Last Saturday was the closing game of the 26th season of Marty’s T-Ball in North Adams.
A young woman earlier in the season came up to the concession stand, which I run, and asked, "Which child on the field is yours?"
I guess I should have been pleased she thought I was young enough to have a 5-, 6- or 7-year-old. Deciding to tease her a little, I pointed to second base and told her, "The big kid in the navy blue shirt." She looked and asked, "No. 7 on second base?"
"No, the taller kid behind him."
She smiled, finally catching on that my son, David, was coaching. "Tall for his age, isn’t he?" she asked.
Marty’s T-Ball and the Button family have a relationship that goes back to when the league was founded. When my husband and I bought our home in the West End, it was a homecoming for him. His parents lived a few blocks away and he had grown up in that neighborhood. He was, as residents of this neighborhood call themselves, a "Greylock boy."
He knew our next-door neighbors, the Woods, having grown up with their children. One of his closest childhood friend’s brother and his family lived directly behind us and kitty-corner to our lot lived another childhood friend, John Gaudreau, his wife Martha, a teacher, and their young children.
To make a long, sad story short, Martha "Marty" suffered a brain hemorrhage in the late 1980s and could no longer teach. To honor her and her devotion to teaching, John and some close friends formed a T-ball league.
(Sadly, in 2002, Marty passed away in March and John passed away a few months later.)
We were childless when Guy first started coaching. I was quickly put to use as a bench babysitter, trying to keep the kids sitting while they waited for their turn at bat -- which is easier said than done when dealing with 10 to 12 small children.
I thought then, and I still believe, T-ball is the perfect sport -- everyone plays, everyone bats each and every inning, there are no strikes or outs and, best of all, because no score is kept, there are no winners or losers. Think how great it would be if life could always be like that Š
Guy and Jennifer, a little girl he coached during those first years, established a routine where, upon seeing one another, they would say "shake," clasp their hands together like they were going to shake hands and then shake their bodies all over. Now a grown woman with kids of her own, to the day they last met before Guy passed away, "Coach Guy" and Jen were still "shaking."
When we had our son, Guy decided to take a few years off from coaching to spend time with him. When David became old enough to play T-ball, Guy went back to coaching -- and I was back on the bench, trying to keep the fights with cups full of drinking water to a minimum.
One of David’s teammates, Amber, the daughter of another coach, had little interest in the game. She would stand in the outfield, and twirl around, causing her four-sizes-too-big T-shirt to swirl like a big skirt. Every week, she would look up at Guy and say, "Coach Guy, aren’t the mountains [trees, birds, planes, whatever] beautiful?" She also delighted in drawing pictures in the dirt along the baseline.
David moved on after T-ball to minor league, Little League, Babe Ruth, high school baseball and Legion ball -- and so did we. The higher he climbed in baseball, the less it became like T-ball. Not everyone played, there were strikes and outs, not everyone batted, and there were definite winners and losers.
Guy and I would sit at his games and occasionally say to one another, "Remember how easy it was in T-ball?" It was at one of those games we decided we would volunteer for Marty’s T-ball once David was in college.
And we did. Guy was in declining health and wasn’t up to coaching, but we could run the concession stand. The league is now run by John and Marty’s son, Ryley, and some of the dedicated board members who have stayed the course over the years.
Guy was able to volunteer for two years. He loved watching the kids go from not having a clue what to do on the field to catching the ball, throwing to the cut-off man or first-baseman, and getting the hang of hitting the ball. He would watch a kid drawing in the dirt and say to me, "Remember Amber?"
The past two years, it’s been up to me and David to carry on the T-ball legacy. I thought David wouldn’t want to do it, after all what college grad doesn’t like to party on Friday nights and sleep ‘til noon on Saturday? But he’s been there, bright and early almost every Saturday, getting the fields ready. As he told me one day, "Mom, it’s all about giving back to the community."
During David’s sports career, the hot dogs and hamburgers available at the games -- and the many pizzas ordered after the game -- got unappetizing really fast. My slow cooker became my go-to solution for dinners that were ready when we got home from the game.
One of our favorites was a quick and easy Sweet and Sour Chicken. I would precook the rice (try it over jasmine rice for a real treat!) and heat it up in the microwave, with a little water added, when we got home. I use a clove of fresh garlic, minced, in place of the garlic salt.
Sweet and Sour Chicken
2 to 3 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs and/or breasts
14-ounce can pineapple chunks in juice
medium yellow onion, chopped
11Ž4 cups bottled sweet-and-sour sauce
pepper to taste
1Ž4 cup water (optional)
Spray slow cooker with non-stick cooking spray. Layer chicken in cooker and pour pineapple chunks and juice over it. Spread chopped onion on top of pineapple.
Pour sweet-and-sour sauce over all and sprinkle with garlic salt and pepper. If more sauce is desired, add the water.
Cover and cook on low for 8 to 10 hours or until the chicken is tender, but not dry.