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Sheer joy of getting a ball

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It was 80 degrees and sunny sunny sunny, a perfect day for the first night of T-ball. Fifty-five children showed up with their moms and dads, brothers and sisters, aunts and uncles. We did our opening exercises — “Can we go play T-ball now?” Tommy Moore, 9, asked after we’d done some jumping jacks and sit-down-in-the-grass, put-the-bottom-of-your-feet-together, touch-your-nose-to-your toes stretches.

Yes, we can. And yes, we did. We raced back from the right field grasses to the dusty diamond, divided the kids into fielders and batters, and began the real work, the real fun, of T-ball — batting, running the bases, playing the field, catching balls hit by the batter or balls thrown out by volunteer coaches and kid-coaching-helpers from the third-base and first-base lines.

Rob Gay, a key adult volunteer coach, stands at the pitcher’s mound keeping fielders safely back from the batter — it is like an inevitable T-ball fact: a kid bats, hits a small dribbling grounder, and all those kids around Rob race forward in a mad dash to get that ball. Then they return to cluster around Rob. With the next ball hit there is the same rush for it, and the same return to their places near Rob, only this time they line up a few inches closer to the plate. And a few more inches closer after the next batter; and closer after each succeeding batter. They were like storm clouds slowly moving in, so slowly you don’t notice until it was too late. That storm cloud was Zane Debeor-Fink, 6, and his cousin Erin Fink, 5.5, the agile Cameron Richeson, 5, the peripatetic Quinn Clonch, 5.5, and the mighty and fearless Sophia Purdin, 6.

Natalia Ramirez, 5, a veteran in her third season, is a skilled athlete with a strong, sure swing — which is a very difficult thing to develop as these bats are large and unwieldy, often as long as the child is high. She pops one that shoots between Cameron and Sophia, and then she dashes to first base like a seasoned NCAA championship sprinter.

Zane and Erin are avid and enthusiastic players, squatting, their hands down in front of them, ready to scoop whatever comes their way — and this is one of those delightful T-ball visions, to see these children so adept, so skilled, so naturally and athletically inclined to the game, knowing exactly what to do.

Cole Tremain, 5, is back, as handsome and as serious about playing ball as ever. “You’ve got new glasses,” Margi Gay, our on-deck coach says admiringly. She and I are quite impressed with these attractive azure blue-rimmed spectacles. But to Cole they are as interesting as last Friday’s lunch.
His sister Stella, 9, a sophisticated, gymnastically inclined breath of fresh air, coaches and shepherds her little brother and then asks if she can help. We have her throw balls out to kids — we do this, throwing eight or nine balls into the kids on the diamond. We want every kid to get a chance to catch and field and throw a ball. It is another of the thrilling and remarkable things about T-ball, how phenomenally important and unsurpassingly exquisite it is for the kids to get their hands on a ball. Think of some private pleasure you take in something few others would find pleasurable — like vacuuming and steam cleaning with your new Shark. Or baking a wonderfully delicious pound cake from scratch. Or getting your cucumbers in the ground in time. Getting your hands on a ball is like that for our beautiful T-ballers.

Jamie Newton, 3, a breathtakingly lovely explosion of energy and verve, is a natural sprinter. She races hither and thither, wanting and needing a ball of her own as much as any other human being on the diamond. And by gosh, with her perseverance and undying ardor, she gets one, then two, even three!

Thomas Stratton, 4, with his dark Clark Gable good looks, looking like his granddad Dave, hit the ball on his first swing — and then raced to first base like a flash of lightning. His little brother Oscar, 2, a major-leaguer in miniature, he’s got those Stratton jock genes, too. The little guy nearly tipped over by the weight and awkwardness of his bat, he actually smacked the ball in but two swings — you get a thousand strikes in T-ball, so needing only two when you yourself are only two, well, it’s a bit marvelous.

Ian Miller, 8, comes to bat, in his first night on the T-ball diamond A handsome, well-groomed young man, he is as peaceful as the uncanny quiet before a storm. He lifts his bat to his shoulder, surveys the scene in front of him, and says quietly, quite matter-of-factly, “I like this.” And it hits me. Fires right through me. This simple, elegant statement, it is intimate, it is open, it is revealing. It is pure, without shame. And it is the truth. It’s why I do this year in and year out. This boy in his simple, open, unself-conscious honesty, in his clarity, in his authenticity, teaches me. Thank you, Ian.

And that’s the Perry League, Yellow Springs’ all-volunteer, 10-week T-ball program for all children, 2–9 years of age. It’s the village’s non-competitive, beginner’s baseball program for all our community’s children regardless of their race, color, creed, sexual orientation, ethnicity, spiritual inclination or practice, ability or disability. We will be 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 come every week — come when you like, come when you can. We’ll be out there, trying to have as much fun as we can for the next nine Friday nights, until our final potluck trophy-to-every-kid-who-shows-up night, Aug. 4. So why don’t you come on out and give us a try? We’d love it, we really would.


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