Sports

Yellow Springs Perry League t-ball — We can all do it, if we try

“I can’t. I can’t do it,” says a little one sitting on the ground beside me. I sympathize: touching my nose to my toes isn’t all that easy to me, either. Coach Amy Boblitt, the dedicated, patient, generous woman who has been pinch-hitting as coach of the Yellow Springs Perry League t-ball team for over a month now, leans over her own toes, making it look easy. “You can do it. You can do it! Just try!” And that bit of encouragement was all it took. “I did it!” says one voice, then another, and another, and another. A chorus of maybe 20 high-pitched little voices is clamoring for Coach Amy’s encouragement and praise.

“Look what I can do!” says Dorothy Paddison, 7. This creative, fun-loving girl is reversing the instructions, lifting her toes up in the air, all the way to her nose, ‘til she is wobbling around. The inevitable happens; she falls backwards. “Oops!” she giggles.

Instantly, giggling sounds surround me and I see three or four more kids topple over backwards. Carson Funderburg, 3, who has been doing his own version of warm-ups about 30 feet away (mostly consisting of running around in circles), also topples over in the grass. Coach Amy is suitably impressed with the energy and enthusiasm of these young humans.

“All right, let’s do the “one-two-three-four-WHOOOs!” she instructs. And after a brief consultation with her assistant and daughter, 9-year-old Lily Rainey, about the proper way to do a “one-two-three-four-WHOOO,” the group gets going. Little Veda Rainey, 2, is amazing. The kid is super-coordinated. She is rapidly running through the “one-two-three-four-WHOOOs,” keeping up with the kids two, three, four times her age and size, as the calisthenics devolves (by plan, I suspect) into a cacophony of WHOOO-ing children who are bouncing up and down and waving their hands in all directions. It’s sort of like a NFL stadium wave, without the careful timing and mostly in one spot.

Coach Amy wraps it up and we run back to the diamond, where t-ball proper begins.

The adults fan out as base coaches and ball throwers. Kian Barker, 6, is up to bat first. This boy brings first-class style to Gaunt Park every Friday. Last week he was sporting a natty fedora. Today he’s wearing a smart pair of green chinos that get the attention of the similarly style-minded first-base coach, J.A. Paddison. “Nice pants!” he says. “Cool. Gimme Five.” Kian generally welcomes this kind of patter, but right now he’s busy. He’s running bases. His little brother Neirin, 3-and-a-half, is batting next and is about ready to knock it out of the park. That Neirin, hot on the heels of his brother, has all the makings of a world-class t-ball player: speed, strength, and excellent aim. He gets a base hit with his first swing. Pow!

Scott Fleming, 4-year-old Bryce’s dad, is heading up the ball throwing. That means that he throws out 15-20 balls every time a child hits so that everyone gets a chance to field. He’s also in charge of catching the balls that the kids pitch back to him, which can be tricky: they come whizzing in at any moment and from any direction. He’s upped the ante this week, bringing along an actual mitt, which he models for Bryce and the others. Two infielders in particular, Benjamin Bacon, 3, and Azariah Godsey, 4, show him how its done, demonstrating excellent defensive grit. But these guys can hit too! Each time they hit, run, or grab a ball, their enthusiastic cheering section rallies, whooping it up and giving congratulatory cuddles. Azariah soaks it up, beaming. He knew he could do this!

Truth be told, we have no lack in hitting talent tonight. Sylvie Peirson, 4, is knocking it out like nobody’s business. Maddy McGuire, 4, is hitting from both sides: a natural switch-hitter! Avry Bell-Arment, 6, is in fine form, smacking the ball out past his grandpa Reggie Stratton, who is minding second-base. Aiden Scavone, 6, is fleet of foot and, an experienced base runner, scores at least 3 times — maybe more — this evening. Four-year-old Alex Hamilton, sheer talent embodied, is just starting to come into his own this week. These kids, they know what they’re doing.

Alex has a serious fan in his big sister Zoe, 9, who is herself an expert t-baller. She’s a big kid who positions herself in the infield, letting the littler kids bat first. She shouts and claps for her little brothers. As the evening wears on, she allows herself a few hits as well.

“I’m just tagging along,” she assures me, as if I think maybe she is too old for t-ball. But she isn’t too old. I know that. And she knows it too. She seems to know that she has another, very important role to play here. “I’m here with my brother.” That’s it, exactly. He needs her.

The brothers and the sisters are out tonight, giving this game all they’ve got: they are teammates, heroes, fans, friends. They help out with the hardest stuff — you know, the hitting and the catching and the running — and they teach their brothers and sisters how to have fun, too.

This week, we’re calling on all of you: brothers, sisters, moms, dads, grandparents, uncles and aunties, neighbors, teachers, friends, and anyone who loves the kids and loves the game. This week is a very special week: the last week of the season. This week, after playing a bit and getting dirty, we will be having a great big potluck at the Gaunt Park diamond. Wieners and veggie dogs and drinks will be provided for all, and at the end of the evening, we’ll be passing out trophies to every child who has played this season. Come, all you t-ballers! We want to congratulate you on a great season and on how much joy you’ve brought to us.

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 on Friday night, from 6:30–8 p.m. Child or adult, little or big, come if you can. We’d love to have you, we really and truly would.”

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