Sports

Hit, run, catch and watch ... It's time to play T-ball!

By ROGER HESKIN

For the Mirror

Vans and SUVs are parking, doors open to discharge 5-year-olds all along the street sidewalks. They grasp their huge leather gloves and run and leap across the ballfield toward the home plate area.

Families carrying babies and younger siblings are following along behind, coaching little brothers and sisters to play in the sandboxes and on swings next to the ballfield.

Excitement is the name of the game.

Finally, the coach and helping fathers gather most of the players around them. The T-ball players, their little heads topped with caps made too big and pinned in the back for actual size, anxiously wait for instructions. Ears are bent from the weight of the mis-sized head gear.

They begin to read off names of players and assigned positions. Fathers take the players one by one and show them where they are to play left field, right field, second base, first base, etc.

“You see that spot right there? That is where you stand.”

An excited 5-year-old stamps both feet on the spot and jumps straight up and down, driving the information into his consciousness. Huge leather gloves are swung around in the air in anticipation of fly balls, direct line drives and grounders.

Finally, the batter has his huge plastic helmet placed on his head and is standing next to the T-ball staff. A helping coach picks him up and explains how the legs should be spread like this and stands at 90 degrees to the out field.

The second baseman has learned how to do cartwheels and is exhibiting his talents to the audience. The first baseman is a girl, and she is so amazed that so many people are standing around looking at her that she is slowly turning around on base, looking at all of them –– kind of a mutual admiration exhibit.

Suddenly, the batter hits the ball, after several practice swings, and the crowd is jumping up and down, yelling, “Run, run, run!” The batter knows he must run, so he begins traveling toward first base.

All of the other players are at a loss to what is expected. Finally, the pitcher moves forward and picks up the ball and throws it in the general direction of first base. The ball falls far short, and the first baseman doesn’t know if she should move off the base to go get the ball or if that is the job of some other player. Coaches give more explanation, and then the next batter is up to the plate.

A couple of swings go over the ball and fan the air. One swing hits the T-ball staff.

The ball is re-set in the cup. Finally, the ball is sailing over the pitcher and another chorus of “Run, run” is heard throughout the arena.

The right fielder and the center fielder are busy checking out each other’s gloves and are caught unaware of the action. They look around in amazement.

The second baseman picks up the ball and steps on base and the whole crowd goes wild. He has made an out. Coaches, parents and siblings are jumping up and down screaming at the top of their lungs. Players are looking around to try figure out what exactly took place. Finally, with a long explanation, the player who was caught off base and is out has to be escorted off the field to the team bench.

Suddenly, as the next batter is taking his place next to the T-ball staff, a silent signal is given to a parent and the pitcher is running with his father across the playfield in the direction of the portable toilet. A substitute player is hurriedly brought in for such emergencies.

The game continues.

Roger Heskin is a Federal Way resident.

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