Play ball! Hamlet youth baseball tees up

Opening Day for youth 9-12 is Saturday

By Kevin Spradlin
PeeDeePost.com

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HAMLET — It wasn’t about turning a double play or hitting a home run. It wasn’t even about the fundamentals.

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com This batter listens intently to instruction by a Hamlet Rotary coach before heading towards the batter's box.

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com
This batter listens intently to instruction by a Hamlet Rotary coach before heading towards the batter’s box.

No, Mitch Bowman said. It was about something even more basic, and far more important than that.

“Let them have fun,” Bowman, director of the thriving Hamlet Parks and Recreation Department, told the parents of 5- and 6-year-old baseball players, boys and girls, before the first swing, hit, error or strikeout of the 2014 summer season. For many this wasn’t only the first time for players to take the field in an organized sport but also the first time for most parents to watch their child begin the ups and downs of team sport.

“This is their game,” Bowman emphasized as members of Hamlet Rotary, in blue jerseys, toed the first base line and members of Quick & Sinclair Electric, in black jerseys, stood along the third base line for Bowman’s address.

The rules are simple. Each half inning, each batter gets up to five swings to put the ball in play. Everybody bats. Everybody plays. And Bowman said parents of both teams should cheer for players of both teams regardless of a strikeout or error.

By and large, the players were left to be instructed by coaches with batting stance, fielding position or when to go to the on deck circle. There might have been a family member or two — there usually is — that was just as tough on little Johnny or Susie during the game as when at home.

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com A low-five for the single, then direction on where to go next, and when.

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com
A low-five for the single, then direction on where to go next, and when.

Tuck in your shirt. Put your glove on. Swing the bat harder. Straighten your hat.

“I got it,” said one coach to a father figure.

Message conveyed. It was clear the coaches were in control of the players while they were in the dugout or between the white foul lines. And if that meant the second baseman would rather dig in the dirt than pay attention to the machine that tossed each pitch softly towards home plate, so be it.

But each batter usually took well the instruction offered by the coach, who stood only a few feet away for immediate positive feedback and, where necessary, minor correction on foot placement. Same goes for the base coaches.

“Where do you go when the ball’s hit,” asked a coach to a ballplayer who’d just laced a single down the third base line.

The player pointed towards home place. The coach gently directed the athlete’s arm towards second base instead.

The dugout for each squad is a mix of youthful enthusiasm and activity — and sometimes full of kids watching the game being played. Other times, it was about body parts being in inappropriate places.

“Ew! You licked the chair!”

The atmosphere and the rules, both are different for the older kids; scores and win-loss records are maintained, though parents are still encouraged to be as positive as possible to athletes and coaches on either team. On Saturday, games are played at 10 a.m., noon and 2 p.m.; 9- and 10-year-olds play at 4 p.m. and 6 p.m. On Monday, the season starts for those ages 11 and 12.

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com A Quick & Sinclair Electric player beats feet to first base after putting the ball in play.

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com
A Quick & Sinclair Electric player beats feet to first base after putting the ball in play.

 

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