Sports

Back home at Perry League

Mike Goebel pulled up alongside of me at the corner of High and West South College. I was walking my dog, Cody. In the back seat were Mike’s twin sons, Christopher and Colin, strapped into their super safety rocket-ship-like baby seats.

“I heard they only have to be 18 months old to play,” he said.

“Bring ‘em out,” I said, stepping over to the car to say “hi” to the boys.

I had to duck. There was scrap metal jutting out the passenger side window. Mike was seeing if he could raise a little money to fix up and maintain the skateboard park.

“So it’s true what I heard, you’re back?” Mike said as I greeted his boys.

“Yeah,” I said. “I’m back.”

To t-ball. To the Perry League.

I couldn’t stay away. Last summer I tried to turn the program over to my current co-coordinator, Jason Newsome. And it killed me. I saw the children calling him Coach Jason. I saw them looking up at him with adoring eyes during calisthenics. I saw them giving him hugs and saying, “Thank you, coach,” at the end of the night, and I was so jealous. I wanted that to be me!

After all these years and in one summer I am forgotten? Yesterday’s business? Kids quickly, easily, transferring their affections? Beautiful, incredibly athletic kids like Devon Deal? She’s 6 this summer, and has been one of my favorite kids for several years now — she’s one of those natural athletes whose skills stun you.

“Where’d she learn to throw like that?” I’d ask Dara, her mom, who’d shake her head, shrug her shoulders, and say, “Don’t know. We didn’t have anything to do with it. It’s all her.”

And I’d write about her, about Devon and how lovely she was to simply gaze upon, as well as how pleasurable it was to watch her play ball, her movements fluid, musical, strong, sure, her running, throwing, batting and fielding, all that of a much older kid, of an apparently trained, well-coached kid — and she’s been like that since she was 2.

And here she was beaming up at Jason, adoring him, happily accepting him as her new coach.

Oh, my aching heart! I didn’t think I could take it.

But by the grace of God, and a program of recovery, I overcame my jealousy— and my resentment. Jason was stealing all my darlings’ hearts? How dare he! And stealing the affection of their elders, too? Oh, woe. I heard the honest, generous, loving comments of the moms and dads, the grandmas and grandpas who said, “Jason’s great. He’s doing a really good job.” And I realized it wasn’t anything against me, it wasn’t anything I was having stolen away from me. It was just that I missed those little darlings and their generous-hearted parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, nannies, big sisters and big brothers.

So I negotiated to come back, to work side by side with Coach Jason and his lovely wife Rhonda who’s been selling shirts and getting people to sign up on our unofficial registration list that gives us names, ages, and phone numbers so I can do better, more detailed, more accurate stories. Jason welcomed me back, being quite gracious, kind and understanding about it, thank you, and we kicked off another fine season on Friday night, June 3, with 50–55 kids coming out to play — old timers like Devon Deal, 6, and Navaeh (heaven spelled backwards) Smith, 5, and her older, the most stunningly beautiful big sister Shaylee, 8. There was 8-year-old Natalie Galarza, too, as lovely as the first warm day of summer. She swung that bat so hard, with such razor-like sharpness, you could hear it cutting through the air, an honest-to-goodness “whiff!” sound. She came out with her little brother Evan, 4.

“You just made Evan’s week!” his mom Kathleen said, and my aching heart softened. I was beginning to feel safe again, like I was home again, that once again I was being cradled in the loving arms of the remarkable Yellow Springs t-ball parents and their equally remarkable kids.

Evan was standing 20 feet from home plate, facing me and the batter, Kathleen to his right with a small digital camera. He aimed his face at me and the batter, his eyes so wide my eyeballs hurt, his face lit from within, the boy a picture of pure, unadulterated delight. He held his right hand up, about chin high, with his palm aimed at us at home plate. His fingers and thumb were curled so his hand looked like a claw, and the way he held it, directing it at us, I thought maybe it had a beam or magnetic force emanating from it, a force he was beaming at us to ensure that that ball came his way. It reminded me of one of those radio telescopes you see SETI aiming into outer space in search of extraterrestrial intelligence He was so intense, every ounce of his being committed to this one thing: getting that next ball.

“Running! Catching! Hitting! Throwing!” Kathleen explained, her face shining with a joy that comes of giving and loving and sharing. “What more could you ask for?!”

And that’s the Perry League, the village’s beginner baseball program for girls and boys 2–9 (or rather, girls and boys 18 months–9 years). We are open to all our community’s children regardless of race, color or creed. We try to be patient, loving and kind to them all. And you will find us for the next nine Friday nights out there at Gaunt Park, playing on both diamonds, from 6:30-8 p.m. So why don’t you come out? Kids can start any time and there is no requirement to play every week. So come when you can, come when you like. We’ll be out, ready and willing.

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