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David Trinko: Joys of teaching the ol’ ballgame to a tee

June 2, 2013

The little boy rounded first base and turned the corner Ö the wrong way.



He ran over to his father. Then he sprinted to first base, or past it really, on his way to second.



Or maybe it was second-ish, as he took a lap around center field before finally stopping to chat with the girls standing on second. He finally returned to first base, where he should have stopped all along.



All I could do is chuckle and smile. Such is the life of a T-ball volunteer.



To be perfectly clear, Iím a volunteer on my two youngest daughtersí T-ball team. I wonít use the word ďcoach,Ē because coach suggests you have something you can teach them. I spent my youth playing football and basketball (poorly). Given my limited athleticism, I can teach them how to strike out or not catch the ball, and I think they can figure that out themselves.



Still, when youíre herding 3-year-olds through 6-year-olds, you need all the help you can get. Because two of those wandering knuckleheads were my daughters, I decided to dust off my glove and try to help.



I never saw a T-ball game until last week. I have seen hundreds of baseball games, though. I assumed T-ball worked a lot like a baseball game, what with the gloves, baseballs and bats. I didnít account for the difference between baseball players and T-ball players.



Baseball players might chat with an opposing player between batters. T-ball players hug them and call them their best friends ever, then ask what their names are.



Baseball players field routine fly balls and grounders and toss the ball with pinpoint accuracy. T-ball players chase the ball around like itís a frightened puppy, pick the ball up and wing it wherever feels right.



Baseball players follow the directions of the first-base coach, stopping when told. T-ball players donít realize thereís a first base, much less a coach there, too.



If you come to a T-ball game hoping to see baseball played at a high level, youíre in the wrong place at a T-ball game. This is about teaching children the fundamentals and teaching adults not to take it too seriously.



I spend my evenings at first base teaching the children just three things. Base runners should stop running when they get to first base, and they head to second base when the next batter hits. The first baseman should hold his glove up to show heís ready for the ball.



Itís just three things. They seem pretty simple. Each and every boy or girl nods when I repeat those tips between batters.



Then thereís the crack of the bat, as someone worthy of the title coach watches a child successfully hit the ball off the tee. The boy proves he learned from the coach, and then he proves he didnít learn any of my three tips.



The little boy rounded first base and turned the corner Ö the wrong way. He takes a strange route before finally ending up back at first, where I give him his next instructions and wait for the next batter to repeat the process.



All I could do is chuckle and smile. Such is the life of a T-ball volunteer.