From Chicken Soup for the Baseball Fan's Soul

T-Ball and the Beaver

All kids need is a little help, a little hope and somebody who believes in them.

Earvin (Magic) Johnson

“Just call me Beaver. Everyone does. See why?”

With that he wrinkled up his face, displayed two extra large upper front teeth over his lower lip, flapped his arms, chirped like a bird and moved his posterior up and down.

So we called him “Beaver.”

He was the least athletic member of our T-ball team— quite a distinction, for T-ball is populated by kids who are probably never going to be varsity players because they lack speed, coordination, strength or skill—or maybe all four, like Beaver. But no one was more lovable than the Beaver.

One of the goals of each season is to somehow help each kid—eight- and nine-year-old boys—have a moment when he is the hero, when his teammates mob him and praise his great feat on the diamond. It was going to be very hard to help the Beaver have his moment of glory.

Try as he would, the Beaver could not hit the ball off the tee very often, and when he did, the ball would dribble out to the pitcher, who would run and touch first base while an amazed Beaver stood and watched. Often the umpire—one of the dads recruited for the job—would give Beaver six strikes, usually in a futile attempt to help the Beaver hit the ball.

It bothered me to see the Beaver fail so often, and it hurt the whole team to watch. But it did not bother the Beaver. He always smiled and laughed after each disaster at the plate.

Beaver was no better in the outfield. Usually he and the closest outfielder teammate would be talking and laughing about who knows what. The Beaver was having a good time. Just being on the team was good enough.

The season was almost over. It was one of the last games. Then the miracle I prayed for happened. The Beaver accidentally hit the ball hard and just right after five strikes. The ball sailed over the heads of the shortstop and the left fielder, who were standing side by side, discussing which was worse—little brothers or sisters—and rolled out into left field.

Beaver just stood there in awe and utter amazement. All his coaches, teammates and fans, including me, yelled, “Run, Beaver. Go to first base. Yea, Beaver! Go, go, go!”

Beaver, totally overcome and utterly perplexed, stood motionless for a moment. Then he ran over to me and sat on the bench at my side.

“What are you doing here?” I asked. Beaver replied, “Everyone was yelling and screaming at me. I figured I was doing something wrong, so I ran over to be by you.”

“Beaver, you did great. Now run over to first base where Mr. Johnson [one of the dads] is coaching.”

Beaver got up and, with a gentle push from me, ran to first base. (The complexities of staying in the base path were for a future time.) The ball was still out in left field as a result of a badly executed relay.

When Beaver reached first base, Mr. Johnson told him to run to second base and gave him a gentle push in the right direction. He hollered at the Beaver as he ran toward second base, “Watch Mr. Andrews [the dad coaching third base] when you get to second base.”

The throw to second base was wild and went out into right field. Mr. Andrews yelled to Beaver, “Come here, Beaver.” Beaver ran to third base and stopped. The right fielder now had the ball. Another shout of encouragement and a gentle push from Mr. Andrews had Beaver running home. He beat the last wild throw of the play and scored! He just stood there, standing on home plate. He was smiling now.

His teammates, coaches, mothers and dads, and I ran to him and congratulated Beaver with unrestrained enthusiasm and utter joy. It was the kind of moment every kid should have at least once.

After the game Beaver taught us another lesson, in addition to facing adversity with a smile.

I said to him, “From now on we will call you Home-Run Ted.”

“No,” he said with a smile, “just call me Beaver.” With that he wrinkled up his face, displayed two extra large upper front teeth over his lower lip, flapped his arms, chirped like a bird and moved his posterior up and down.

Beaver taught us that modesty in victory was a virtue as great as a happy disposition in adversity.

Amazing what we can learn from an eight-year-old in T-ball. In some thirty seasons of coaching kids’ sports, T-ball and the Beaver was the greatest moment of all.

Judge Keith J. Leenhouts

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