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Jottings contributor Marlene O'Brien remembers fondly the fun of baseball season.

It is the middle of March, the weather has turned gorgeous, and that can only mean one thing: It is time for baseball. And, with two young boys in our family, we participated in baseball for 14 years, starting out with t-ball and ending with their final years at high school. But, it wasn't just the game that was enjoyable; it was the kids who played the game. Their first years were extremely fun to watch.

My husband and five other fathers decided to coach the first t-ball team. Why so many coaches? He wanted every father who could to be there and participate with his son. But the main reason was one of safety. There was extreme danger with 15 little eight-year-olds swinging big wooden sticks. One father did nothing but monitor the "batting cage warm up," and save other little boys from danger and head trauma.

One father brought a sack of wood chips to each practice. He placed them in the outfield where one young man was to play. The child never could find his spot and this made it so easy. It was also very funny when, after

about three innings, the kid would yell, "coach, I can't find my pile."

This same child had a dog who went with him everywhere, which was a good thing as the parents both worked and unfortunately the boy was alone much of the time. This dog would not leave his side. Coaches brought treats to coax the dog off the field to no avail. He stayed right with the boy. So now, we always had nine players on the field, plus one dog.

A child who was being raised by a single parent needed a glove to start his baseball experience. His mother knew, of course, that he was right-handed. So she purchased a glove for the right hand. The kid would catch the ball, put it in his left hand, take off his glove and then throw the ball. One of the coaches bought him the correct glove and saved the other for a left-handed player.

One of our pitchers had a problem when it was our time to be in the field. He refused to pitch to the batter. A coach was standing behind him, and kept telling him to "pitch the ball, it is our time to play in the field," but the kid still refused. Finally, the coach asked why he would not pitch to the batter. He replied, "He's standing funny at the plate." The batter was left-handed and our pitcher was not about to pitch to him.

The boys were taught sportsmanship; no nasty yelling or comments, just play and cheer on your teammates in an appropriate way. They learned their lesson well.

Our team had just come in from their turn on the field; it was a hot day and they were all thirsty for a drink from one of the coolers. Next thing we saw was our player walking onto the field with our cooler saying, "I think they are thirsty, too." Now there was a lesson well learned!

When the kids were in middle school, they played summer ball. The final tournaments were the second and third weeks of July. It was usually very hot, some of the fields were barely more than a weed patch with a pitcher's mound, and we traveled within our county for those games. But, in the high school summer league, the games were held at the local high school which was a nicer venue for the parents who attended, and there were real baseball fields. And, at this age, there was some serious ball being played.

The end of summer ball meant we could finally go on our summer vacation. We had a two-week time frame in which to do so. Football "daily doubles" started the second week of August.

The first years of baseball were the most fun both for the players and the parents. The kids were optimistic and happy. They did not stress over the scores; they were with all of their friends, and there were wonderful treats and drinks at the end of the game. After all, they had a cap, and a glove, and a T-shirt and they were playing baseball.

Marlene O'Brien is a member of the Jottings group at the Lake Oswego Adult Community Center.


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