Sports

T-ball: all business, all fun

Earlier this season, we played a lot of mudball: t-ball played in the mud. This season we had some amazing, torrential rains! And as you might imagine, the torrential rains this summer eventually wound down, and the sun shined, and the Gaunt Park diamond where we play every Friday night became kind of hard. In fact, it was a little bit like concrete. But this last Friday night we played in glorious, beautiful, perfect dusty-dirt. Matt McGuire, four-year-old Maddy’s dad, and a crew of adult helpers put in extra hours this past week raking over our diamond and giving us a good two inches of fine powder. Thank-you, Matt, and thank-you to all of the crew who volunteered to help make this field awesome again.

The powder was so fine, so delicious, that for some it became the main attraction. Lucy Shows-Fife and Rudy Mae Wyant — both 2 years old — spent most of the evening out at shortstop, rolling in the dirt. Literally. Rolling. In. The. Dirt. Rolling all over that prime real estate between second and third bases. Tasting the dirt, getting dirt in their hair, coating their clothes with dirt. They seemed to know, deep in their 2-year-old bones, that this was the route to true t-ball initiation. They were priming themselves, without anyone telling them, for t-ball greatness to come. The true believers — the crowd of parents and grandparents who never fail to show up on Friday nights in the summer — knew that Something Special was happening. People whispered in hushed tones and gestured out that direction, at the girls, at the magic that was happening. It was a good night.

Such niceties — the prediction of future greatness and such — were largely lost on the rest of the team, however. They had a game to play: bats to swing, bases to run, balls to chase. The seriousness of the Perry League t-ball player cannot be overstated. The t-ball player is all business. For instance, when 5-year-old Tommy Moore ran home, it was no routine event: we all felt anew the drama of the home plate as he pushed himself a bit harder, his face lit up with the victory of a personal achievement. Lily Rainey, 9, intently demonstrated a solid infield stance (a little bend to the knees, chin thrust forward in concentration, hands ready) to her little sister Veda, 2, who, equally intent, followed her example. And Mia Campbell, 6, rolled the bases with a quickness that left her dad, Aaron, running to keep up. With encouragement from his mom, Luisa Bieri Rios, 4-year-old Tomé hit all the balls and rounded all the bases. First-timer Carson Funderburg, 3, also showed himself a true natural at the game, with parents Laura and Zach laughing, whooping and high-fiving in support.

Tonight Caroline Tucker, almost 6, announced to me that she hit her eighth home run (yes: she is keeping tally). And Ayla Current, 6, must have hit the ball out of the park at least seven times. Topping the seriousness-meter for the week, perhaps, was 3-year-old slugger Noelle Rose Fisher, who hit and ran the bases without her big sister, Anneliese, 12. Her efforts were made all the more significant in the light of the fact that Noelle played through personal crisis: the “Little Sister” necklace she wore, (given to her by none other than her beloved older sister) got lost, but with a bench full of helpers led by bench coach Erin Hankie, the necklace was found! And Noelle crossed home plate at least three more times that night. This is serious stuff, this t-ball league. Each child is on his or her own trajectory, rocketing towards a future that we adults can only dimly imagine. We are lucky — I think we know it — to be there alongside them, watching, coaching, cheering them on.

But let’s not get too worked up about it. Perry League has plenty of room for play. The older kids seem to understand this intuitively: on Friday nights, at Gaunt Park, no matter how old you are, you can still have fun. Lily, Carina Basora and Marissa Goodman — all 9 — raced to retrieve the ball and get it back on the tee, almost falling all over each other for the privilege, giggling the whole time. And out of the corner of my eye I saw 8-year-old t-ball veteran William Hale, a beacon of pure joy, streaking barefoot from out of nowhere, across the field, around 7:30 p.m. I didn’t even know he was there! But he was, and he put in a strong hit at 8 p.m., punctuating the evening. But our eldest participant was probably Bill Whitesell, 85, a familiar face in the halls of Mills Lawn School and at Antioch College’s community meetings, who came out to Gaunt Park for the second Friday in a row to talk philosophy with the kids and parents, cheer and enjoy. We are so glad that so many are committed not only to sharing the serious skills of t-ball but also the love of t-ball with the younger generation.

It is never too late to come play! Or just to watch and admire. We welcome you all: your presence is precious to us all, and there are never too many to play. As Coach Jimmy always writes, “that’s the Perry League, Yellow Springs’ non-competitive, beginner’s baseball program, the village’s t-ball program, for all our community’s children regardless of race, color, creed, national origin, ethnicity, ability or disability, sexual or spiritual preference or orientation. We welcome all the community’s children, girls and boys, ages 2–9. We’ll be out there at Gaunt Park from 6:30–8 p.m. for the next two Friday nights. Our final night, wiener roast potluck picnic trophy night, is Aug. 9. Children can begin play at any time and there is no requirement to come every week. So, come when you can, come when you will. We’d love to have you, we really and truly would.”

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