Sunday, June 22, 2008

The Last Day of Turtles

After six months of Saturday and Sunday practices in a gymnasium, with outdoor practices and then games taking place on the infamous Turtle Club ball diamonds; today was the wrap up of both Alannah's Red Timbits T-Ball team, and Ashley-Rae's Green McDonalds Blast-Ball team games.

The season ended today with the Turtles Club annual Tournament of Champions.

The progress made by Alannah's T-Ball team since those first days of gymnasium clinics has been pretty astounding. Remember that explaining baseball to a child for the first time is a huge educational task. The game is not easy to figure out until it has been instilled as a part of personal experience.

Now, after six months of dedicated coaching by persons I can only describe as Saints of Patience, not only do the girls know how to throw a ball, catch another player's throw, field a ground ball, and hit the ball off the tee to a target area where the opposition has left a gap in their coverage – but they now even know where the next play is to be made – and what their role in that play is. Each infielder covers their base. Outs made by infielders throwing the hitter out at first are common.

It's an incredible example of progress and player development.

The fifty year old Turtle Club's facilities are exceptional. Six quality diamonds, each perfectly fenced with nice dugouts and groomed with perfectly cut grass, orange clay dirt with perfectly straight white chalk lines defining the boundaries of each field. Bleachers that change from shade to sun found on each side of each diamond make watching a game a pleasure. And three parking lots intertwined through the facilities accommodate the traffic of the busiest game days.
Like this weekend's Tournament of Champions.

Between games, Alannah and I would go watch the big girls play fast pitch softball. Today the Turtle Club's under-seventeen girls travelling team was playing a Michigan clubs traveling team. The flags of each country were proudly stretched across the back of each team's dugout. The pitchers of both teams wind-milling their underhand pitches at speeds comparable to boys overhand pitching.

Alannah and I sat and watched three innings of this game – sitting in the shade of the bleachers. Watching the girls hit line drives, steal bases, and turn double plays.

"This is the kind of ball you will play when you get older, Alannah." , I said to my eldest daughter as she watched the big girls with wide eyed amazement.

The announcer on the PA speakers announced the next batter. Her name was Alannah. Alannah looked at me with her mouth wide open. Then she sat and watched the older Canadian Alannah drill a line drive into left center field, through a gap, for a stand up triple, and driving in two runs.
Alannah stood up and clapped real loud for her older namesake.

"Dad, do you think I will be that good?", asked Alannah.

"If you practice real hard and try your best, I bet you could, Alannah", I answered. "You might even play on this team."

"Wow – that would be sooo cool."

"Yes, Alannah. Yes it would".

So now that the season is over, and the girls have their participant trophies, I find myself sad that the 2008 season is over. I will admit that in mid March – after two months of 9:00 AM Saturday and Sunday gymnasium practices, I was ready for this day to come a quarter of a year ago. But now it is over. And Alannah has grown to become a ball player. Perhaps not a great player, or maybe not even good yet, depending on your criteria for judgment. But a ball player is a ball player.

And ball players are my favorite kind of people.

Now I fully recognize that things may change in Alannah's mind as the next six months unfold. But I hope some of her accomplishments, achievements, and the things she saw the big girls do will stay with her and she will still want to be a ball player again next year.

And if she does, there is no better place to play ball than with the Turtle Club.

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