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The tiny heroes of T-ball

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At the end of the evening we are running out to the light pole overlooking right field. Margi Gay is leading this lovely young child by the hand. We’re “running” like two-or three-year-olds run — in short, two-to-three inch hops made on legs seeming so stiff they may as well be made of wood.
“What’s your name?” Margi asks. She’s bent at the waist, holding this tyke’s hand, half trotting, half fast walking. “Who’s gah boo,” this child says in all earnestness. “What’s your name?” I repeat. As does Margi. “Ah-boo-goo-boo-Ah,” this small charging warrior says again. So “Ah-boo-goo-boo-Ah” it is.

Cisco Ramirez came to bat with a gorgeous lion’s mane of springing, bouncing, curly hair, his face shining with glee. He hits the ball in one swing and takes off like a small pumpkin shot from a cannon. I pick up his discarded bat and when I straighten up. Cisco is already back here at home plate. He has already run around the bases. In 15 seconds or less. That is fast. Very fast. I want hair like that.

Erin Fink, 7, takes a more casual, more usual time to get around the bases — say a minute from base to base, having to wait for our batter to connect and actually hit the ball before she runs to the next base. Back at home plate she gives me a new version of the “high five,” a version she taught me: you make a fist and bump the other person’s open hand; who then does the same to you. So, I bump Erin’s palm, back off, opening my fist, hold my palm up, and she bumps me with her fist. It is cool, though I do it like an old dude just learning how to do it, so “the cool” is mostly in the attempt and in this slow motion “high five” version Erin has just done.

Two-year-old Ella and Parker Bistline come to bat with their cool dad Michael (He tells me his wife, Elizabeth, said her mother, Joyce Nosker, brought pictures of her, Elizabeth, and me, at the tee, from the summer of 1988. When Elizabeth played T-ball. “I want to see those pictures,” I say.)

Ella hits first and we lead her, help her, run and walk down to first base. Our first base coach Leah has had to abandon ship as her own three-year-old boy was so tired he was falling asleep on his feet. I ask Ella to wait. Alone. On first base. I rush back to Michael and Parker.
“It’s scary to be out there alone,” I say. “I know,” Michael says. But Ella is brave: she’s two, she’s standing on a flat, inch-high “bag” we call a base — which we may as well have called a Bump in the Road for all that word “base” meant to Ella. Parker hits quickly and he and his dad join their momentarily stranded angel Ella at first and all is well.

We have a field full of zombies. Johnny “Mr. Vivacious” Besson, 5, is at the tee when suddenly he whirls on Luke Miller, 4. Johnny raises his hands over his head, makes his hands into claws, and lunges at Luke. Who screams happily, fleeing for his life. Thomas Stratton, 5, zombie-snarls at Zander Breza, 5, who leaps away like a rabbit. Sophia Purdin, 6, zombie-charges Natalia Ramirez, 6. Meanwhile Louise Comard, 6, brings me ball after ball, counting them for us — we’re trying to get more balls than last week’s 30. She forbids me from throwing any of them out to the kids in the field. Being quite stern in her direction to me. (We get to 32 balls caught and retrieved.) Her wonderful, joyful, athletic little sister Julia, 4, hits a good solid grounder and races to first on her own, unprompted. But she catches her foot in the thick, powdery, mounded pile of dust in front of the base and pitches hard, face first, right into the ground. She doesn’t move for a moment. I offer help, worry over her. When she sits up I see the bottom half of her face has turned red. She has dust on her shirtfront, and more on her shoulder.

I ask, “You okay, dear?” “Yes,” she says, softly clinching her jaw, bucking up, another child being brave and a little bit heroic. Which inspires me to buck up and be a bit bigger and braver myself. Thank you, Julia.

And that’s our amazing 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. This coming Friday, Aug. 3, is our final night of the 2018 Perry League season. We will be at Gaunt Park from 6:30 to 8 p.m. We will have a shortened evening of play, followed by a wonderful wiener roast potluck picnic, and then we will award every child a shiny, golden Perry League trophy. It is a special T-ball night and we invite you all to come and join in the fun. We will have plenty of food, lots of love, and good cheer for all. And to see the children get their trophies, to see their joy and excitement, to witness their unrestrained, uninhibited bliss, their wonderful, infectious delirium, is a rare and blessed experience. One we all should have. And with some regularity. So, won’t you join us? We’d love to have you. We really would.


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