Perry League— A lifetime of T-ball
- Published: August 8, 2019
Cayden Maloney, 4, is our lead-off batter. He’s tall and straight, and loves this hitting and running. With just two swings, he hits a hot grounder to the kids clustering about the pitcher’s mound. His little brother, Colton Maloney, 3, follows him to the plate. And like his big brother, he hits well and quickly. I marvel at his and his brother’s rusty-red hair. It is so definitely the surprising rusty-red color it is, it makes it impossible to dismiss it or them. Beautiful boys. Beautiful hits. Beautiful hair.
Violet Ficke, 4, comes to the plate with her extraordinarily patient and loving father, Kyle. Kyle shows her how to hold the bat, instructing his priceless angel — for that is what she is — to keep her eye on the ball and hit away. She does it all, listening, swinging, keeping her eye on the ball, and in but a few swings, she hit that soft-dot T-ball straight into the maw of our mildly rabid infielders.
Amber Ficke, 3, Violet’s little sister, comes next — they do look like twins, which Kyle told me “many people mistake them for” just last week, as I stumbled about getting their names wrong over and over again.
Reese Tobias, 4, is one of this 2019 season’s undeniable stars. She is in the infield a lot, for a long time, with her dad, Zack, standing behind her, to her right as she faces home plate. When someone hit a good one at her, she was between third and second base, up closer to home plate than would be usual in a regular baseball game. I expected it would zoom past her, as most balls do to most kids playing in the infield. But Reese surprised me in several ways.
One, she moved over and got in front of the ball coming off Rowan’s bat. This is what coaches drill into you: “Get down!” “Get in front of the ball!” And this is what Reese did. She moved over, she got down, she got in front of the ball.
Two, she squatted in what would be the middle of this ball’s path to the outfield. A perfect place to be.
Three, the miracle of all skilled infield-player’s work, Reese got her glove on the ground with the fingers of that glove pointing to home plate. Another perfect move. And that ball rolled right into her glove. She quite literally, quite honestly, fielded that ground ball the way older, more experienced, more serious ball players do. Zack and I were both quite impressed and pleased. Like Zack said, it wasn’t something you see kids this age doing.
Ella Bistline, 4, did her unique, make-yourself-a-pretzel-at-the-tee wind up again, and again she connected solidly with that ball. Watch this kid, you all; she’s an athlete just taking flight, destined, I think, for great heights.
Elijah Schafnik, 3, had four or five strong hits, another boy who has grown tremendously as a ball player this summer. Another naturally skilled one to watch.
And Ronan Arthur, 6, came to the plate. I told him I missed him these last two weeks.
“I was ill,” he said solemnly. “I had a fever.”
Oh. You OK?
“I am fine,” he said, and showed how fine he was for the next 30 minutes by chasing and being chased by other players. These children remind me what it had been like as a child. They chase each other like madmen, madwomen, like warriors determined to capture and crush their foes. The other boys Ronan chased and was chased by in turns included Jamie Newton, 5, a wild and wonderful smiling champion; Brody Bistline, 5, a screaming zephyr, intent on chaos; Cameron Richeson, 7, a soaring and diving eagle, intent on snatching his prey; and Thomas Stratton, 6, king of the roost, ready to devour anyone who got too close.
Topher Besson, 3, is absolutely fascinated by the soft, loose, easily piled-up and scooped-up dirt on the diamond — which he was impelled to fill his hands with and then pour on his 6-year-old brother Johnny Besson’s head, which Johnny wasn’t too wild about.
Oscar Stratton, 4, hit a half a dozen balls, another T-baller very interested in gathering and spreading the wonderful, powdery, pour-through-your-fingers diamond dirt. And Mia Stratton, not yet 2, runs, plodding along like a trooper. She ran the whole length of the field with her grandfather Dave Stratton last week, running-plopping-bouncing from the third baseline to the light pole in right field where we gather at the end of the evening. And she has kept up her amazingly strong, non-stop “toddler runs” this week. Toddler runs? The small child bounces from one foot to the other, each bounce a small leap, those bounces seeming to come from round, softball-sized feet. Feet too thick and too big for the toddler to lift, but lift she does — feeling as speedy, no doubt, as a flash of lightning shooting across the grass.
It’s amazing to witness. The desire of these kids. Their commitment to do it all. And their stamina — I trotted along behind Dave and the most beautiful Mia, sure she’d stop to walk at least part of he way. And she did not.
Sebastian Valdez-Malishenko, 6, was back, batting superbly, running, fleet like a young gazelle. And his little brother, Mateo, 4, was hitting, running, determinedly into the game. Aspen Reitsma, 4, is such a serious-seeming wonder. She’s a good player. A fine hitter. Rarely saying a word to me, and then hitting a ball and transforming into a whirlwind flying down to first.
There’s more, of course, but I need to mention a wonderful thing that happened to me last Friday — I know, T-ball is a wonderful thing happening to me every Friday night. But Mayor Pam Conine graced our diamond and, instigated by a few sweet, loving souls — I think I know who — the mayor made an official proclamation to the assembled Perry League family of kids, parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, brothers, sisters and our Perry League volunteer coaches. Mayor Conine proclaimed the evening of Aug. 2, 2019, Coach Jimmy Appreciation Night. She read and recited a list of things I have done, like doing this T-ball for 34 years, writing this T-ball column, getting into this coaching job by accident (having come the first time in search of kids my daughter could play with — we were new to town, and there was only one kid on our block after we had had 30 kids on our block in Dayton.)
It was stunning, this proclamation. Wonderful. Embarrassing. You can see pictures, the proclamation itself and a video of it all on our Perry League T-ball Facebook page.
And that’s our wonderful, often surprising, Perry League, Yellow Springs’ T-ball program for kids 2–9 years of age, regardless of their race, color, creed, sexual orientation, ethnicity, spiritual inclination or practice, ability or disability. We’ll be out there Friday night at Gaunt Park from 6:30 to 8 p.m., and this Friday, Aug. 9, will be our final night of the 2019 season. We will have a shortened evening of play, followed by our annual wiener roast potluck-picnic, after which we will award a golden Perry League trophy to every girl and boy who is there. It’s a joyful and marvelous way to end the season. Why don’t you come join us? You might enjoy a hot dog with us and marvel at the radiance of the children clutching their trophies.