Our son invited us to watch our grandson play T-ball. "Don't expect too much," he said. "They're only 4- and 5-year-olds and can barely hold a mitt." The teams are already at the playing field when we arrive. Our grandson's team is the Angels, and they are dressed in red and white. They all look the same.
"What number is he?" we ask discreetly so as not to admit that we can't recognize our own grandson. We're told to look for number 4 - his age.
On home plate is a stand - the T - and on it is a white ball. "These little guys just have to hit the ball off the T and then run to first base," our son explains.
The opposing team, the Dolphins, wears blue and gray. One little guy looks like Pigpen in the comics with Charlie Brown. Not because he is dirty, but because he is so small that his uniform hangs on him like a sack dragging on the ground. His hat - held up only by his ears - falls over his eyes, and he has to put his head back so he can see out from under the bill.
The game begins. Our team is up first. Even though there is a pitcher, he doesn't pitch. He just stands on the mound to get the feel of it, I guess. The first batter hits the T not once but five times. Finally the coach lowers the stand and the batter connects with the ball, sending it past the pitcher to right field. Here it stops at the feet of the right fielder.
"Timmy, stop chewing your mitt and pick up the ball," the coach shouts, in a nice way.
Timmy tries to pick up the ball with a mitt much too big for his little hand and fumbles it until he finally gets a grip with his other hand. He then overthrows the first baseman, who has to run after it.
Fortunately, in T-ball no one can steal a base.
Next is our grandson. Robbie is determined to clobber the ball over the fence. Instead, it goes straight to first base and he's out.
But the coaches let the kids run the bases anyway - for the practice. Robbie gets on third, ready to run, fists clenched, legs bent, and body straining forward. He gets the signal from the third base coach. "OK, Robbie, run!" His little legs just won't go very fast. Here comes the next runner, rounding second and then third. He passes Robbie and hits home before him - but he is already 5 years old, we tell one another. It makes a difference.
While all this is going on, the parents and grandparents are yelling encouraging words and maneuvering around to get the perfect picture of their "champions."
Pets, too, have come to participate in the excitement. They include dogs, big and little, and even a pet rabbit hopping around and nibbling grass at the spectators' feet.
I notice a girl on the team. "Look, isn't she cute?"
"Who?" my daughter-in-law asks.
"That little girl with the blonde curls over there. She has the sweetest face. How nice for her to be playing baseball."
"That's not a girl," my daughter-in-law says. "That's Johnny B. He lives across the street from us and is a real athlete."
Now the Angels go out to the field. Our grandson plays second base. The Dolphins send out their batters one at a time. When a runner finally ends up on second base, Robbie strikes up a conversation. "Hi. What's your name? Mine's Robbie. Do you want to come over later?"
The two players are having such a good time getting acquainted that the runner doesn't run, and soon there are three kids on second base.
After all the players on the Dolphins have had a chance to hit the ball, they switch places with the Angels.
Now there is another display of player "activity." The left fielder pulls his shirt over his head and turns around and around and around. The third baseman is doing somersaults and blowing fuzz off the dandelions. Another kid is watching the pigeons on the grass. Yet another one indicates he has to go to the bathroom.
"Why is it you always have to go in the middle of a game?" his dad asks. "Don't you go before you come?" He nods and shrugs, and off they go on a hike to the restrooms a block away.
The next time the Angels go into the field, Robbie is assigned to the shortstop position. "Dad! Dad!" he shouts to his father, who's sitting on the sidelines. "Where is shortstop?" Can you imagine him 20 years from now shouting up into the stands at Dodger Stadium, "Dad, where's shortstop?"
At the end of an hour the game is over, and the players form two lines and shake hands. Then the refreshments are handed out. This, of course, is the best part of the day for the players.
Did our son say not to expect too much? What more could we ask for? This was the most entertaining baseball game we've seen in a long time.