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Jul
15
2024
Youth

Throngs of local youngsters took to the Gaunt Park fields on Friday, June 7, for the summer’s inaugural Perry League game. This is the 54th year of the village’s free, volunteer-run T-ball program. (Submitted photo)

Perry League T-ball magic begins with new season

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There is a special magic that fills the village’s air on the Friday of the first Perry League gathering of the summer. This past Friday, June 7, signaled the start of the current year’s Perry League T-ball season, a cherished tradition since 1970. We often wonder whether the visionaries who created this unique approach to playing the game could have imagined the longevity of this joyful activity. Yellow Springs Perry League has definitely stood the test of time! Can you believe it’s been 54 years of Perry League?

Last Friday evening, we kicked off another season in grand style! Opening day was a perfect day to play T-ball.

A slow trickle of families began entering Gaunt Park around 5:15 p.m. The pace of incoming traffic increased with a considerable influx of participants right up to the 6 p.m. game time. The parking lot, spectator area and playing field were scattered with many caretakers and parents, grandparents and siblings; even a few family pets were in attendance.

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We appreciate caregivers’ patience with opening day registration: there was quite a long line!

When the players received the call “T-ballers, line up,” they stood shoulder to shoulder, many wearing traditional Perry League tie-dye gear as we kicked off the 2024 season. They were amped and ready to play, the kids’ verbal demonstration at the start of play made that very apparent.

It is sometimes a challenge to corral so many kiddos and kick off the evening with the run to the right field fence for warm-ups. Whether because of the sheer number of runners, or the age/speed difference that exists, we sometimes have a “man down” announcement. The child is gently helped up, dusted off, offered some encouragement and sent on their way. Often we are tasked with retrieving misplaced hats and shoes lost during the full speed jaunt to the fence.

The first night of the season offers a number of other firsts. It is the night many first-year players, or “rookies,” make their debuts as they step up to the batting tee for the first time. The inaugural at-bat is a momentous occasion, one we highlight and enjoy immensely. Often family members in attendance become paparazzi-like in their pursuit of the perfect shot of this once in a lifetime moment.

After alumnus Harlan, 8, got the batting started, our second batter of the evening, Matthew, was one such rookie player. Two-year-old Matthew was fully engaged from the beginning of the evening; it was obvious he had come to play. When it was his turn to step up to the plate, he made perfect contact on his first swing, driving the ball into the outfield grass. Sensing that he had the opportunity, instead of stopping at first base, he turned on the afterburners and circled the bases for an inside-the-park home run! What a great way to start T-ball! And, thanks to Matthew’s mom, Molly, for stepping up to enthusiastically coach third base.

Rookie batter Devin, 8, was asked by Coach Yunus if he knew how many strikes he gets. Devin seemed perplexed, so Coach rephrased his question: “Do you know how many chances you get to swing to hit the ball?” Another blank look from Devin. Coach informed Devin that in Perry League you get 1,000 strikes. Devin replied, “Huh, that’s nice.”

At one of her at-bats, Indie, almost 7, told us she was not new to T-ball. She played with another team with a lot of coaches and was here to have more fun. And, thanks to mom, Jessica, for helping kids with bat selection.

Another rookie power play was made by Harrison, aka, Harry, 2. Lil Harry, on his first try, had a line drive hit. Nice, Harry! We have our eye on sweet brother Sebastian, a recent one-year-old as an up-and-coming Rookie.

There were so many rookie players: Denver, 21⁄2; Ender, 6; Lily; Rowan, 9; Elise, 4. Many siblings were first-timers: Finn, 3, brother Miles and big sis, Eliza, 7. The J boys: Ja’Neal, Jahmil, Jarell — 2, 5 and 8 respectively, with support from Grandma Julie. It’s at her house where they practice T-ball, we were told. Siblings Audric, Secora and Dexton are new to the program. The O kids: twins Oliver and Oliva, 5 and Odessa, 2, who had an opportunity to hit at break time with Coach Yunus with the ever-popular caterpillar bat. Raelyn, 7, and brother Colten, 5, who had a nice follow through on his swing and then “mike-dropped” the bat for effect. Rookie Alice, 8, sported a vintage dri-fit lemon-lime colored Perry League shirt. She told us it had been her uncle’s shirt; when asked his name, Alice said, “Bubby.”

We enjoy reconnecting with players from previous seasons; often, their growth rates are stunning!

Curly Girl Jo, 4, hit the ball, beamed and exclaimed “I did it!” Sidney, 8 — whose name is spelled with an “I” as opposed to with a “Y” as in the Australian city — was back. The difference in spelling was discussed while waiting to hit. SIdney had a great hit for the start of the season. Iru shared that he turned 5 on June 1st! Parker, 6, hit the ball and rather than running from first to second base, traveled the distance via cartwheeling. Sarah, 6, did not disappoint and showed us her signature 360-degree spin-and-hit. Allie, 8 returned to play in bare feet as per usual. Madeline, 6, and Millie, 4, returned to play. It was a big week for Millie as she placed first in her age group at the Simply Women 5K the previous Saturday. Congratulations, Millie!

We enjoyed returning siblings Miko, 3, and Kailin, 5; Josey, 6, and Miles, 3; Oly, 7, and Aquilla, 3; spunky sisters Emberlee, 5, and Shiloh, 7; Harlan, 8, and Ida, 5, who is feeling some real Perry League independence as brother Harlan is also participating in Minor League ball now. Sisters Isabel, 4, and Sophia, 2, are also back, and we’re so glad.

These returning players offer years of collective experience, and we often witness our veterans instructing their younger counterparts on the finer intricacies of the game. They seem to have the ability to provide simple guidance that produces instant results for the new player. Hayden, 3, and Charlotte, 5, discussed the benefit of using the flame bat and waited patiently to share the favored bat. Kid-to-kid coaching can be really effective!

A conversation was overheard between a seasoned player and a newcomer where the rookie made mention of “this baseball game.” The veteran Perry Leaguer replied: “This isn’t a game” and pointed toward the baseball field where YS Minor League was in motion, and continued: “That’s a game!” It’s true, we’re not so structured, but Perry League’s cuteness score beats the Minors and the Majors combined.

Then there are those alumni players who return, often to watch a younger sibling play. Although too old to join in play, some choose to participate as a volunteer. Rocket has been a fixture every season for nearly a decade. He spent years as a player in Perry League, and has been enthusiastic to continue to climb the ranks. Rocket was proudly sporting his Dodger cap from his current YS Major League team and helped supervise the process of throwing in additional balls of play from the first base foul line. It was fun to watch Rocket as he gracefully and confidently handled incoming return throws from coaches and players, and for Rocket, it all began on this very field.

Of course, there were some sideline activities going on amidst ball-playing. Baseball volcanoes were created with field dirt and capped with a T-ball. At one point there was a trio of volcanoes in the works.

Due to the large number of kids yearning to bat, our halftime treat break came at the end of the evening. Thanks to the Breviks for bringing watermelon and ice pops.

That’s it for the first week of Perry League T-ball 2024. We sincerely appreciate all the helpers who stepped up to assist with a very large group of kids: Thank you, thank you!

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. We meet every Friday through July, 6–7:30 p.m., at Gaunt Park.—

—Coaches Yunus Brevik and Margi and Rob Gay

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