Sports

Cold weather, warm hearts: t-ball begins

It was cold. Very cold. And two minutes after I got there, it started to rain. A misty, drizzly, coat-you-completely, icy rain.

Just me and my co-coordinator Jason Newsome.

“The eternal optimists,” Rex Gilbert said as he walked his beautiful yellow Labrador past us in Gaunt Park parking lot. He’d been a sensational t-ball coach back in the day, had been with us in 1990 when we had 110 children show up for opening night; when Leanna Perry contacted us, wanting to support the program named in honor of her great nephew Donald Perry.

Then, with Rex wishing us well, Madelin McGuire showed up with her mom and dad, Summer and Matt. Madelin, whom they also called “Maddy,” is two-and-a-half — “2.5” is how Summer wrote it in our Who-Came-Out-to-Be-with-Us roster.

We put the tee on home plate, brought out the bats and balls. Put the bases out.

It was still misty, moist-y, miserable; 57 degrees. The coldest t-ball night in all my years of doing this. And raining, too!

Just as I was asking myself, “Are we gonna get rained out on our first night?” a wonderful musical “Whoo-ooo! Coach Jimmy!” reached my ears. “What? Who?”

It was Mina! Mina Brown!

You remember in West Side Story when Tony and Maria see each other for the first time? It is across the dance floor, the Jets and Sharks already baring their respective fangs, and suddenly all the dancers step back. The whole screen goes fuzzy save for these two, the dance hall music softening into that wonderful love song, “There’s a Place for Us,” and it is only Maria, standing wide-eyed, transfixed by the beautiful boy she is espying for the first time.

“There’s a place for us, a time and place for us.”

And so it was last Friday night on that icy rainy mucky messy cold and miserable Gaunt Park ball diamond. I was shivering me timbers, worried lest not a soul should appear, when suddenly there was this voice and this vision, this apparition, this stunningly beautiful young princess, Miss Mina Brown, prancing out to greet me, calling me by name, the eagerness, the joy, the pride, the thrill of it all — “It’s t-ball time!” — pouring out of that child, the four-year-old darling, her energy as potent and as penetrating as the whirling explosive flash of a light house lamp in the black of night.

“Rowan, too,” her mom Martha added, beaming as widely as her two beautiful kids.

And so we were going to be all right. The children would come, and come they did, slowly, steadily, the stalwarts; 15, 16, 17 kids. And their brave and glorious parents, too, thank you very much.

Reagan Hankie, 3, for one, she who refused for half the night to run. The girl would only walk, walking when the rest of us ran. Walking, walking, walking. Slowly, calmly, deliberately — like after she hit the ball off the tee: “Drop the bat and run!” we said, and she would not. Walking was what she would do. Walking was what she did. And no amount of begging, beseeching, cajoling, enjoining, or even modeling — “Here! Like this!” — was gonna change that.

“But by the end of the night,” Erin Hankie, her mom, said, “she was running from base to base, at random!”

We were delighted to welcome the two Price boys. Lucas, 5, a dark-haired, dark-eyed, handsome young warrior, was a switch-hitter, batting both left and right-handed, his dad Jamie said. Jamie was our first base coach all night, helping kids find that mysterious destination: “Run to first! Run to first!” we’d say, forgetting the children had no idea what a base was, let along what a first base was — or where. Lucas’s little brother Owen, 3, another fine-looking specimen, could switch-hit, too, both the boys natural athletes who seemed to have come out of the womb looking for a ball to throw, to catch, to hit, to bounce, to kick, to loft to the heavens.

I helped Lucas hold the bat high, trying to get him to swing with his shoulders as well as his hands and arms and wrists. I suggested he flex his knees, do a bit of a crouch, miming it for him, and by golly, the boy did it, getting into a little crouch and I swore I was watching Joey Votto, the Cincinnati Reds’ first baseman, he who is batting .346 right now.

Anaya Harker, 4, one of Mina Brown’s great chums, was a rock in the infield, snatching up a hundred ground balls (honest; no hyperbole there) — and when halfway through the evening she got her new 2012 tie-dyed Perry League t-shirt, she stunned me, looking absolutely sensational. She could be a model, her natural grace and beauty amplified by the awesomeness of this year’s glorious t-shirt. Thank you, darling.

And that’s our Perry League, Yellow Springs’ non-competitive t-ball (beginner’s baseball) program for girls and boys ages 2–9. We play every Friday night at Gaunt Park from 6:30–8 p.m., welcoming all our community’s children regardless of race, color, creed, nationality, ability, disability or sexual preference. You don’t have to know how to play ball. You don’t have to come every week. Just come when you can. So, if it’s not snowing this coming Friday, June 8 — or even if it is — come on out! Play a little ball with us. You’ll be glad you did and so will we.

 

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