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Sports

T-ball keeps ‘em coming back

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It was an international muddy affair at T-ball Friday night, July 10. Louise Camard, 3, accompanied to the diamond by her grandmother Mary Campbell-Zopf, is from France and is only here for two months this summer. Her mother, Mada Zopf, in a 1987 photograph taken by the late Irwin Inman, is the girl on the cover of my T-ball book, “A Thousand Strikes: T-Ball Yellow Springs Style.”

Marina Gama-Lobo, 4, and her brother Morgan Gama-Lobo, 6, are here from Tanzania. Africa! They are visiting for three weeks and their grandmother Virginia Caudill told me the first thing Marina said when she woke up Saturday morning was, “Can we go play baseball again?” Virginia said they had never seen baseball before — soccer is the sport in Tanzania — and plan to return to T-ball next Friday, July 17. Which we are very happy to hear.

Sage Oberg, 5, a quiet, very still girl, came to the plate a dozen times, never saying a word, but each time quite matter-of-factly, with a smooth, polished athlete’s grace, snapped her bat around, knocking the ball straight into and through the feet of the waiting children in the field.

Lilly Claire Colón, 6, was a talkative, energetic, running, hopping, happy girl, scooping up 77 balls between her skilled athlete turns at bat — she hit four home runs and six singles, scoring 10 runs over the course of the evening. Her little sister, Adelia Colón, 3, appears to be a thespian in the budding. She’d chase down a ground ball and then quite religiously bring it to me, carefully placing the ball in my hand. And then she would spread her hands out, her palms up, a look of surprise, confoundment and a wee bit of indignation on her face, and ask, “Why do the balls always have to come at me two at a time?” She was like a mother asking in exasperation — her tone understanding and bemused — “Why did my kids insist on tracking mud into my house after I have just swept, mopped and waxed the floor? Hmm?”

Maddy McGuire, 5, is a fantastic character full of the great joy of a totally and thoroughly loved toddler. At the plate she is an essay in individuality. She leans into the ball, lowering her head so it is level with the ball on the tee — she is like a pool shark lining up a shot. Then she will scoot around the tee, keeping a bead on that ball all the way around. Her mom, Sommer “Half Pint” McGuire, helps her line up next to the tee, helps her hold her bat properly, but as soon at Sommer steps back, Maddy is doing her leaning studying scooting-around pool shark dance again. It is fascinating. What is she thinking? What measurements is she making? And then suddenly, magically, Maddy swings her bat and knocks that ball into the eager gang of T-ball players waiting on her and her ball.

I get to play ball with a long-time T-ball friend of mine, the wonderfully self-possessed, first-rate athlete, and thoughtful boy Elijah Yelton. He is 7 this summer and we began our T-ball friendship four years ago when he was just 3. Not caring for all the shouting I encouraged at the end of the evening — I ask the children if they had fun tonight? And when they answer, I will say I can’t hear them, asking the same question again. As the kids are gleefully shouting their heads off, I ask them a second question, “Are you gonna come back next week?” Again acting as if I can’t hear them, I ask them a second time if they are planning to come back next week. After their ear-splitting, awesome affirmation that Yessssss! they are planning to come back, we race back to the diamond, to our families, and go home.

But several weeks in a row, four summers ago, I’d be walking back to the diamond behind this marvelous mob of madcap T-ball kids and here would be Elijah Yelton coming to talk to me. How nice, I thought, always feeling especially blessed and happy when a child seeks me out. And then softly, directly, each word enunciated perfectly, Elijah told me he wanted to make sure I understood, though he hadn’t screamed his head off like all the rest of my T-ball darlings (he would stand back about 10 feet from the shrieking gang, as one might from an explosion), he was planning to come back next week. “Okay. Good. Thank you,” I said. And he did. He came back then and now, this summer at 7, he’s come back again. Thank you, Elijah, thank you very much.

And that’s our Perry League, Yellow Springs’s T-ball program for all the community’s children ages 2–9 regardless of race, color or creed, sexual orientation, ethnicity, spiritual inclination, ability or disability. We’re at Gaunt Park every Friday night from 6:30–8 p.m. Children can begin to play at any time and there’s no requirement to play every week. Come when you like, come when you can. We’ll be out there for the next four Friday nights, until our final potluck picnic, trophy-to-every-kid-who-shows-up night, Aug. 7. So, why don’t you come on out, stomp around in the mud with us? Who knows? It might even be sunny and warm. Now wouldn’t that be nice?

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T-ball keeps ‘em coming back

by Jimmy Chesire