*Title taken from Bill Engvall’s comedy sketch, ‘T-ball and Indian Guides’*

T-ball championships
(like any t-ball game, really)
are decided by outs.
which team
can get them faster
before the five run limit
flips the inning.

So when the far superior Barons
held my nephew’s Iron Pigs
to two runs
in the second inning
of the most critically important game
of their five year old lives,
hope was fleeting
like a baseball overthrown.

You could see the deflation
in the kids’ faces
as they switched back to defense
with the near impossible (for their age)
task of getting three outs
before the Barons scored three runs
to take the lead.
The Barons knew us well, too.
Coach had his kids hitting
at anywhere except my nephew,
who had been gunning batters down
from the pitcher’s mound
all season long.
the Barons were killing us
down the third base line
or over shortstop’s head.
Iron Pigs coaches
were doing their very best
to lead the team
through a desolate situation
but without knowledge of the game
beyond the basics
of pick up the ball
and throw to first base
the difficulty was beyond them.

Nothing was working.

Past the second inning,
the run limit kept us in the game
as well as our bats.
We could take the lead back,
but being the ‘visiting’ team,
the Barons were always right behind us.
Every inning brought the same
hope-deflating difficulty:
three outs before three runs.
Iron Pigs parents and grandparents
(and at least one uncle)
began bracing for a devastating loss
all culminating
in the final inning.

Once again, the Iron Pigs
were able to take the lead
but that second inning 
hung around like a horrific haunting.
Brave kids took the field again
for their final fight,
one last chance to turn the game around,
for something to finally
go our way,
for someone
to learn.

The Barons had given our third baseman
just a little too much practice.

Nothing was getting past him now
and without the outfield
for a ball to get lost in
Barons batters
could only go
a base at a time.
The slow pace allowed
Iron Pigs to get one out-
a grounder to my nephew.
Gotta show some pride-
but everything else
was on the third baseman
and his knowledge of the basics.
Particularly his ability
to put them into practice.
In t-ball, you never see
third base throw a kid out
at first
but passion, determination,
the willpower to win
let the third baseman channel lightning,
a play fitting for the Major Leagues.
Two outs, and the Barons hadn’t scored.

Everyone was wired now
emotions had us trembling
we were at the very end
and the Iron Pigs
suddenly had a chance
and confidence surged
the perfect conditions
for lightning
Three outs
before a single run,
the Iron Pigs

Screams erupted, gloves were thrown
and coaches were lifting players up,
parents on both sides
were just bewildered.
The scene
was like the World Series
and it was
in five year old eyes.

Only then was it revealed to me
that the third baseman’s grandfather
had passed away
a few days before.
The win was for him.
Rest assured, buddy,
he was definitely watching.

After that, the chaos continued
with ecstatic kids
running all over the park
until the closing ceremony
and the reception of trophies
to be displayed on a shelf
for years to come
while parents sat back to unwind,
and me, in my foldable chair
watching it all;
the craziest, most emotional,
most exciting t-ball game
I may ever see.