the evening and end the evening with a whistle. It’s a fascinating thing how so many of us love the sound of the athletic whistle, the clear-high-pitched, a train’s-a-coming blast of it. And just as intriguing how others find it horrifying or painful or both -— I see Layla Nelson, for instance, covering her beautiful boy, Russell Besson’s, ears. At three, he’s radiant, clearly a natural, gifted athlete, but that whistle he can do without. That and the screaming we do at the end of the night when I ask the children, “Did you have a good time tonight?” And “Are you going to come back next week?” When they scream back at me, long and loud, “Yessssssssssssssssss!” Russell and his mom both cover his ears. Sorry, Russell. Sorry, Layla.

Last week Devyn Deal, 4, asked me if she could blow my whistle after we were done for the evening. (This happens every week, kids asking me if they can blow my whistle. Some even buy their own and come with it in hand, ready to blast away with me, for me, before me). I told Devyn, “Sure,” so when we ran in from right field at the end of the night, I stopped halfway in, in the middle of the right field grass. I got on my knees and let Devyn blow my whistle, and blow it good. And then it was like flies to honey. Children came running at me, to me, wanting to take a turn. Steffi Cooper, 8, gave it a good honk. Then two. So did her lively, animated little brother Peter, 5. Hannah Gayle Elliot, 4, her new haircut looking quite becoming on her, took a turn. As did the amazingly spirited and very handsome Nathan Schindler, 5, along with his alert and wide-eyed younger brother, Aiden, 3. Then Eliza Minde-Berman showed up. She’s two-and-a-half, big enough, articulate enough to pass for a 4- or 5-year-old. And she’s a spitting image of her dad, Matt. It’s uncanny how much they look alike. “It is!” her mom, Jennifer Berman, agreed. “When she was born I thought I was looking at Matt’s dad.”

Genetics. Ain’t they amazing?

I saw how much these children enjoyed blowing my whistle, “The Acme Thunderer,” my stainless steel, made-in-England whistle that looks a little like, is shaped a bit like, a pregnant wheelbarrow. I saw their keen interest and so I let them, each kid, blow it three, four, five, 10 times in a row. And it was divine, ineffable to be in the face of such joy, such unrestrained happiness and glee. And such gratitude, too, each child thanking me, shining their love light on me. Breathless and very proud after their five blows, five toots, their 10 blows, 10 toots, on that whistle, they were eager and anxious to run to Mom or Dad or Grandma to tell them what a wondrous thing they’d just done.

Ah, t-ball. Ain’t it sweet?

Yes, it is, but it’s coming to an end. This coming Friday, tomorrow, Aug. 8, if you’re reading this on the News’s Thursday, Aug. 7 publication date, is our final night. The curtain is coming down on the Perry League’s 2008 summer season.

As is our tradition, we will have a shortened evening of play (6:30– 7:15 p.m.) followed by our wiener roast potluck picnic, itself followed by the awarding of a Perry League trophy to every child who shows up (even it it’s the kid’s first night of play. Honest.) And if you cannot be there and your kid wants his or her trophy — Zenya Hoff-Miyazaki, 6, told me he was going to be on vacation and would miss; when I wondered if he’d be upset about missing out, not getting his trophy, he said, “Naw, I already have about 10 of them at home” — call me (767-7300) and we’ll home deliver (i.e., we’ll bring that darn trophy to you). It’s one of those frosting on the cake pleasures of t-ball, to show up at a child’s house, to kneel down in a child’s front yard, to stand in his or her doorway, and hand them a trophy. Kids love —love! — the trophies and often they and their parents are especially pleased about this unique Perry League trophy home delivery service. And as I’ve said before, hugs from toddlers, hugs from 5–6–7-year-olds, hugs from 8–9-year-olds, they’re priceless. Worth their weight in gold. Good for the soul. You deliver a trophy or two, you’re bound to get one, thank you.

So come on out for our final night — and oh, by the way, I’ll be giving away free copies of my t-ball book, A Thousand Strikes: T-ball Yellow Springs Style, with stories and photos from the summer of 1986 to the summer of 2004 — we’ll be out there Friday night, Aug. 8, at Gaunt Park from 6:30 to 8 p.m. We welcome all our community’s children regardless of race, color or creed. Children can begin playing at any time, including this final night. There will be hot dogs and covered dishes, chips and dips and soda pop, an orange drink we get from McDonalds, desserts galore -— and a trophy for every child. It is always a good time, so do yourself a favor and come check us out. You won’t regret, I swear. And we’d love to have you, we honestly and truly would.

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