We were the only team without pants to match.
Scruffy jeans with holes in the knees, a third of the boys without mitts, and none – not one – of the 11 having every played organized baseball before.
A bit before the Supreme Court was in session for the first time this season – the fan club of King Felix and the Seattle Mariners filling Safeco Field 45 minutes to the north – the outfield grass of a Tacoma ballpark became its own field of dreams.
It was the Jamboree – the official start of the Lakewood Baseball Club this past Friday night – and among the 300 boys, and some girls, being introduced were the Tillicum Crushers.
The boys were unanimous in opting for a decidedly more destructive and feared moniker than say the color of their socks, and this night they had the loudest – by far – cheering section.
Rhubob and Rhubarbara, the parents of Rhubarb the Reindeer – official mascot of the Tacoma Rainier’s – have nothing on the proud parents of their seven-and-eight-year-old sons from Tillicum Elementary School’s first and second grades.
It’s the first year in many, many years that Tillicum has had a team of its own.
Thanks to the very generous donation of Silcox Island resident Ardi Shrag, Ray the manager of Tillicum’s 7-Eleven, and contributions from community residents and some of the parents who were able, the Crushers are nearing their financial goal.
As to their part the boys have already realized what matters most to them: hustle – because it matters to the coach; hotdogs; and the happiness on Head Coach Mike Barr’s face when a hit – any hit – happens.
At 30 miles per hour – and that’s the slowest a machine-pitched ball can reach the plate from the mound 38 feet away without landing somewhere in-between – that little white ball looks mighty small to some (ok, most) of the boys many of whom still legally require booster car seats.
The good news is, when they do connect, they now run to first base instead of third.
The very first turnout, a couple of the boys were walking from Tillicum Elementary School across center field toward the backstop when one of them pointed toward the ground and asked ‘what is that?’
‘That,’ was second base.
We’ve since learned what happens at second base, first, third, and home; why coach gets upset when they’re throwing their mitt into the air while the ball bounds away nearby; and the joy of realizing yes, there’s enough hotdogs for every hungry, cartwheeling boy to have two.
We may win a game or maybe not. We will have fun – that’s an order – as is paying attention. And the boys will – if you BYOB – sign autographs which baseball will be immeasurably valuable someday whether they make the big leagues or not.
Don’t miss your opportunity to cheer them on to victory and in life.
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