Our daughter Kamryn, who just turned six, had her first T-ball game today. And it was every bit as adorable as I thought it’d be.
After a grand total of 51 at-bats among all players, her team lost 27-24, victims of a smaller roster.
In her particular league, every child gets to bat, every child gets to round the bases, and every child gets to score. Every single inning. There are no outs and no strikes, even as kids spastically swing wildly back and forth in an effort to hit the ball resting comfortably atop the tee.
As one of only six parental volunteers in the outfield for our team, my job was to make sure the kids didn’t fall asleep or get too muddy in the infield. While people joke about how T-ball kids spend their innings sifting through clover, staring at the clouds, or jumping away from bugs, you really can’t blame these kids for losing interest.
Because this isn’t like regular baseball, where a ball could be hit anywhere inside the ballpark at any time, T-ball’s action takes place between the pitching mound (er, standing mound) and first base.
As the following reference graphic demonstrates, this is your typical inning in T-Ball:
The batter hits the ball, the ball dribbles to the mound, the pitcher throws the ball to first, and the first basemen runs to retrieve the ball that just went through his or her legs. This happens nine more times and then the teams trade roles.
Once at bat, a child wearing a helmet two sizes too big carries a bat two sizes too small and approaches the plate. After making sure the kids in the infield are ready to do absolutely nothing, the coach jumps away quickly and tells the child to go for it.
Upon contact, the crowd erupts, and everyone watches the pitcher and first baseman play catch.
Upon a swing and a miss, the child will most likely be looking through the helmet’s ear hole, but that won’t stop him or her from continuing to swing at the tee like it’s a piñata.
The coach, who has seen enough America’s Funniest Home Video episodes to know that an errant bat can de-nutify a person, shouts frantically for the child to stop. Assuming the child hears the coach over the rattling caused by the helmet bouncing repeatedly off the skull, they’ll eventually reset and line the child up a bit more closely to the tee for another go.
Roughly 40% of all swings result in a direct hit to the pitcher, 25% are total misses, 25% obliterate the tee, and 10% end up behind the player and coach after an accurate backswing. Still, when you see the glow in a child’s eyes as he watches the ball dribble away from the tee after giving it a good smack, it makes all the standing, corralling, and base-pointing worthwhile.
Kamryn, who assured us she knew all there was to know about T-ball, got to play first base. Upon catching the ball from the pitcher, she immediately made a beeline for second, where she was deemed safe after some savvy base running. Once explained that only the batters get to run the bases, she returned sheepishly to her position and awaited the next throw.
She was placed on first because the original child took a soft lob to the chest after it missed his glove. As with most Major Leaguers, he was relieved and sent to his mother’s awaiting arms until his tears dried.
Another child burst into tears after he was tagged with the baseball because he thought that meant he’d be the only child in T-Ball history to not score. Once assured that there are zero consequences in T-Ball, he wiped away the tears and stood proudly on the base.
Right around the bottom of the 2nd inning, kids were asking how much longer they had to be there. They wanted to go home. After 30 minutes and three thrilling innings, they were relieved of duty, and ready to drag half the mud from the field into their parents’ awaiting vehicles.
All in all, a great day, and if everyone on Kamryn’s team shows up next week, I think we have a win in our future.