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A town favorite has returned: The 2023 Perry League T-ball season kicked off on Friday, June 2, bringing nearly five dozen youngsters to the baseball diamonds at Gaunt Park. Shown above is two-year-old Pippin Fitch Stiver at her first-ever Perry League game. Though she never took a turn at bat, contented to stay in the field, Fitch Stiver still exclaimed halfway through the evening, “I love T-ball!” (Submitted photo by Jordan Stiver)

Perry League | Magical T-ball season starts anew

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By Coaches Yunus Brevik and Margi and Rob Gay

The 2023 Perry League T-ball season opened Friday, June 2, with summery weather and beaming faces. Rob and Margi Gay arrived early to ensure things were in order: fresh chalk markings, bases in place, bats waiting by the on-deck circle and the table set with T-shirts, hats and registration paperwork. Many families arrived early, too.

About five dozen children responded to the 6 p.m. whistle. You could sense the magic in the children’s faces as they anticipated play. I remembered just how fun and worthwhile these games can be in those first few moments while children line up and wait.

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We started the season with a few comments about the purpose of some chalk markings: the batter’s circle and on-deck circle can host just one child at a time, while the arc that stretches from the foul line and is about mid-way between the batting area and second base is a safety zone for the fielders. There aren’t many rules in T-ball. These rules keep everyone safe from swinging bats and line drives. Our 1,000-strike rule guarantees each child will get a hit when they’re at bat.

Our games have three or four components: a warmup, game play, the occasional half-time event and a closing out-and-back run.

We ran to the outfield for the warmup and a few children, true to tradition, started sharing their plans for the night, noting whether they’d be coming to bat or staying in the field, or a combination of the two, or whether they’d be making up their own game, which often involves a combination of the dirt and dramatic play.

We ran back to the diamond, and children chose to wait on the bench for a turn to bat, or scattered somewhere in the infield or outfield. First to bat was Miles, 2, who had a solid hit and proved that even the youngest are well-suited for the game. Our next batters were returning players Marco, 5, Oly, who turned 6 days after the game, and Rae, 7.

One of the joys of T-ball is seeing children come back each season. Harlan, 7, and Hezzy, 4, seemed as if they’d aged two additional years instead of one. Harlan was geared up with knee-high socks and enjoyed several at bats. Hezzy came to bat once, then spent a good bit of time catching balls as they rolled through the infield. I didn’t initially recognize Amandine, 9, when she came to bat. She too appears to have aged an extra year since last season.

It’s a good thing the children are gracious, since I can’t always remember names at the beginning of the season. One of our 9-year-old returners came to the T, and I said, “I’m trying to remember your name. I’m pretty sure it starts with an L.” She nodded, then offered a clue: “It sounds like Alaina.” I still couldn’t remember. She then said, “Leyna.” She made that about as easy as it could have been and was kind enough to accept my apology when I couldn’t figure it out. There were a surprising number of players missing a tooth on opening night, making it slightly more challenging to understand the responses when we asked for names.

A few came decked out and ready for the season, showcasing a range of fashions. Elsie, 4, had sparkly shoes, Shawna, 7, had lipstick and glittery eye shadow, while Alyce, 3, had a modified Perry League shirt, with the sleeves cut and transformed into dress straps. Jo, 3, one of our young ones, came in full uniform: cleats, baseball pants, Perry League shirt and hat.

Parker, 5, arrived with much more confidence compared to last season. She even decided on a one-handed swing with the caterpillar bat during her second time to the T, carrying the bat as she ran the bases before returning it to the on-deck area. Teddy, 5, reminded me: “I’ve been here before.” Shiloh, 6, told me she’s here “from last year and the year before that.” Simon, 6, came to bat and stated, “I don’t remember how to hold the bat.” He was holding it perfectly and just needed affirmation. Several other returning players joined us tonight, including Sidney, Valkyrie, Allie, Evelyn and Theo, to name a few. All had sturdy swings and successful hits.

Trudy, 5, reminded me that she came with her twin brother Harry, who was first up to bat after halftime, and older brother Chuck, 6, who modified his red hat with an M for Mario. Sarah, 5, was back with her signature bat swing that involves spinning at least one or two circles after hitting the ball. Her older sister Erin came to bat and hit the ball into the outfield. Another solid hitter was David, 7, who might still be experiencing the lucky streak from a recent four- and five-leaf clover find. Mahni, 3, came back stronger and taller.

Dory played the evening’s game, as did many others, with bare feet. She told me, “My name is Dory Like the fish. And it’s spelled like that too.” Fitting, given she was the only player participating in a bathing suit. Another child told me, “My name is Henry David Johnson. That’s all my names put together.” So I announced this 6-year-old’s turn with all three names. He yelled out to everyone on the field: “That’s all my names! Put together!” Ida, 4, told me, “Some people think my name is A-da, but it’s Ida.” Ida is friends with Ember, 4, who had a lot to share with us this evening. We were informed, through big gasps of excited speech, that she and Ida are the same age, go to the same school and are the same size. We were also told that she’s “rough and tough” and that, in her words, “I can see to outer space. I eat a lot of carrots. I have really good eyesight.” After Ember ran the bases, she tapped the T instead of the traditional stepping on the plate. During halftime she dropped her pineapple and was kind enough to then share it with Margi. Thanks, Ember. And thanks to Beth Brevik, Aimee and Kalina for providing fruit for the halftime break. Thanks Beth Anderson for taking notes about the game, and thanks to Becky for her presence and assistance with getting children from the bench, to choosing a bat, and then to the T. One parent noted how excited her kids were to see “the lady that calls them George.”

Liam demonstrated his sliding skills. He said he likes to do this going fast, “just not on the grass because it makes me itchy.” Emi, 2, was our only hitter to use the wooden bat. She was the first one to appear on the field with a band aid — it was a Bluey band aid — because she fell and hurt her knee. We also found out she had a hurt finger because there had been a splinter at some point, reminding us that with summer and increased outdoor time typically there is an increase in ouchies. Thanks to dad Chris for helping out on the field.

Thanks to Guinevere’s dad who told me her name. Some children aren’t ready to talk to unfamiliar adults yet and that’s OK. Octavia came to the T with mom’s support. It does boost the confidence of our youngest players when they have a caregiver nearby for emotional support. Sometimes that caring support comes from a sibling. Aquilla seemed to gather confidence for her first at bat with brother Oly nearby. Georgia was last to bat — it was her third at bat — and she came with the loving support and guidance of dad. There’s a lot going on during our games and her eyes were taking it all in. Dad would remind her to look at the ball when she’s trying to hit and that helped her make contact. So ended our first game of this season’s Yellow Springs Perry League T-Ball. Our all-volunteer program is noncompetitive, free and open to children aged 2–9, regardless of their race, color, creed, sexual orientation, gender identity, ethnicity, spiritual inclination or practice, ability or disability. You are welcome to join us Friday evenings in June and July, starting at 6 p.m., in Gaunt Park.

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