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The true beauty of T-ball

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It was a bit of a homecoming night at Perry League last Friday. We had the remarkable Gama-Lobo clan — Morgan, 9, Marina, 7, and Mayaan, 3 — visiting, vacationing, coming about 8,000 miles from South Africa. Morgan, with his dark hair, dark eyes, and pale skin, reminded me of a young Tony Curtis — like Tony Curtis looked in a promotion photo for the 1951 film “The Prince Who Was a Thief.”

Marina was high-energy, running everywhere, chasing balls into the outfield grass, running around the diamond, to the first base line and back, the girl a perpetual motion machine. To cool off — it was 92 degrees at the beginning of the evening — she went to our outdoor drinking fountain and scooped handfuls of water from the faucet coming out of the fountain’s stem. She ended the evening by sticking her head under that faucet, letting the water run full blast over her head and face as her mother Cara and I watched.

Mayaan, 3, had the enthusiasm, too, racing after the ball she hit rather than running to first base. Her father, Mike, chased her out toward the pitcher’s mound calling “Mayaan! Mayaan! Mayaan!!” He finally caught her as she started to meld into the cluster of children huddled there at the pitcher’s mound in the middle of the diamond.

Louise Camard, 6, and her beautiful little sister, Julia, 4, were back with us, too. They are spending part of the summer in Yellow Springs before they have to go back to their home in France when school begins. Louise charmed me, telling me she was going to bring me a ball every time one was hit, every time she caught one. “Well, thank you,” I said, and then I had this radiant, exuberant, magical child beaming proudly up at me with every ball she handed over. We started counting and got to 39. 

“What are you doing?” Julia asked, looking puzzled and perhaps a bit disapproving. 

“We’re counting,” Louise said with an unmistakable air of authority. Julia nodded, understanding, though by the quizzical look on her face, she seemed to still be skeptical.

We had a pair of wonderful boys and skilled baseball players with us from Houston, Texas. Henry Wiseman, 7, and his big brother, Hugh Wiseman, 9, are spending a month with their grandparents Greg Bernhardt and Sue Praeger. As they have in previous summers. Hugh batted and fielded, but wanted to do something more challenging, so he joined a gang of kids — Rocket Cowperthwaite, 6, Tommy Moore, 10, Evan Botkin, 6, Elliott Craig, 6, Natalia Ramirez, 6, Morgan Gama-Lobo, 9, and Quinn Brandenburg, 6 — throwing balls out to the kids in the field from the first base line. They would throw their balls out after the kid at bat had hit his or her ball off the tee. 

This throwing balls out gives more children a chance to catch and hold a ball, to catch and hoard a ball, maybe even to catch and throw a ball back — maybe, maybe not, those beautiful leather balls, their white skins stitched together with a thick, red thread, being one of the most prized things one could get his or her hands on on these almost mythical Friday nights of Perry League.

Ashby Lyons, 7, a calm, self-possessed, and gifted t-ball veteran, was a little impatient with how slow I was setting the ball on the tee so he could hit it. He was, however, patient with my asking him three or four times what his name was; and was also patient with me taking time to identify Ever Lyons, 4, and Oak Lyons, 23 months, as his siblings. Oak, about as big as a Pug, was shepherded and watched over very carefully, meticulously, conscientiously, by his loving, smiling, happy mother Danielle Lyons.

On-deck coach Margi Gay and I work hard at the tee helping kids bat and get decent hits. We have to focus as we show them how to hold the bat, how to swing it, where to stand, the whole time making sure no one is in danger of being struck by a wild swing. 

From whence comes our energy and our stick-to-it-iveness? It comes from these kids, from the stunning and awe-inspiring beauty of these kids coming to the plate to hit that ball; kids such as, among others, Jamie Newton, 4, Kylee Kemper, 6, Lilly Brown, 6, Vanny Liesdale, 6, Sydney Fisher, 4, Amelia Linse, 5, Maddy “Peanut” Maguirre, 8, Sophia Purdue, 6, Desmond Truitt, 6, Zander Breza, 5, Emma Hall, 11, and Nora Carr, 4. Their beauty is as inspiring as an Impressionist painting, their attractiveness as glorious as a perfect Hawaiian sunset. You know how you can catch your breath when you are suddenly accosted by something wonderfully startling, thoroughly charming, and fairy-tale enchanting? Like a thousand potted plants and hanging baskets at your favorite garden center, overflowing with flowers in scores of colors so bright and vivid as to seem unreal? Like a mousy kid on “America’s Got Talent” tells a heartbreaking story of a life littered with impossible obstacles, and then explodes in a lively, vibrant, hip-hop-rap, orchestral song telling the new story of overcoming those unbelievable odds, that voice and song and story and love and hope bringing everyone to their feet? 

Well, witnessing and drinking in the sterling beauty and ineffable attractiveness of these T-ball children is like that. It is so awesome, so out of this world, that it seems unbelievable itself. But it is not. It is true.

And that’s our 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. 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 five Friday nights, from 6:30 to 8 p.m., trying to handle all this love and beauty and grace. Wouldn’t you like to come join us? We’d love to have you, we really would.


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