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A muddlicious time at T-ball

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Erin Fink, 6, Zane DeBoer-Fink, 6, Quinn Clonch, 5.5, Alex Boldman, 8, Brody Bistline, 5, Rocket Cowperthwaite, 5, Natalia Ramirez, 5, Cameron Richeson, 6, and Evan Botkin, 5, clustered around the pitcher’s mound, chasing after and scooping up every ball coming their way. Then Quinn got a ball that had landed in the delicious mud puddle in front of the pitcher’s rubber. He brought me this muddied ball, his face shining with glee and mischief — he was going to gross me out with this messy muddy ball, but I love the mud balls and mud puddles. In fact, I yearn for the days before the Village put in drainage pipes, running under ground from home plate all the way out to the left field fence — 10 yeas ago? These pipes drain the field after a good rain, forever eliminating the great six-foot-diameter, 28 square feet of water puddles of yesteryear. Puddles with water standing an inch deep. Puddles we played in, puddles we ran to, puddles we slopped and flopped in, just having a grand-old muddlicious time.

As I chased Quinn with a mud ball, Erin Fink showed me her shoes, caked-in mud she’d gotten from that pitcher’s mound mud-spot. Zane DeBoer-Finn’s shoes were caked as well. Amelia Linse, 4 — turning 5 the next day, July 15 — showed me an acrobatic trick she’d made up this very evening: She stood on the pitcher’s mound rubber, standing before the thickly, deeply, soggily muddied spot — an 18-inch by 30-inch wound in the infield dirt. Then she leapt, spreading her legs in a mid-air splits, and came down on the other side of this 30-inch long gash of mud. Quite impressive and physically imaginative.

Levi Clark, 5, and Paige Clark, 7, were back. Levi followed Paige to bat. When he hit the ball he ran to first where Paige stood with her mom, Jackie Clark, her smartphone camera in hand. “What’s this? A family affair?” Eric Clark asked as he and Levi arrive at first -— where Paige and Jackie still were. “We’ll all have to get on the base,” Eric said, and they did, all four of them crowding onto that tiny 15-inch square canvas base. Jackie snapped a picture, and what a charming, loving, hilarious family photo: eight sets of toes, all pointing to the center of the base, all pinning that base to the turf.

Tanner Miller, 6, a strong hitter and handsome boy, hit a home run. His little brother Luke, 3, hit a solid grounder, showing an amazing improvement over his clearly-he’s-a-beginner attempts to hit the ball two weeks ago. Sam, his dad, said Luke hits better and stronger when he uses a large, more normal-sized bat. The skinny wooden Louisville Slugger toothpick-like bat made it harder for him, not easier as many of us assumed given the bat’s lighter weight, and its shrunken, easier-to-swing size.

Tommy Moore, 8, a veteran now in his sixth season, is a boy easy to love. He continues his streak of hitting at least one home run each T-ball night. His best hit this week soared over the heads of the children in the infield and he charged around the bases with the power of a locomotive screaming down a steep hill with no brakes.

Sebastian Valdez Malishenko, 5, was back and as ornery as one of the first five boys in Father Flanagan’s original Boys Town home for boys 100 years ago this year. His little brother, Mateo, 2, boomed with glee and eagerness, doted over by his marvelous mother Myra, his awesome grandfather Tucker Malishenko, and his handsome loving father Angel.

Amandine Bouquet-Saber, 4, a delicate-appearing child of astounding fairy tale-like picture-book beauty, is an ardent T-ball player. She loves to hit. She is a quick study. She comes to the tee, examines the ball and the tee, measuring the ball’s height and then — Wham! In one swing she sends the ball flying into the infield, immediately setting sail for first. She hit a dozen times and would have happily hit a dozen more times if only we had the time.

Zander Breza, 4, is so fast, so sure of himself that he hits the ball off the tee and takes off running for first base before I even get to the plate. Zander is a boy with an incredible, undeniable, outrageously wonderful energy. At play’s end he runs four times as far as the rest of us when we sprint to the light pole in right field, there to say our good byes -— I ask, “Did you have fun tonight? Are you going to come back next week?” And they scream back to me, scream at me, “Yessssss! Yessssss!” I tell them they are wonderful and thank them for playing T-ball with me and then we run back to the diamond, ready to go home. Zander, who’s been running the whole time we’ve been screaming our goodbyes, is now but a fading dot, barely visible in the long grasses of left field.

And that’s the Perry League, Yellow Springs’ T-ball program for girls and boys, 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’ll be at Gaunt Park for the next three Friday nights — July 21, July 28, Aug. 4 — from 6:30–8 p.m. Children can begin to play at any time and there’s no requirement to come every week. So why don’t you come on out and play some ball with us? Or watch us play? We’d love to have you, we really would.


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