Saturday, April 16, 2005

Learning about "T Ball" in Hume, VA

On this spectacularly beautiful spring morning, I was returning from a walk to the Hume, Virginia, Post Office, when I noticed a game in progress at the local Ruritan Park. (“Ruritan International” is the rural equivalent of the Lions, Rotary and Kiwanis “service clubs” that predominate in urban and suburban settings.) The setting of the ball field, in the Shenandoah foothills near my country home, is picturesque. On a hillock beyond right field is the Ruritan Club’s picnic pavilion, decorated with fading green paint. Center field hosts bright yellow, orange and green plastic playground equipment. Down the left field line, also on a hillock, are the immaculate white buildings of Hume Baptist Church, where three starkly beautiful wooden crosses (about the size on which Jesus might have been crucified) greet parishioners arriving for worship services. Reflecting traditions of segregation that have now mostly faded, this is Hume’s “white” Baptist Church. The “Negro” Baptist Church, architecturally similar in most respects, is a mile or so down the road. This morning, the grass was a vivid green in the bright sunlight and adorned with yellow dandelions and purple violets growing wild.

…But about “T Ball.” Two local teams, the “Hillcats” (green jerseys) and the “Blazes” (blue jerseys) were contesting. Each team had eleven players, aged roughly between four and six years. Gender was mixed, though with boys predominating and all the coaches seemed to be dads. A scattering of parents, grandparents, and passers by like me stood or sat on the grass watching. T Ball gets its name from the fact that players hit the ball of a batting T rather than receiving a pitched ball to hit (which means hits are much more frequent). I queried a mom and dad standing next to me and they filled me in on the other rules. Each team bats around each inning, no matter how many outs are made. Score is not kept. There are no winners and losers, only winners. Enthusiasm, is sufficient to be rewarded with cries of “good job” by coaches and spectators – and everyone is enthusiastic. T Ball raises an interesting philosophical question. In order to be a “winner” is it necessary to have a “loser?”

Tomorrow afternoon, I will be helping to orchestrate technical support for Monday’s meeting of the U.S. Commission on Electoral Reform, chaired by two respected political leaders, former President Carter and former Cabinet Secretary (State and Treasury) James Baker. The Commission has an important agenda, comprises important members, and will, no doubt, do important work. I regard this opportunity to contribute to its success as an honor. Yet like most Washington enterprises, the Commission’s processes will include elements of pretentiousness, posturing, inflated self-importance and invidious hierarchical distinctions.

The T Ball game between the Blazes and Hillcats, nestled between Hume’s Baptist Church and Ruritan Pavillion, this spring morning, was refreshingly free of such elements.

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