Win or lose, mushball players enjoy the fun of playing


BOARDMAN — Children gathered at “The Field of Dreams” for a good game of mushball. Parents and coaches were hoping the players had fun, and would make some memories.

The bright, pungent grass, the excitement from the benches, and the beams of sunlight dotting the ground set a memorable scene.

On this day, Wachovia Securities plays Sportsworld, while a half dozen other Boardman Community Baseball games commence in the near distance. The 7- and 8-year old players dart around the field like flashes of blue and burgundy lightning in anticipation for the game.

These kids are familiar with one another. Many of them played two years of T-ball before mushball, and most of them have also played in another sport, like flag football or basketball.

Liz Phillip sits at the edge of the mushball field, preparing to watch two games at once. While her younger son Mark, 7, will play the field to the right, her son Michael, 9, plays on a rookie team to the left. Both teams are part of the expansive membership of Boardman Community Baseball.

She said her sons love each sport they play, and as seasons cycle, the sport they’re playing at the moment is their first pick.

“When they’re playing baseball, it’s their favorite,” Phillip said.

As the game begins, friends and family pour into the bleachers, setting up lawn chairs in the grass and pulling their fleece blankets over them and their younger children.

The constant breeze, better suited for fall, groups spectators tightly as they cheer on their little athletes. Meanwhile, the players, unaffected by the frigid winds, rally around their coaches, many of whom are their fathers. Each team has more than five coaches who not only instruct the players, but share excitement for the game.

“We have a group of coaches in this division who focus on the kids,” said Wachovia manager Bob Cavalier. “It’s not about Dad who still wants to make it into the majors.”

After hearing the lineup, the players race to their positions on the grassy field.

The game has begun and the children, still buzzing with excitement, talk over one another.

A coach stands in to aid with the pitching, and the mushball is met at times with straight on hits. Cavalier said these kids are past the stage where the game is about learning the sport.

“They’ve progressed a lot in two years,” he said. “This is all about the game now.”

Off the field, an excited Wachovia Securities player boasts to his family on the bleachers, “I used the wood bat.” To these mushballers, the rewards seem infinite and are reinforced by a crowd that doesn’t skip a beat with encouraging shouts and cheering.

As the game progresses, the winds pick up, the sun is blotted out by gray mass, and the chills are fierce.

If parents were eager to retreat to their cars and warm homes within view of the field, they didn’t let their children know. They were there to see their enthusiastic children.

In the end, a player on the losing team shouts, “We lost!” just as enthusiastically as if he’d won. Instead, both teams line up to slap hands and give a well-meaning “Good game” to the other team.

There’s no display of disappointment to be seen.

Families pack up, telling their jumpy children how well they did.

It’s a scene that suits Cavalier just fine.

“We want to make it a good experience for both the kids and parents.”

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