LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. —
In Braden’s league, the players have to hit pitched balls—pitched by Coach Dad—whose earnest desire is that every kid on the team gets a hittable pitch every time the ball crosses the plate. But there’s still a lot of strike outs. On the other hand, there’s a lot of fielding errors so making contact with the ball usually put the batter on base. This is not just Grandpa bragging here. Braden knocks the fire out of that ole ball and he can haul his little behind around the base path.
Tyler’s league, of course, hits the ball off a stationary “tee”, usually into the infield where up to a dozen fielders try to pounce on it at the same time. But no matter where the ball is hit, the batter only gets to take one base unless he or she is the last batter at the bottom of the inning, in which case it’s an automatic home run unless, by some rare occurrence, the ball is actually fielded and he gets tagged out.
That’s the situation TKO found himself in last Thursday evening. Bases loaded. Tyle ris the last batter. Grandpa yells,” kill that ole ball TKO!! You da man!!” The Grandmas plead, “you can do it Tyler” and clap their hands.
My champ stands away from the tee, takes a few practice cuts, steps back up to the tee and scowls until the ball has been properly stared down. And then he connects with the ball on his first mighty swing. The ball has not been hit this hard all evening and it goes though the defense like a bullet through a hornets’ nest.
“Run Tyler! RUN! RUN! RUN!” But TKO needs no encouragement. He’s off like as shot. He passes the first of his fellow base runners at second and picks up speed. He passes the next one just after rounding third. If he’d had another three steps he would have beat the whole pack home.