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Intoxicated by t-ball

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So many wonderful things make up this Perry League. Like Melissa Tinker, who brought her two beautiful, athletic, eager, running, hitting boys, Kian Barker, 5, and Neirin Barker, 2. Melissa was our “bench coach.” This person is supposed to keep track of the children coming to bat, get their names — we try to call all the children by name as much and as often as possible — send them over to our “on-deck coach” who gets the child’s name from her, helps the child pick a bat, makes sure no one hits anyone else with his or her bat, and brings them to me at the tee at home plate. Kathleen Smith was our “on-deck coach” most of the night. She had to leave a little before 8, and apologized. No need. We are so grateful for her careful, attentive time and energy, and for her patience with all of us. Vanessa Hale stepped in for her; she’s the mother of the phenomenal beauty and superb batter and splendid runner, Sophia, 5.

But Melissa Tinker set a Perry League record, being the most organized, most detailed, most effective, most loving and patient bench coach since the glory days of Teresa Wagner and Callie Cary; remember those former t-ball champions? Teresa back in the last century (1996), when A.J. was but 2? And Callie in the dawn of this century, when her star ball player Eamon was 2?

But setting a record? How so? Well, by being happily willing to work well past closing time; 8 p.m. is when we usually fold up the tent, but last Friday, it was 8:03 p.m. by Vanessa Hale’s watch, and Melissa had eight children sitting side-by-side on the bench, patiently, quietly awaiting their next turn at bat. And, mind you, these are 2-, 3-, 4-, 5-, and 6-year-olds. Barely a giggle or wiggle from any of them! Not what I have come to expect from our perpetual motion machines, our darlings fairly frothing with delicious deviousness and delight. And this calm orderliness was Melissa’s doing.

“Are you okay to stay a bit?” I say going over to her. “It’s past our usual time to quit.”

Melissa assents, not batting an eye, not missing a beat, not hesitating at all. And so, 15-children-at-bat later, seven more children fairly materializing out of thin air, we call it a night — but not before Melissa does a scan of the area, making sure we haven’t shortchanged any child: “That it? That everyone?”

Out on the diamond, moms and dads were champs, too. Dusty Hall for one, father of the inimitable Emma Hall. Emma’s 5 now and is so vibrant, happily hilarious, the girl on fire! And so healthy and strong; we did a story on her last summer, talking about a major spinal surgery she’d had trying to get at some mysterious spot in her brain that was randomly telling her leg muscles to tighten, sending the child into terribly agonizing cramps. Dusty, her dad, charming, handsome, enthusiastic, he throws balls out after each kid hits, giving every child a chance to get his or her hands on a ball, to catch one, to own one, and maybe even throw it back.

Our “on-base coaches” were stupendous, too: we try to get someone to stand on each of the three bases because most of our children are brand new to baseball and don’t even know what a base is. So, when a child hits the ball, we applaud and cheer, enjoining the kid to “Drop the bat and run!” but many will not. They will simply stand there, staring. So we have to help them let go of that bat (dropping the bat seems anathema to so many of these small children), often needing to touch it and gently lead them to lay it down on the ground. Sometimes, we even have to peel a kid’s fingers back. And then, bat on the ground, we take them by the hand, their toddler’s fingers wrapping around an index finger; it is so sweet, thrilling, in fact, to walk them, or trot with them, down to first, calling out to our first base coach, Scott Tucker, the kid’s name: “This is Caroline!” And he beams, saying, “I know, she’s my daughter!”

And that’s the Perry League, Yellow Springs’s remarkable, all-volunteer, all-loving, all-wonderful, all-everything t-ball program for all our community’s children regardless of race, color, creed, national origin, sexual preference, ability or disability. And we’ll be out there at Gaunt Park from 6:30–8 p.m. for the next eight Friday nights, till our final wiener roast potluck picnic trophy night on Friday, Aug. 3. So why don’t you come on out? To watch. To help. To enjoy yourself. To drink of the intoxicant we call t-ball. We think you’ll like it. And we sure will if you do.



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