So he walks up with his bat, barely three but already working on his swagger, grin so big his eyes are squinting. He insists on a batting helmet just like the others wore during practice. It fits just fine because he's got an inordinately large head that powers an inordinately stout body. Just like his big brother, he takes the bat and does some practice swings. He hits the bat on the ground by home plate. He means to make a statement: I'm here! Take me seriously!
|Kiefer, in the middle, with his Nats hat and Santa shirt on,|
fitting in just fine between his uniformed Reds siblings.
As he peers through the cage on the front of the helmet, he's got to feel satisfied. Because the Cincinnati Reds t-ball team does take him seriously. They are all in the in-field, in ready position with their hands on their knees, watching and waiting for the ball. He's their friend's little brother, so they all know him well and are sweet to him. They wait for his hit, seriously, and call out encouragement from their positions.
Coach places the ball on the tee. "Don't swing yet. Wait until I say 'okay,' okay, Kiefer?"
Kiefer replies, "Okay."
And when he hears that "Okay! Swing, Kiefer!" he swings with all his toddler might.
THWACK! He hits it a good five feet! Nearly a home run! He pauses to watch, still not able to swing and run without first admiring his hit. But then he runs! His feet scurry, toes slightly out and hustling as fast as those short, stout legs can. His arms are pumping like mad, his left one characteristically pumping stronger than his right for some adorable reason. They help propel him forward.
But not quite to first base. Kiefer heads that way at first, but instead of continuing all the way to the base (which is actually one of Coach's extra gloves), he veers suddenly towards second base. He's running amok on the infield now, trying to confuse those big kids as he cuts a path wherever his bright orange shoes want to take him, dodging kids and bases along the way. The parents cheer, the kids egg him on, and Kiefer zips and zooms around the field until he plops himself down on the edge of the outfield, exhausted and happy from the hit, the run, the day.
And he smiles over at me as some of the big kids go check on him, give him high-fives, whisper that Coach brought popsicles for everyone. He belongs. In his own way--in his own happy way--he belongs.