And nine scruffy kids.
Does it get any better?
I seriously doubt it.
Every year, since I don't even know when, illoz has sponsored a baseball team in the fall.
This year, please stand up and do the wave for the illoz Volunteers.
Take a look at this kid to the left (not the big ugly guy....the shorter one). If I had a poster kid for why I do this every year, he's my man!
These kids don't know it yet, but the illoz logo on every one of their shirts was designed by Leo Espinosa. Thanks Leo! One day they will all grow up to love baseball and illustration, which goes without saying. But most of all they will sing the praises of Leo Espinosa. And who can blame them?
The illoz Volunteers play the great game of T-Ball.
For those who don't know what T-Ball is, it's the only sport that isn't included in the Olympics that should be.
I mean, come on! Is Syncronized Swimming better than THIS? No way!
Hold on just a minute...
I might be changing my poster kid to this guy! He put on his sunglasses for the ladies, and two of them are on his team. I approve!
You go player! illoz has your back, but look out because one of those girls is hitting clean-up!.
Each year, illoz.com sponsors a team for WNC Fall Baseball, and this year, it's an irresistible group of four to six year olds playing the great game of T-Ball.
For those unfamiliar with the game of T-Ball, it's basically baseball except that there's never a dull moment and the players may from time-to-time chase the ball into the outfield after hitting it instead of going to first base. Also, outfielders may opt to have a tea party in the grass, ignoring balls that may be rolling by at any given time.
One other difference between T-Ball and the game of baseball you might watch on TV or take in at the ball park is that parents of the players can sometimes have mental break-downs or begin to show signs similar to that of contracting a nasty case of Rabies in which foaming at the mouth can be seen, and in worst case scenarios, symptoms of Tourretes syndrome can also be detected in which uncontrolled vocalizations can occur.
Since I can not afford to build my own ball park in which parents are not allowed, for the past six years or so I've volunteered to be commissioner of the league, which means I'm at the ball park each night and all day on Saturday, kindly reminding parents who are suffering from the afore mentioned afflictions that they are not adding to the fun and they need to shut up, sit down and let the kids play.
Sometimes the coaches forget about that word 'play' as well and misinterpret the team as a miniature army that needs to be marched into battle. From time-to-time it's necessary to remind coaches that the game could just as easily go on without them. Fortunately, this doesn't happen very often. I hand-pick all coaches based on one thing: If I like them.
Happy to report that the Orioles won exactly ONE game in twelve this season and the kids didn't even know the difference. Thanks to everyone at illoz who make this happen!
Every year, illoz sponsors a fall baseball team and this year, it's the T-Ball (ages four through seven) LUGNUTS! Woo hoo! I didn't get the official illoz logo in on time for the shirts, but what the heck do the kids care? They don't give a whip about no logo! They just wanna play ball!
The fall baseball season here in Western North Carolina is a big deal, folks! In just the age-group of four through ten there are almost 300 players! That's a lot of kids getting remarkably dirty!
I can't stand for stoic team photographs. Baseball is a kids game and the only point is to have way too much fun, as far as I'm concerned. They've got plenty of time to look serious later. At this age, it's just the coaches that shouldn't look exactly normal.
Why I'm involved in this: Adults have an uncanny ability to ruin a good time for kids, especially when it comes to sports.
Looking to have the fun sucked out of something like baseball? Invite an adult, for sure.
If I had the money to build a baseball park where adults where not allowed, I would build it immediately. Adults, let it be said, are the worst thing that ever happened to the great game of baseball, so says me.
When kids are young, the crowds are huge. The player pictured left had his entire extended family show up for his season opener. Aunts, uncles, grandma and grandad, sisters and brothers all attended and cheered him on as he proceeded to hit no balls and never reach base. But, he had the crowd on his side, cheering him and his team on at all times!
It's an odd and rather sad state of affairs, but as they grow older, they're lucky to have one parent, or even a best friend show up to cheer for their team.
The kid in the picture (left) seems to know this sad truth already... or else he just doesn't like me!
Close to the LUGNUTS field is a hill where the team likes to assemble and collectively stare into space. Once there is enough of them on the hill, they seem to spontaniously decide to run down that hill together, with complete abandon.
Remember when running down a hill was the best fun ever? That's why the illoz name is on the shirt!
I had to be quick to get the photo above. The LUGNUTS don't waste any time when fun is to be had!
Every year, illoz.com sponsors a baseball team with WNC Fall Ball. This year, we're sponsoring a T-Ball team, The Mudcats!
For those of you unfamiliar with the wonders of T-Ball, it's for ages four through seven. Players have the option of the coach pitching to them, or hitting from a tee (a little stand that holds the ball for them).
I've been around youth baseball for almost twenty years and T-Ball is by far my game of choice. In the first Mudcat game of the season, one player ran to his mom after getting a hit, another player chased the ball into the outfield after hitting it and proceeded to wrestle with the outfielder who had the ball, and a third ran directly to second base after getting a hit. I'm telling you what, there's nothing like it.
Mudcats, waiting for their turn at bat! Go Mudcats!
There's a creek behind the dugout and for Mudcats, this is the place to be between innings. Here's a few of the star players preparing to clamber through the bushes to look for salamanders.
The Mudcats are team players, I tell ya! Yeah Mudcats!
This is one serious Mudcat! Not!
I'd like to thank Jermaine Parker for coaching the team! This guy really knows what the meaning of "play" is. A lot of coaches tend to forget what that word actually means to kids.
Meet the team that illoz sponsored this fall season! The Orioles are an 8, 9 and 10 year old team (2A) that took the field in our local WNC Fall Baseball league in Asheville, NC.
I'm a bit of a softy for dirty kids running bases and having fun in the sun. There's something about the light, the grass and yes the dirt that just speaks to me. All you have to do is add kids and, well, there you are.
Who doesn't want to be these kids? I mean, seriously folks.
Coaches Jamie and Jim were everything you'd want, especially if you're a kid. These two delivered 100% fun for everyone. I was lucky to find them, but the players were luckier to have them.
Is there anything at all better than being on a team of friends? I doubt it.
Is there anything better than the dugout? I seriously don't think so.
It's your moment kid. All alone at the plate. Magic can happen.
Not that it matters to me, but the illoz Orioles finished second out of thirteen teams this season. Well done, you crazy kids!
Why is it that kids baseball team photos are all the same?
The photographer lines everyone up according to height so that the photograph is nice and symetrical. Everyone is instructed to put their hands behind them or at their sides. Face forward.... look like winners....and snap, that's your memory. A solumn line-up of kids who signed up to have a good time and play a great game in the sun.
I've been involved with youth baseball for over 15 years now and year after year as the teams line up for their generic photos, I've often wondered, why so serious? For me, baseball is about having fun - and when I say "fun", I really do mean exacty that.
Most coaches insist that it's all about having a good time. In fact, they will repeat it over and over again. Have fun! But the truth is, when the game is on the field there are very few who actually deliver on their promise. Parents rarely help either. They scream from the bleachers, not with joy, but about the missed call or the missed opportunity.
By far, the largest group in youth baseball is the very young. Players from ages four to eight outnumber players at age eleven by double. By age thirteen, the number of players is only a tenth of those who started at age six. Why do the stop playing? They stop because they thought the word "play" actually meant it was about having fun. It turned out to be exactly the opposite.
Sadly, team photos are very often a snapshot of broken promises. I see it year after year.
But, I'm not willing to give up! I'll be back next season with the same crazy notion that this game really is about having a good time. Perhaps I'm delusional, so be it. Play Ball kids!
This is a team of 8, 9 and 10 year olds playing this fall in Western North Carolina, corporate home of illoz.com.
Western North Carolina Fall Baseball is a BIG DEAL around these parts and I thought "what the hey...", if a $325 sponsorship will guarantee that a bunch of kids can get dirty and hit some balls, then we're in! Right?
Today was opening day for the Angels. I was so excited I could hardly contain myself. Seeing them take the field in those little illoz shirts....I can not EVEN begin to describe the excitment of it. I wish everyone could have seen it like I did.
Our illoz Angels went up against the highly favored Astros and came away with a narrow defeat, backed by solid defense and swift base running. When the game was over, team drinks were immediately poured down each other's necks and they went and played in the creek, the narrow defeat forgotten ... immediately.
Ah, to be a kid again...
When you look at kids like this...how can you POSSIBLY not want to help them play ball?
Glad that illoz had a few bucks left over (thanks so much to everyone involved) to make this happen for the Angels. They are one chill team of characters.
Great parents too! As the illoz Angels slipped in the 4th inning to hand over the game to the Astros, parents calmly chattted amoung themselves about how hard the team was trying and how the next game might be better. Parents make a huge difference in youth baseball and the Angel's parents made it all good in the end, the way it should be.
The Angel's dugout was really the place to be. These kids hung the fence every minute and chewed a lot of gum.
Thanks to Coach Yohon Whitaker and his assistant, Ronald Blackman. I happened to snap this pic of them while they were making out their lineup and not exactly sure if they were all that happy about me wandering around on their field at the time...Like I said I was a bit excited, perhaps a bit too excited.
These guys really do have the best interests of the kids in mind at all times and I'm SO PROUD to be able to help them field a team this fall, with the help of everyone involved with the illoz project.