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T-Ball, Toddys & Talkin’ with Good Friends on a Perfect Summer Night

Simon Whealy the Joy of Tball
Simon Whealy by Patty Dee

My dear friend Ben always tells me that I feel the need to complicate things. I don’t believe that is necessarily true, I’m just curious about things, so I seek out answers. That is why a simple article about a fun evening spent watching a friend’s little boy play T-ball, (or Tee-ball, Tee ball, or Teeball) turned into an exploration of the origins of this sport.

T-ball apparently has been around since the 1950’s, but who invented it and where it was created or first played remains the subject of much conjecture. Michigan, Georgia, and Mississippi are just a few of the states claiming first rights of invention or discovery.

The very name of the sport is a topic of disagreement and legal haggling. Tee Ball became a registered trademark in the early 1970s by a pastor at a church in Florida and they still have their own set of rules and regulations. The T-Ball USA Association of West Palm Beach Florida is a national member of USA Baseball, which is a partner of the International Baseball Federation and they publish their own rules and field requirements. They also support local parks & rec departments, youth activity clubs and more.

The tee in Tee ball is an adjustable plastic post attached to a rubber base which doubles for home plate. The ball is placed on top of the tee and the adorable mini-batters attempt to launch it into the outfield.

Simon Whealy Tball at bat
Simon Whealy by Patty Dee

More often than not, the kids whack the tee and the whole thing falls over. The very patient coaches/parents reset the tee and the wee athletes try again, and again, and again! It is absolutely adorable! When a child does launch one, most of his cohorts on the opposing team coalesce into a ball-seeking army and set upon the ball like a flock of seagulls attacking a tourist’s stray french fry!

I think it is safe to say that here in Sioux Falls most of the little kids taking part in T-ball are encouraged to have fun, to learn and love the sport of baseball (or softball) and most parents/coaches don’t spend an inordinate amount of time getting overwrought about hits, runs, the score, their kid’s form on the field and psyching out the opponents. At least I hope not!

Simon & Auntie Georgie at Tball
Simon & “Auntie” Georgie Opitz by Patty Dee

Simon Whealy is the subject in these photos, he is the son of our dear friend Elizabeth Whealy, (President and CEO of the Great Plains Zoo). Elizabeth, Georgie Opitz (my BFF of 36 years) and I arrived at the Covell Lake ball fields, unfolded our chairs, sat down in the waning sunshine of a gorgeous evening, poured beverages and got down to the business of conversation and observing bantam ball players making merry!

Simon went to work entertaining from the moment he arrived and not always intentionally. I had the honor of being present when he was born and he has been a firecracker in my life ever since. At the ripe old age of 5 he is one of the smartest, funniest, most entertaining and exasperating humans I know! His antics at last night’s game were legendary and will hold a warm place in my memory for years to come.

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