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Millie, 6, stepped up to the plate early on in a recent Perry League game, only after getting warmed up by playing in the field chalk. (Submitted photos)

Beauty abounds on T-ball field

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By Coaches Yunus Brevik and Margi and Rob Gay

The preparation for our games begins an hour or so prior to the scheduled start time.

Walking to the diamond adjoining the T-ball diamond Friday, July 21, to begin the field preparation process, we noticed a doe and two fawns frolicking in the open field. They seemed to be enjoying the overcast skies and cooler temperatures of the day. Seeing Mother Nature’s creatures playing in the same space as us made it seem all was right in the world.

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As it slowly opens, a loud creak escapes from the rusty hinge of the door to the metal storage locker where baseball supplies are kept. It’s a sound that signals the beginning of the process to prepare the T-ball field. It is there where the field striper and chalk are kept — key elements required for the field preparation process.

These tools allow field designations to be clearly and accurately marked. The foul lines are the first to be drawn, done with the aid of a nylon string drawn taut to serve as a guide that ensures they’ll be arrow-straight and vivid in definition. Next, the safety zones are created. The first is in the field of play, an arc drawn to provide a visual marker for the fielders to stay behind. It is located a safe distance from the batter to provide a margin of protection for those on defense. Few things in life are more discouraging than a firm bop on the head from a well-hit T-ball. The other safety zone is a circle that surrounds home plate. This visual representation is created to keep those who may wander on field away and safe from the on-deck circle.

Once the field markings are complete, one can’t help but look out over the field and appreciate its beauty and simplicity of design. The freshly marked field becomes a canvas of sorts, a place where the players combine limited time conditions and vivid imaginations to produce creative works of art that defy explanation. These outward field dirt and chalk expressions, along with those displayed during game play seem to produce poetry in motion.

Typically, our first players arrive around the same time the field prep has been completed. To them, this is a special time, a moment to savor, they have been granted unrestricted access to the pristine field of play. They can pick and choose where to make the first stroke of the masterpiece that will be created in the hour and a half following. Most often, they come bounding out onto the field sporting an ear-to-ear smile, eager to begin the good work of play.

Our first child, Celine, exhibited this nonverbal expression. It was followed by the pronouncement “It’s a good day to play!”

As the start time draws near, there is a gradual increase in the traffic entering the park. It begins with a single car, followed by another, the ever-increasing rate of entry continues, reaching a crescendo moments prior to the announcement, “T-ballers, line up!”  Families and friends travel by car, truck, SUV and even a few golf carts. Each filled with folks eager to enjoy a simple game of T-ball. A few of our participants arrive by nonmotorized means, on foot or via pedaled variety.

As the children are released by their caretakers to join the others, the adults are now able to let go of the stresses of the day and relax. This seems to produce a collective sigh of relief from the parents, grandparents and other caregivers.

Once the warmups have been completed, the players choose whether they prefer to play the field or hit, or to do neither. Kids on the bench wait in eager anticipation as coach Becky announces the first hitter of the night.

Willa, 5, waited patiently in her sweet summer-decorated straw hat with her friends.

Millie, 6, one of our regulars, was one of our first batters, but had obviously been into the field chalk in a big way in advance of the game -– she was positively dusty!

Later we witness Magnus, 2, as he begins his hitting process. He approaches the ball on the tee in a manner similar to that of a surgeon, seemingly examining the ball in great detail. Was he counting the stitches? His mother cheerfully recounts the arduous practice routine he has adopted in recent weeks; this young lad is determined! Coach Rob joked: “It’s a good thing we don’t use a pitch clock!” Actually, we don’t have any rules in Perry League, and every child gets 1,000 chances to hit the ball.

Charlotte, 4, aka Char-Char, uses a different approach in her at-bat.  Her preference is to swing the bat in the same plane while adjusting the tee height in minute amounts until the two are in perfect alignment. Her efforts prove fruitful as she solidly strikes the ball, a broad smile lights up her face as she scoots off to first base.

Georgia, aka GiGi, 3, was proudly sporting a new pink and purple glove that she said she’d been using to practice at Ma Ma’s house.

Out in the field we notice Brendan is sporting a bandage on one of his fingers. When asked what happened, he responds, “I smashed it between two rocks!” It’s a good thing kids are resilient!

We notice Oly, 6, patrolling the field using a single shoe approach. When asked, he states, “I run so fast, that shoe can’t stay on!”

Sidney, 7, showed us something new: She assumed a stance similar to a track sprinter as the batter took their cuts. When it was mentioned that she looked as if she could run track, she humbly responded, “I do.” Then she was off, using the crack of the bat in a manner similar to that of a starter’s pistol. Her approach seemed to work!

Before batting, Theo, 4, said hello and made sure we knew he had lost a tooth. Then he hit the ball with his first swing. He’s definitely an experienced T-baller!

Another friendly guy, Felix, told us that tomorrow would be his sixth birthday, and he was having a Minecraft party.

On the sidelines, David, 8, filled us in on why he was absent from T-ball the last two weeks: He was on vacation! It took him a few minutes to remember the lake where his family vacationed and where he took sailboat lessons — it was Lake Michigan. Sounds like the Badgers made some very nice memories.

Pippin, 2, was in the thick of things on-field, making sure her grandmas witnessed her maximum cuteness.

We were thrilled to see a new child join us last week, as Ellis, 5, made his debut. And what a debut it was! He quickly caught on to the flow of the game and was soon zooming around the infield catching everything in sight. His efforts were so enthusiastic and efficient it was remarked that he resembled a human Roomba! Ellis finished his evening as the last batter, slugging a ball deep into the outfield, legging out a walk-off home run.  Quite a way to start a career!

Play happens off the field too. We noticed Phelix, 7, had climbed to the top of the backstop on the adjacent field performing his Spider-Man impression. We encouraged him to safely make his way back down to solid ground.

Okay, maybe there is a guideline or two.

That’s a wrap on the next-to-last 2023 T-ball game, our all-volunteer Perry League program that is noncompetitive, free and open to children ages 2–9, regardless of their race, color, creed, sexual orientation, gender identity, ethnicity, spiritual inclination or practice, ability or disability.

Friday, July 28,  6–7:30 p.m., is the last game and traditional last night potluck cookout. We can’t wait to celebrate the end of our 53rd Perry League season!

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