Sports

T-ballers move with panache

We had a great turn out for our penultimate night of t-ball on Friday, July 30.

Eight-year-old Eamonn Cary came, his mom Callie Cary said, “To help out Jim-Jim.” He is a strong batter now, hitting the ball easily over everyone’s head. And he was and is a terrific helper, catching balls for me at home plate and spending part of his evening throwing balls out with Erica Lindemann, who has been leading that part of our t-ball charge all summer long.

Liam McClean, 5, scooped up a grounder and started to walk it part way in before throwing it. But he was doing a little dance as he came toward home plate: he’d take a step with his left foot and drop his right shoulder, then take a step with his right foot and drop his left shoulder, and so on, back and forth. It was a young Fred Astaire out there, the boy entertaining himself and several of us adults who happened to be watching.

“That’s what we call moving with panache,” Bill Slattery said. He was on the infield with his remarkable son, the handsome, athletically gifted 4-year-old, Jorge (they pronounce it Georgie), who throws the ball as well and as accurately as a high school varsity baseball player.  

Devon Deal, 5-and-a-half, was here without fail, wearing a superb and glorious pink designer baseball cap, playing ball remarkably well and running all around the diamond and adult peanut gallery with her good friend, the beautiful, bright and bodacious, fleet-footed Hannah Little, 6. “I already have a loose tooth,” Devon said quite proudly. And rightly so.

Melissa Schindler, mother of the remarkable boys Nathan, 7, and Aidan, 5, and the newest wild and wonderful Alexandria, who’ll be 3 in October, told me Callie Hester, 8, will make it next week for the potluck and trophy night.

Meanwhile Ali — short for Alexandria — is a force to be reckoned with. She took a swing, topped the ball and groaned her immediate disapproval, “Unhh,” adding, “Wanna try ’gin.” Okay. So she did, topped it again, groaned her disapproval again, and said she wanted to try again. And so she did, six, seven, eight, nine times in a row — you get a thousand strikes in t-ball — and on the 10th try Chris, her dad, said, “That’s enough. You have to run after this one.”

I put the ball on the tee and asked her: “Okay? You’ll make this your last one? You’ll run after this one?”

This long-haired 2-year-old, barely bigger than your grandchild’s favorite teddy bear, looked me right in the eye and said, “Yes. Okay.”

And that was that.

Luka, 5, was there with his mom, Heather Sage, making sure she was in the field whenever he came to bat. And Heather graciously complied — even after Luka had 64 at-bats and she thought she could take a little break, go chat with her adult friends. “Mom, can you go out there?” he asked. Sure, she said, wonderful mom that she is.

Russell Besson, 5, another of our most talented athletes, had new cross trainer tennis shoes, but he was puzzled: “I don’t know what this means.”

“What?” I asked.  

He turned, twisting at the waist, and pointed to what looked like two cursive “z”s written right next to each other, one inside the other, at the back of his shoe, at the top of his heel, right at his ankle. I looked. I had no idea.

“Your mom knows everything,” I said. “Why don’t we ask her?”

Russell wrinkled his brow and considered this for a moment before he admitted, “She knows a lot.” Then, still cogitating on this (he is a very thoughtful young athlete), he brightened considerably and told me, “She knows a lot of Spanish!” Okay, then. (She didn’t, however, know what the darn symbol was: a logo?)

Zan Holtgrave (Zan is short for Alexandra), she turned 3 June 13, came to bat with her dad and actually hit that ball right off the tee on her first try. Amazing, I thought. No big deal to her proud dad Jeremy, though. “That’s the way Zan is,” he said. Sophie Taylor-Clouse, 5, as stunningly beautiful as she was a month ago, is everywhere, on the field, at bat, mixing with the spectators, scooping up balls, hitting home runs, warming my heart.  

Jia Sundell-Turner, he just turned 3 July 17, swung and hit like a much older boy. This is his second year in the program, having started last summer when he was but 2. His older sister Cheyan (pronounced Cheyenne) is a great beauty and a superior athlete, quick on her feet, catching and throwing and running like a champ.

Henry Smith-Heston was there, but without either of his moms. “They’re in You York,” he said.  “You York?” “Unh huh, You York.”  (Oh, I get it, New York.)

Schuyler McLaine, 6, a gorgeous kid, hit a pair of home runs, four singles, six doubles and one triple. And she ran the bases like a tornado out of Kansas, making it all the way around the bases in less than ten seconds.  

Hayley Partee is too cool. She is a very serious ball player, an excellent hitter (she lost a tooth earlier this summer, got six bucks from the tooth fairy! Six bucks!). She’s wearing her pink and white, genuine leather, professionally-designed batting gloves. Though only 6, she seems much older — it must be that Partee blood, eh Pat? (Her grandfather, Pat Partee, was a long time t-ball coach and partner of mine — putting in 14 years before hanging up his whistle).

Colin Lindemann, 5, as handsome as Clive Owen, was awesome in his bright red t-shirt, a boy for all seasons. He hit well, ran like greased lightning, caught anything that came within 10 feet of him, and has a wonderful, laughing, loving heart — and was a great helper to his mom Erica, throwing out balls with her, making sure everyone gets a chance to catch and throw the ball.

Isaac Stiles, 4, looked so much like his father Chad it was like I’d stepped in a time machine: was that beautiful, rambunctious boy what Chad looked like, was like, oh so many moons ago? Isaac is a great infielder, and along with Emma Hall, 3, they swept the pitcher’s mound clean, using the two umpire’s hand brooms which so many kids love to use. Then Emma, after a long and wonderfully joyous time in the infield with her dad, Dusty, came to bat, immediately popping a good one down toward first base — a home run! After she ran the bases and crossed home plate, after what most of us think is quite a long, long run, what did she say?

“I wanna do it again!”

If Dusty hadn’t been so tuckered out from running with her the whole way, they’d have done it again, too. And again and again, if Emma had her way, the child a wonder of energy and enthusiasm — or as her mom, Sarah Hipensteel, says, a kid with “an unbelievable motor.”  

And that’s our Perry League, the village’s t-ball program for girls and boys, ages 2–9, regardless of race, color or creed. We’ll be out there at Gaunt Park this Friday night, Aug. 6, 6:30–8 p.m., for our season finale: a shortened evening of play followed by our annual weiner roast potluck picnic, after which we line the kids up on the third base line one last time and award each child there a Perry League trophy. That’s each child, 2–9, who shows up, even if it’s their first night out there. So, come on by. We’d love to have you — to watch the kids play, to eat with us and to witness the astonishing joy of the children as they receive their little golden icons. Oh, and if you want to bring something to the potluck, you can call Becky Reed at 767-1378. She’ll let you know what folks have signed up for, what you might bring — along with yourself and a kid, of course.

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