T-ball, mud ball, having a ball
- Published: July 2, 2015
Maggie Bullock stands at the home plate in front of the tee. She says, “Dog dog, deer dog dog.” I lean forward and lower my head so I am looking her in the eyes: “Dog dog what?” I ask. She lifts her head, her bouncy, naturally and tightly coiled curls swaying and springing. They’re like a crown for some magical mystery queen. “Dog what?” I repeat and she takes a step toward me and says with considerable force and fiery-eyed indignation, “I’m four!” Four? “Four! Four-and-a-half! Four!” she insists. I have no idea how I had affronted her — “I’m four, you idiot,” she seemed to be saying — but she forgives me immediately. I trot down to first base with her. I ask her to tell her father, Ben Bullock, our first base coach and one of the most loving people on a field full of loving people. “Tell your dad what you told me,” I suggest to Maggie. She does. Ben listens, nods, then tells me she saw dog prints and deer prints, nodding to a set of dog prints next to the base right there at our feet.
Elliot Craig is “almost three” according to his dad Zac Craig who accompanies Elliot as he runs around the bases. When they run home from third base Zac lifts his beautiful boy over his head, hoisting Eliot on high, holding the boy like a rocket or battering ram, both father and son hooting, tooting, shouting for joy! When Elliot is in the field catching balls hit off the tee, he brings them, one at a time, directly to me, his face crinkled and softened with his proud happy generous self: this is a gift to me, for me, this muddy ball, and I appreciate it and him.
Nancy Sundell-Turner threw balls out to the children on the small diamond with her remarkable 10-year-old daughter Cheyan. The two of them made sure every child had a chance to field a ball — running them down, picking them up, throwing them back to (back near) (back over) (back past) Nancy and Cheyan. Jia, Cheyan’s 7-year-old brother, took his mother’s and his sister’s place when they went up to help the youngest Sundell-Turner out here, Sierra, 4, take a turn at bat. Jia lined up the eight balls he was throwing out in a straight row in the grass and instead of throwing the balls out he soccer-kicked them. And with impressive accuracy and adequate power to get the balls all the way across the diamond into the hands of the eagerly awaiting infielders. Nice work, Jia.
“Are you watching out for me?” Corbin asks her.
“Yes,” she says, “I am watching out for you.”
“When I hit, will you clap for me?” is Corbin’s second question.
“Yes,” his mom said, “Yes, I’ll clap for you, and really loud, too.”
“No,” Corbin said seriously, his tone commanding. “Not too loud.”
“Thank you,” mom Kristin Shattuck and dad Ruel McKenzie said when the evening came to an end.
“It’s a lot of fun, isn’t it?” I said.
“Yes,” they agreed, their handsome just-turned-5-year-old son Mica beaming, radiating happily between them.
“He’s good,” I say about their son. “He’s a really terrific ball player.”
Ruel nods, smiling proudly, and Kristen nods, too, adding Mica had told her, he’d been waiting for this all his life.
“What?” I asked.
“Yes,” Kristin said, “he said, ‘I’ve been waiting all my life for this.’”
“That’s amazing,” I say, laughing, surprised and delighted and Kristin nods her head, looking as surprised as I was, her son’s emphatic and fascinating pronouncement a bit of a mystery to her, too.
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 to 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 seven Friday nights, till our final potluck, trophy-to-every-kid-who-shows-up night, Aug. 7. So, why don’t you come on out, have some fun with us? We’d love to have you.