This spring, along with warmer weather and blooms and buds, has brought so many signs of hope and return to a life of greater physical connection with each other after a long year of isolation and separation. We are just a few days away from a time when anyone 16 or older is eligible to receive the COVID vaccine here in Oregon (and throughout most of the rest of the country, if not earlier). Here, too, schools are open to at least part-time in-person instruction, and capacities at restaurants, bars and gyms have expanded. While we’ve been warned of a gradual increase in case numbers and hospitalizations and the spread of variants, there is nevertheless much to cheer.
This past Wednesday I literally had one more thing to cheer about: the return of Little League baseball to our community. Two years ago we enjoyed our grandson’s first season in Little League as a just-turned 5-year-old — shorter by far than the rest of his teammates but matching them all in his enthusiasm and excitement. His daddy played college ball, and Sean has been swinging a bat and playing catch since he was 2. He has tagged along occasionally as his dad works as a volunteer coach for a local high school team, and Sean emulates the big kids as he practices pitches, picking off a runner and fielding hits.
You can imagine, then, how disappointed he was last spring when baseball was canceled. Playing ball in Granny’s backyard with the grownups just doesn’t compare with being on a field in uniform with your buddies competing against another team. Imagine, conversely, his joy when it was announced that Little League would be up and running this year. With a few accommodations to the virus (masks must be worn in the dugout, no high-fives at the end of the game with opponents), the kids have taken the field once again with glee.
It was warm enough for shirt sleeves on that sunny, soft spring evening as parents, grandparents and younger siblings gathered along the baseline fences with their lawn chairs, blankets and strollers as the kids warmed up on the dusty field. Mostly six- and seven-year-olds, at that age there’s quite a range in height . . . as well as focus and ability, but they all seemed to share that wild kinetic energy little boys have. Coaches called the kids into the infield for the recitation of the Little League Pledge, and then everyone rose to recite the Pledge of Allegiance. This was the first time in well over a year that I did so with a crowd of fellow citizens, and I am not ashamed to say I got a little teary in that moment.
For the next 90 minutes we cheered every hit, every ball caught, every base safely reached and, of course, every run scored — for both teams. I delighted in all the antics on the field — scuffing up piles of dirt and checking out bugs in the grass competed with fielding the ball — and watching the little ones on our side of the fence chasing and playing with each other as their parents chatted. It was a blissful, normal, beautiful spring evening, and I can’t wait for the next one.
— Patty Vanikiotis, associate editor/copy editor
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