Monday, May 03, 2010
The Girl Plays T-Ball
T-ball, for the uninitiated, is a version of baseball in which the batter hits the ball off a stationary tee, rather than trying to hit a moving (pitched) ball. It's a chance for little kids to get some exposure to baseball before developing the eye-hand coordination to hit pitches.
If you haven't seen five-year-olds play t-ball, add it to your bucket list.
They don't have much concept of 'positions,' as in 'you cover first base and I'll cover second.' It's more like 'whoever gets the ball first wins.' For the first two innings, the boys on the team were like puppies climbing over each other to get the ball, arms and legs flying wildly in the scrum. (The Girl kept her distance from the pile, only going after balls that were relatively close to her. I took heart in that.) The Girl was the only girl on the team, and formed a sort of Margaret Dumont to her teammates' Marx Brothers (or, if you prefer, a sort of Sigourney Weaver to their Ghostbusters.)
The rules were pretty humane. If you made contact, you automatically got first base, and every runner advanced a base. Everyone batted once per inning, and the last batter cleared the bases. Whichever fielder got the ball was supposed to throw it to first base, which sometimes almost happened. (Frequently, whichever kid won the ball in the scrum would just hold it up over his head triumphantly.) Had they waited for actual 'outs,' we would still be there, so this was a sort of mercy rule for the parents.
Attention spans being what they are, the game deteriorated a bit in the third inning. The other team's third baseman, if you want to call him that, decided to sit cross-legged while the game went on around him. I enjoyed his calm, Buddha-like presence as he watched a grounder roll past him. Several outfielders got into a wrestling match, which the coach decided wasn't worth the effort to defuse.
You don't really appreciate how complicated baseball is until you watch five-year-olds imitate it. Baserunners missed cues with some frequency, often not running until the baserunner behind them told them to. Parents became impromptu third-base coaches. The sidelines were bedecked with parents in lawn chairs, many with dogs and/or babies. One kid on TG's team made a point of running to his parents every time a half-inning concluded, to give them an update on what was happening. ("and then this kid hit the ball, and we tried to get it, and Kevin got it again, and that's not fair 'cause he's bigger, and I gotta go now!") A local ice cream shop sent a couple of teenagers to the game, one dressed as an ice cream cone and the other distributing fliers to the parents advertising free kiddie cones for kids in uniform that day.
The Girl handled herself well. She didn't let the boys intimidate her, and she didn't try to act like them. She just played her position, more or less, and made pretty good contact when she hit. The batting helmet didn't work well with barrettes, but live and learn. She seemed to enjoy it, and I hope she's able to remain unfazed by the boys long enough to learn something in the years before softball starts. She has already learned the field patter that coaches use; last night she yelled at The Boy to "use the muscles God gave you! If you didn't have them you'd go splat!" The Boy was a good sport about being there to support his sister, which seemed only fair after all the soccer/basketball games she has endured.
Given my distinct lack of athletic talent, I'm just tickled that she's out there at all. And we're right there with her.
Advice: If she sticks with it, get her a girl's batting helmet, which either has a hole in the back to stick a ponytail through, or a ridge down the back that channels the ponytail down to the bottom of the helmet. The latter looks less silly, but the former can be manufactured at home by using a drill and saw to cut the hole.
Every child who wants to should have such a fun time...
Six years later, she's moved on to fast-pitch softball, but we still see the occasional nose-picking :)