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2017
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Sports

High-five hellos at T-ball

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There is joy. Infectious. Mysterious. Wondrous. Astonishing. Impossible to miss.

There is love shining within — Sebastian Valdez-Malishenko! A fine, perfectly sculpted child leaning into the game, his head tilted thoughtfully as he gazes up at you with a look on his face of undiluted happiness, love, pride, anticipation. And Sophia Purdin! A warm, spring sunrise running across the diamond from the third base line out to a gang of kids between first and second base, in a summer jumper the fresh sweet color of new peas you’ve grown in your own garden — running out to the gang of kids out there and almost immediately turning around to run back the same way she has just come, catching your eye and beaming wonderfully, happily, her look of love and joy saturated in gratitude.

Ah, it gives you pause, it pierces your heart, it magnifies you — here! Quick! Take my hand! Hold me fast lest I simply fly away on such a graceful, gifted cloud of love.

There is personality: “My name is Thomas Lawrence Finney, Thomas Lawrence Finney, but you can call me Thomas.”

“High!” Faye Wheeler cries, the excitement and anticipation is rich in her voice — she is delighted; she knows what she is doing, “High!” she sings. “High five!” I respond. We slap hands and with her slap I leap into the air. This vest-pocket-sized creature, her head level with my knees, comes at me like a T-ball tsunami. She will not be stopped, she is at me, she is upon me, crying joyfully as she comes, “High!” her left hand raised. She intends to slap my hand. I surrender, extending my hand, and Pop! Pop! Slap! Slap! Bap! She slaps me, claps me, and I am hopping springing bouncing into the air.

There is embarrassment, a mistaken identity: Rylie Sandey, 2, is back in a bright, neon-bright, pink tutu. She’s a ballerina and a T-ball player. And she is clearly not the boy I thought she was when I wrote about her athletic precocity last week. Mom and Dad, Lindsay and Brandan, assure me they had not brought a different child last week. And in the finest Perry League tradition, they forgive my stupidity without the least resentment or need for recompense.

There is living history, past and present all in one — Audree Livingston, 2, is on the diamond again, as happy as a flea in a dog kennel. Her mom Heather confirms that she, Audree, is the granddaughter of our beloved former police officer Huey — Hugh Taylor Birch Livingston, who died Feb. 14, 2014. “She looks like him, too,” Heather says. And by gosh, when Audree lifts her angelic lovely face to us, I see it. She does look like Huey — who used to stand with the Mills Lawn school-crossing patrol kids every morning out there at the Xenia Avenue and Limestone Street intersection.

There is resilience and magnificence — Emma Hall, 8, is such a card, an animated and intentional comedian. She comes to the plate in a tortured gait, a slow motion shuffle, the child barely moving. She is bent forward a bit at the waist as she imitates a frail 94-year old. She screws her face up a little bit so she looks like a nonagenarian working hard to move her ancient, aged body. I tell her she is one of my all-time T-ball favorites. “It’s been five years now,” I say, proud of myself for knowing, remembering those first summers when she had to wear an oversized rehabilitation boot. When she needed a rare and extraordinary surgery. When there was no guarantee she’d ever run or walk like an ordinary kid. And now here she is, a joyful inventive clown who hits and runs as well as any child on the diamond.

“No!” she exclaims emphatically. “Six!”

Really? Six? Then her mother, Sarah Hippensteel Hall, who is taking Emma’s picture with her sea-green colored smart phone says, “Seven. She has six trophies. This year’s will be seven.”

“Make room,” Emma says shooing me away from the plate. And then she whacks that ball off the tee with the power and skill of a 15-year-old sending the ball airborne all the way across the dirt of the diamond to the grass of center field.

What a thrill. What a magnificent blessing to be able to be with these beautiful, rambunctious, strong, athletic, hilarious, energetic, creative, and loving, loving children. I say a prayer of thanksgiving for this high honor and privilege.

There’s more, always more: with Ayira Carley, 4, quickly picking up the game and its complicated physical, mental, emotional sets of skills in just two weeks! With the inimitable and beautiful Maddie McGuire, 5-and-a-half, whose joy and concentration at bat turns into an abandoned, screaming, howling ecstasy as she runs the bases. With Jaden Douglass, 6, hitting home runs again — and again out-running his lovely, quite fleet footed mother Char Toms. With the sweet, caring, thoughtful, original 2015 home run king Tommy Moore, 7, without whom, it wouldn’t be Perry League for me. With Isabella Brown, 3, transformed on the diamond, from the at-first-hesitant batter and tentative fielder into an eager, booming, race car speedster of a T-ball player leaping, dashing, flying after two, three, four balls with every batter.

“She enjoyed every minute of it,” Mary Campbell-Zopf says at the end of the night of her animated, vibrant and athletic granddaughter Louise Camard, the French 3-year old visiting this summer with her mom Mada. Thank you, Mary. Thank you, Louise. Thank you, Mada.

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 will be at Gaunt Park one more Friday night, this Friday night, Aug. 7, from 6:30–8 p.m. This will be our final night of the 2015 season. We will have a shortened night of play followed by our annual, potluck-picnic. After which we will award a trophy to every single kid who shows up. Every kid, whether it is a child’s tenth night or his or her first night with us. You come, you play with us, you win. And so do we. So, why don’t you join us? We would love to have you.

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High-five hellos at T-ball

by Jimmy Chesire