T-ball, a place for healing
- Published: June 12, 2014
A mob of us are doing our warm-up exercises in right field -— 65 to 70 children, 40 to 45 adults. We lift and extend our arms straight out from our shoulders: “Roll your arms, roll your arms.” We do our jumping jacks — or rather, we do 40 or so different individual interpretations of what most adults would call jumping jacks. We plop down in the thick, lush, pillow-soft grass, spread our knees and place the bottoms of our feet together. It is a leg muscle stretch: “Okay, now see if you can touch your nose to your toes. Your nose to your toes.”
Mia Campbell, she’s 7 now, in her fifth season with us, is sitting in our midst, perched in her impressive, quite massive, throne-like electric wheel chair, the late afternoon, bright June-bright warming glorious sun shining right in her face. She has a question. She raises her hand.
“When are we going to play ball?”
“Soon,” I say, “soon.”
“What happened to you?” Jia Sundell-Turner, 6, asks me about my disappearance last summer. All around us children bend themselves in half, pitching forward at the waist, aiming their noses for their toes.
On the diamond Owen Campbell, 2, Mia’s little brother, is absolutely captivated by the tee. He gets a ball and brings it straight to the tee, wanting to place the ball on it. Six more times, seven more times, eight-, nine-, 10 more times he does the same thing. The boy is in heaven, in a trance. He loves it. He loves the ball. He loves getting one off the ground. He loves bringing it to the tee. He loves placing it perfectly atop it.
Peyton Crawford comes to the plate with his mom, Christy. He is small, as thin as a knife-edge. Then, as quick as a flash of lightning -— Slash! Bash! Boom! -— he hits the ball right into the 18-legged creature standing but 15 feet away, all those eager-beaver razz-ma-tazz t-ballers in the center of the diamond, one group on their knees, running their hands over and through the dust, stirring it, piling it up, flipping it in the air in front of themselves; another group facing us at the plate, hungry, nearly delirious for a ball.
“Hit it to me!” Kian Rainey, 5, says, tapping himself on the chest.
“Hit it to me!” Mateen Sajabi, 6, says, patting himself on the chest.
“Hit it to me!” Erasmus Thornton, 5, says.
When Peyton hits the ball, this eager gang of six, seven kids turns en masse, like a school of fish veering away from danger, toward that little white ball sailing past them.
Trevor Crawford comes to the plate, an innocent, blondish, electric slice of a boy. “They’re twins,” his mom Christy says. “They’re three.” Peyton and Trevor.
Trevor very quickly hits the ball. Christy gets him to drop the bat and run to first. Only Trevor does not want to drop the bat. Trevor loves his bat. He wants to take it with him. But Christy knows the rules. She gets the boy to drop it and leads him down the first baseline. But Trevor is indignant, irritated, outraged, heartbroken. As he trots and stumbles next his mom, he has his head thrown back and is shouting to the heavens: “At!” he howls. “At! At! At!”
He is so totally committed. At?
No! It is bat! “Bat! Bat! Bat!” The boy is deeply wounded, dying an unbelievably painful death -— he has lost his bat. He cannot go on, why should he go on, without his bat? I take him his bat. I give him his bat. And all is right with the world once again.
And these are some of the stories of our Perry League, Yellow Springs’ t-ball program for girls and boys 2–9 years of age. We welcome 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 nine weeks (till our final trophy-potluck picnic night, Aug. 8), from 6:30–8 p.m. It is a wonderful and loving thing, this little community within our larger community. It is a place where you can be as generous and loving, as giving and helpful, as silly and happy, as good and holy, as you ever wanted to be — and be welcomed and supported and appreciated for being just that. And if you have wounds, as we all do, it can be and often is, a place of remarkable, even miraculous healing. I should know for it has been and continues to be exactly that for me.