How much longer will it be fun?

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, March 10, 2004

Every year, I look forward to the call letting me know that my nephew, Isaac, will once again be playing little league baseball. I dread the day, however, when he realizes that some people take these games seriously &045; very seriously.

For now, in all his 6-year-old wisdom, little league is just a chance to run around, be with your friends and slide in the dirt without getting in trouble.

Isaac started playing tee-ball two years ago and his first game was attended by as many of our family members as possible. The stands were full of relatives, all expecting to see the start of what we were sure would be a notable sports career.

We realized we were in for a treat when Isaac walked on to the field wearing his Monrovia Marlin’s uniform and new batting helmet. Isaac’s mom had to pin his uniform pants because they were unable to find any that would stay up on his skinny little hips. His large, black helmet sat low on his head and, in an obvious attempt to psych out the opponents, he’d covered it with stickers. The sticker of the large, fuzzy, drooling dog was my favorite.

I don’t know if he hit the ball that day. I don’t know if he caught the ball that day. All I remember was he had one move mastered &045; the outfield fall down.

Isaac played right field that first game and, each time he took the field, he managed to fall down and roll to his position. He would then pop up and spend the rest of the inning kicking the dirt and picking up rocks.

At one point, we had to remind him to take the rocks out of his pockets, for fear his lightning speed would be hampered by all the stones weighing him down.

Through the course of the year, Isaac learned to hit and to run to the bases in the proper order. He moved from right field to catcher, something made even more interesting when his Aunt Le-Le was catcher’s coach. Since neither of us knew what we were supposed to do, our general strategy was to get out of the way.

It worked well.

Isaac’s only on-field injury came halfway through the season when he was knocked down by a rather large child during the post-game handshake. He was on the DL for a bad cold once, too, and there was a time when he got bitten by ants during a game and had to come out.

My favorite moment from that first season came after a particularly tough game, where the Marlins lost in the last inning. The coach had them huddled around, dispensing words of wisdom to sooth what he thought would be their damaged egos.

Isaac tapped him on the shoulder, interrupting his speech.

&uot;Coach, I didn’t get my snack,&uot; Isaac said.

For Isaac, there is no agony of defeat &045; just the agony of no Doritos and Gatorade.

Leada DeVaney is the publisher of the Hartselle Enquirer and the Madison County Record. She is the former managing editor of the Shelby County Reporter