Summer nights

Our nights are busy these days with Phoebe and Faye, but I’m hardly complaining.

I rushed home from work tonight to find the girls on the living room floor and watching TV, Faye dressed and ready to go in her T-ball uniform, and Kates had made a tuna melt for me, waiting beautifully on a plate at my side of the dining table. I had just a few minutes to eat because we had to get Faye to her 5:30 game.

The T-ball game. Faye is always one of the smallest on the field in stature, but she’s also one of the mightiest. Tonight she had the privilege of playing in the pitcher’s circle on the defensive side. And at the start of every inning, she was the first one on the field and down in her crouch, ready to field the ball – even before the first batter had left the opposing dugout. … The same goes for her plate appearances. In the on-deck circle she’s as focused on her practice swings as any of the girls. Then she steps to the plate, waits patiently for Coach to place the ball on the tee, puts the ball into play and puts her head down to run to first base.

While every T-ball game offers a loaded hour of entertainment and teachable moments, tonight’s game included a first baseman who got pegged in the middle of the back when she wasn’t paying attention on a batted ball that the pitcher fielded and threw toward first base. But tonight’s best folly happened when one of Faye’s teammates took off from first base on a foul ball and didn’t hear our coaches trying to stop her until she was halfway between second and third base – and then the batter put the ball in play while the runner was crossing the pitcher’s circle on her way back to first base, which created further commotion as the coaches yelled for her to turn around and head for second base.

* * *

The postgame. Barely a T-ball game of Faye’s has ended this summer without Phoebe asking me on our walk back to the car if I’ll help her practice her softball skills – and of course I won’t turn her down. I’m thrilled she’s enjoying it so much. … So we took Kates and Faye home, grabbed the ball gear and headed back to the ball fields. We practiced her hitting and her pitching for a solid hour, and the improvement she’s showing from the first practice of the season this year is remarkable. We both wished we could have stayed longer – but at that point tonight’s blazing sun was starting to give me heat stroke and Phoebe’s arm was rapidly turning to Jell-O. I had trouble convincing her we needed to head home but she finally gave in.

It’s been pure joy – and a revelation – watching Phoebe learn and play softball this summer. After the ups and downs of coaching her machine pitch team last year, I wasn’t so sure she would stay interested in the game and regretted not starting her earlier with T-ball like Faye. This year, though, she’s embracing the game, and the smile on her face and positivity that radiates from her during every game is a marvel to me. I’m so proud.

Last night’s softball game had us driving 45 minutes east to the small town of King City – population 1,013 – for an 8 o’clock game, and it was a heartbreaker. Batting in the top of the first, our girls came out swinging like they usually have this summer, and Phoebe came up with the bases loaded. If my memory’s right, she worked the pitcher to a full count – and then she smacked a line drive back through the middle of the field. She cleared the bases and landed on second base because of an errant throw – her first hit of the season. The inning ended soon after with our girls up, 3-0. … But then they laid down in the bottom half of the inning and let the home team jump right back into the game, trailing 3-4 when the first inning ended. … No runs crossed in the second and third innings, and our girls finally got their bats going again in the fourth inning. Phoebe’s turn came up again with two outs, and she worked a full count. She barely got a piece of the 3-2 pitch to stay alive and then hit the next pitch on the ground to the shortstop, who made a good play on it and a throw that barely beat Phoebe at first base. The top of the fourth ended with our girls having retaken the lead, 5-4. … Ah, but the game’s not over until it’s over. Despite a strong performance by our third-string pitcher in that final ending – that included her snaring a line drive straight back at her glove – a series of hits and overthrows allowed the home team to win the game in the bottom of the inning, 5-6.

It was past 10 o’clock when we arrived home, and way past Phoebe’s bedtime for a school night. Kates graciously allowed her to sleep in this morning and check into summer school two hours late.

* * *

Now it’s me time. The Royals are playing a late game in Los Angeles tonight, giving Kates and I a chance to have the game on for the first time in weeks. She’s reading. I’m writing.

I read this Sam Mellinger column today. And I get it. Sam knows what he’s talking about.

I’ve accepted the fact that Eric Hosmer’s gone – and have taken to watching Padres games occasionally just to see him play.

I’m resigned to the fact that Mike Moustakas will not be a Royal when the trade deadline arrives.

But I shudder to think about the Royals dealing Salvador Perez

Or even Whit Merrifield, who’s quickly become one of this old second baseman’s favorites. Seriously, Royals second basemen have been pitiful since Frank Whitenot including Ben Zobrist, who I love watching, too, but he was a rental to help the Royals win a world championship. Call me crazy, but Whit reminds me of a Chicago Cubs second baseman who was a favorite of mine.

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