Sports

Eye-popping joy at T-ball

The children’s capacity for joy is remarkable. Mind-boggling. Like Sophia Purdin, 4, cousin of one of my all-time favorite T-ball alums, Scotty Purdin. She comes to the tee with her mom, Hannah, the child a shimmering bundle of exhilaration. Brimming with good cheer. She quickly hits the ball into the feet of the sunny spirits standing near the pitcher’s mound and then toddles down to first base — then two kids later, two hits later, as she rounds third base I am captivated by her again. She runs right through the base, she’s singing, and runs off the diamond, singing the whole time — What is she singing? I follow her as she marches behind the bleachers, singing, singing, singing, her head thrown back as she really belts it out. When she disappears behind the three porta johns lined up next the side walk, singing as she goes, I give up the chase.

Alannah Calfee, 5, is another revelation of high spirits and joy — and hilarity — a child with a natural drive to make you laugh. She stands 15 feet out, near the third-base line, jumping up and down, leaping off her toes, bouncing herself happily, making herself laugh: this is clearly a blast, why isn’t everyone doing this? When our eyes meet, she moves her entire face, opening her eyes so wide I think her eyeballs may pop out of her head. This opening of her face is the pulling back of the wizard’s curtain, and we are gifted with a view of her irrepressible, glad-tidings spirit in all its loving, luscious buoyancy. And this whole bouncing, leaping, happy opening of her vivacious self is meant, I think, to make you laugh; at the same time (maybe this is why it is funny) revealing how hilarious, joyful and pleasant she finds this whole T-ball business to be.

“She’s like that all the time,” her mom, Meghan, says, as her brother, Collin, 8, imitates her, doing a good imitation of his little sister’s face-widening, eye-popping, happy, frisky and hilarious explosion of joy.

Matthew Drummond, 8, wants to hit the ball towards the bleachers, the spectators. We have a serious, careful discussion about the field of play and how to hit the ball into the outfield. He resists hitting the ball toward the bleachers.

Tommy Moore, 6, is a home run king tonight, hitting four home runs before the night is up.

There is mud, too — a nice puddle near and around home plate and another next to first base. Many of us love the mud, walking in it, splashing in it, soaking our feet in it, moving it around with our hands, even doing push ups in it. Just as many are not so keen on it and are careful to avoid it. Like Elijah Yelton, 6, handsome in his black t-shirt, black jeans, and new tennis shoes. And Roy Gano, 5-and-a-half, stays mostly mud-free, too, the boy a legitimate speedster, a strong hitter, and proficient fielder. He helps his dad, Josh Paddison, throwing balls out to the kids. Roy’s magical sister, Dorothy Paddison, 8, another gazelle, fast, quick, and graceful, enjoys squishing the mud and muck through her toes.

Kian Rainey, 5, was a mud ball hero. He was first into the big puddle by the home plate and within minutes he had the thick, rich, peanut buttery-colored mud all over his feet, his legs, his shorts, and half way up his Perry League t-shirt. He got creative and did a leaning-over, putting-your-hands-into-the-muck move, and then sliding forward, in a lowering-your-self-down push up, not stopping till he was flat out, belly down, in that magic muck. His little sister, Veda, 3, was less muddy, but I begged for someone to take her picture when she came up to the tee — she was so movie star beautiful, her happy shining thoughtful face as arresting and striking as Ginger Rogers’.

Anaya Adoff, another fine athlete, the intelligence in her eyes a thrilling and reassuring thing, hits like the best of us T-ballers, and then launches like a rocket off its pad, flying to first.

Tegan Hayes, 7, showed up at the tee barefooted. He is so sophisticated, skilled, strong and quick, his competence and seriousness of play, a wonder and joy. As is he.

Neirin Barker, 4, is a priceless beauty of a boy. He comes to the plate with a smile on his face that pierces my heart. He is so bright, sunny, blissful, his face lit up by that smile. He is so happy to carry that bat to the tee, so happy to hit that ball. He is beside himself with the opportunity to field the ball, to run the bases, his complete abandon to this deliriously joyful T-ball business an antidote to whatever ails you. Thank you, Neirin.

Elise Bongorno, 4, and her sister Nora, 6, are a pair of transforming T-ball visions, Nora was like a summer fashion model in her spaghetti strap sun-butter-yellow dress. She and Elise, delicate beauties as strong as the mighty oak, both hit, hit, hit, run, run, run, giving me five, five, five! — “Gimme five!” — their dedication, joy, and self-possession matched by their stellar, full-throttle mom, Naomi (formerly Sikes-Gilbert) Bongorno.

And then there was the wee one, Malcolm Till, a record-breaking wonder boy, one of our youngest ever:

“I guess he’s still one,” his beaming father, Chris, says, “one year, eleven months.”

And that’s our Perry League, Yellow Springs’s T-ball program for girls and boys age 2–9. We’re open to all our community’s children regardless of race, color, creed, national origin, ability or disability, sexual or spiritual or religious orientation. We’ll be out there at Gaunt Park every Friday night for the next seven weeks (till our final trophy-potluck picnic night Aug. 8), from 6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. Won’t you join us? Come and see and experience some of this amazing happiness and joy for yourself? We’d love it if you did, we really would. Cross our fingers and hope to die.

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