Outlined against a raspberry Skittles-blue sky on Monday evening, an ominous looking haboob was blowing in over the eastern tree line of the Allisonville Youth Baseball & Softball complex. Sandstorms are rare for Indianapolis during May, yes, and also during every other month. But this was no sandstorm. Nor was it ominous. This was an announcement of sorts, and a welcomed one at that. This rapidly approaching wall of gravel dust was signifying the arrival of a new day of baseball. A better day.
The same Tahoes and Highlanders that had departed some 18 hours prior were, all at once, roaring back up the gravel road to the parking lots, this time bringing forth their youngest ballpark gladiators: their Pee Wee Leaguers, 4- and 5-year-olds. Their presence was felt immediately.
Filled with confidence and Airheads Xtremes, one by one they strode toward the field from their respective booster seats, their three-sizes-too-big jerseys dangling near their shins. All eyes turned toward them as they scampered through and around the David Link Pavilion near the concession stand. The grandparents already posted up along the third baseline had waited an eternity for this very moment. Their patience would be rewarded.
From a fundamentals standpoint, though, the baseball was abysmal. There is no sugarcoating that. Base-running errors galore. Poor situational awareness at the plate. Questionable defensive shifts. A botched 5-3-19-6-10-3 (again)-24-2-15 attempted forceout that involved multiple slide-tackling incidents and at least one bear hug. It was a mess. Had Tom Emanski been there he would have puked blood and wept.
But he wasn’t there, thankfully, nor were the overly serious #SportsDads in cleats to harsh everyone’s vibe. Not yet, at least. They all hang mostly at the 46/60 fields—the older kids’ fields—where the name of the game is separating the travel-team wheat from the rec-league chaff. Those fields are for judging. For fretting. For COMPETING, GODDAMMIT.
That night’s Pee Wee League game, though—it was for the opposite of all that. It was for the soul—but not in that hokey, haughty, “sMeLL Of tHe gRAsS” baseball-y way that Ray Kinsella and 1930s Klan members are always blathering on about. That night was too joyfully, absurdly chaotic for their liking.
There were rules to the game, sort of. But they were not feared. Or followed. Or enforced. There was technically a batting order in the beginning, but things quickly flipped into “ready-golf” mode soon thereafter—and for good reason. Any sort of delay in the action carries with it the very real risk of little minds wandering. That is bad; it has the potential to cause a Lord of the Flies–like breakdown of societal norms between the foul lines, while also revealing mankind’s inherent evil (and love of dirt). That is why “Keep It Moving!”® is the official ethos and registered trademark of Pee Wee League Baseball. Or it should be because it half explains why it’s America’s only tolerable youth spectator sport.
The other half, of course, involves watching 29 tiny infielders racing and chasing after every hit ball—in any direction, fair or foul—without ego or expectations or athleticism. The synchronicity of their pursuits was mesmerizing (picture a school of herrings trying to track down a slow grounder to third), but the finishing scrums stole the show. Offense may win games, but repeatedly dog-piling your teammates during live-ball situations wins hearts. It certainly beats calling in an Apache airstrike on the umpire’s face because he missed a balk.
In any event, for reasons I can’t quite explain, I’ve come to report that the state of the Pee Wee League baseball scene is ADORABLY DELIGHTFUL. Carry on.