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The downs and ups of T-ball

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Tommy Moore is a T-ball champion — and home run hitter. He’s strong, he bats well, and is thoughtful and considerate. I asked him to aim his hits away from the thick cluster of kids lined up with coach Rob Gay at the pitcher’s mound. We didn’t want to hurt anyone with a line drive. Tommy was good. He agreed and hit a home run down the third base line and then a second one down the first base line. No child was clobbered or hit by a line drive and Tommy raced around the bases for two of his five home runs.

Evan Botkin, 6, a strong hitter, did hit a line drive, which flew off his bat like a cannonball fired from a cannon. And it smacked Elliott Craig, 6, square in the chest. A hot, fiery shot. Elliott was surprised and looked for a moment like he didn’t know what hit him. His dad, Zac Craig, our second base coach and perfect T-ball parent — one who adores his kids and all the others, who acts out his belief that this whole adventure is meant to be and should be fun, and who is vigilant about protecting and loving all — he was right there on the spot to help his son deal with the pain, the surprise, and the confusion: What just happened? This wasn’t supposed to happen. Not in T-ball.

Xavier Hall, 8, and his sister, Eve Hall, 6, helped coach Mark Breza throw balls out to the kids from the first base line. They came to the diamond and went directly to the first base line to throw balls out. It fascinates and intrigues me how the children know exactly what they like, what they want to do. Like Xavier and Eve, who spent the whole evening, over an hour’s worth of work, throwing balls out.

Derrick Partee Fleming, 2, knew what he liked, knew what he wanted to do, too. He was at home plate a thousand times, circling the tee, repeatedly trying to step into the batter’s box — to hit the ball we presumed. But you never know with these mysterious marvels. He may have just wanted to push the ball off the tee, not batting it, not hitting it with a bat, just shoving it off the tee — and then quickly, obsessively, pick that ball up again, put it back on the tee, and knock it off again.

It is wonderful to see how the children love the objects in this game: the tee itself, the amazingly beautiful and perfectly shaped baseball — made only more phenomenal by its red stitching: a white leather-skinned ball, sewn together like a summer dress or pair of jeans. And the bats. Oh, how we love our bats, which come in a rainbow of colors: purple, green, silver, pink, red, deep-sea blue. And they can be wooden or aluminum. Even a couple made of Styrofoam, puffy, can’t-ever-hurt-you bats. 

But what can you do when a child has a ball bounce off his shin; or she falls and bangs her knee on the solid, often-as-hard-as-concrete, dirt of the diamond? You’re hurt. You’re heartbroken. You’re inconsolable. What can we do? How can we help? With a loving mother, of course, or a loving father, or a loving grandpa, or a loving nana, there to console, coddle, and care for. And how about with a ball? Would you like a ball? Or two? Yes? And nine times out of 10, we offer a ball or two to a crying, distressed child and the tears stop and the unbelievable, incomparable thrill and ecstasy of holding and having a ball is a perfect antidote that takes the child away, transports him or her to some blissful, heavenly place, all sorrow scattered to the winds.

Mateo Valdez-Malishenko, 3, pops the ball off the tee. 

“Drop the bat and run!” I say. “Drop the bat and run!” But Mateo will not drop that bat. It is like asking the boy to forgo the ice cream and cake at his birthday party. There is no way. 

“So, take it with you,” we say. And Mateo does. As Liam Kemper, 3, also does. And Topher Besson, 2, too. And that is okay. It is why we’re out here, it’s what T-ball is about: to be something pleasurable and wonderful for our children, for your amazing, loving, hilarious, determined, and dedicated child.

As the rain that has been spitting for the last 15 minutes of our evening gives way to a high-arching, across-the-sky rainbow — a beautiful, natural and wonderful thing we all see and rejoice in — we call it a night.

And that’s our Perry League, Yellow Springs’ 10-week 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. 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 at Gaunt Park for the next six Friday nights, from 6:30 to 8 p.m., trying to have some fun. Why don’t you come join us? We’d love to have you, we really would.


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