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April 21, 1998

These pleasant, warm spring days are most welcome. Gardeners dig happily into their annual chores of cleaning out flower beds for planting, yard work beckons many of us, fishermen and women make sure their equipment is ready for an early visit to a favorite pond, and others merely rediscover the joy of being outdoors. Winter was a nice diversion, but now it’s time for such simple delights as gazing dreamily at puffs of clouds as they assume shapes that we perceive to be animate objects, or watching birds of the air gliding dreamily through the sky, perhaps pausing momentarily in their flight to sample the offerings of feed provided by thoughtful fanciers of our feathered friends. It is a time to forget the trials and cares that may have been besetting us and to get on with the way life is supposed to be lived.

One of the surest signs of spring is the return of pee-wee baseball throughout the land. In Perry, the tee-ball players (pre-schoolers) started their brand new season last Saturday with a doubleheader on the newly created twin diamonds near the YMCA, just west of Seventh street. The field formerly had only one diamond but because of the large number of teams involved, the space has been reapportioned to double its utilization. Tee-ball teams are co-ed, and some of the outstanding players are of the female gender. I say this with the pardonable pride of a Grandpa geezer who gets a large kick out of watching one of his granddaughters knocking the ball off the tee, running the bases and occasionally scoring a run, then picking up a glove to play a defensive position when the other team comes to bat.

If you read the Peanuts cartoon strip with Lucy and Linus and their baseball gang struggling against futility in one ball game after another, you will have some idea of life in the tee-ball ranks. In our Perry league, an inning ends when the team at bat scores seven runs or three players are out, and the seven-run rule often provides a measure of mercy when a runaway by one team threatens. Coaches have to teach baseball, but they also must be adept at counseling disappointed youngsters who suffer embarrassment or humiliation at crucial moments. The important thing is, these kids are learning the fundamentals of our national pastime along with good sportsmanship and team play, and they’re having fun. That they provide wholesome entertainment for their elders watching from the sidelines is only coincidental, but it is a fact. If you need something to do one of these Saturday mornings, drop by the tee-ball field at the YMCA and re-learn what happens when an eager bunch of kids get their first taste of baseball. It’s like nothing else.

I can also recommend that you catch a performance of “Ain’t Misbehavin’” at Guthrie’s Pollard Theatre before it closes this week. Five gifted performers sing the songs and dance the dances inspired largely by the music of “Fats” Waller, the piano-playing, gravel-voiced artist who gave us some wonderful tunes in the 1920s, l930s and 1940s. I guarantee you’ll leave the theatre humming, whistling or singing and with an inclination to tap your toes. It’s a feel-good experience.

And I hope you didn’t miss last week’s hour-long special on PBS dedicated to some of the truly great songs with lyrics by the incomparable Johnny Mercer (Moon River, Days of Wine and Roses, Blues in the Night, When the World Was Young and on and on). The principal performers were Johnny Mathis, Margaret Whiting and Melissa Manchester, with an orchestra conducted by Peter Nero and occasional narration by the Today show’s Willard Scott. Next Saturday night PBS will treat us to an hour of Benny Goodman music. And it’s not even time for their semi-annual fund-raisers, so you can enjoy the time without those extended pleas for money.