EDMOND—My wife, daughter and I arrived at the Herbert W. Armstrong College softball field at 11 a.m. on Wednesday, July 25, ready to witness the light-blue boys of dorm 2B challenge the gray guys of dorm 4B. Since it was still 15 minutes before the class started, only the Philadelphia Youth Camp 2018 softball instructors were there: Brandon Nice, Isaiah Morrison, Parker Campbell and Cami Eagle. They were in the shade next to the first-base bench, filling water balloons for some reason.
Since I was there to write about dorm 2B, I asked the instructors for their thoughts. They gave positive feedback, and then Mr. Campbell took the conversation in a different direction. Apparently, he was happy to see that their teeth were pretty straight, and that they weren’t balding yet.
A few minutes later, a six-boy contingent from dorm 2B wandered over to the bleachers behind home plate, completely counselor-less. Eventually, counselor George Haddad, assistant counselor Caleb Heerma, and three more campers caught up to their advance scout team. (Their tenth camper was so seriously scraped up from a wipeout on a bike ride that he didn’t make it to the class).
The 2B fellows talked about the six-minute speeches they had given in the previous class. Aiden had spoken about how to be miserable, a cheeky topic just begging for context. However, he wouldn’t elaborate in case he got to deliver the speech again to a larger audience at pyc Awards Night on Sunday (he did). Mr. Haddad revealed his dorm’s name: Samuel’s Steadfast Soldiers.
At last, dorm 4B left the soccer pitch, descended the hill, walked through the centerfield gate, and crossed over right field to join their opponent behind home plate. Before they could reach their destination, they were ambushed by a brutal barrage of water balloons from the three assistant softball instructors. Thus, I understood the point of those water balloons, and the lesson was “driven home”: Don’t be late, or even the second dorm to arrive on time.
I set up my lawn chair next to 2B’s third-base bench as both teams stretched on the field. Aiden sat beside me, his crutches propped against the fence, and explained how he tore the quadriceps muscle in his leg during a game of water polo. Somehow, he accomplished this while swimming in the deep end of the pool. He and his opponent were thrashing about so intensely, their legs became violently entangled. Mr. Nice overheard the story and was incredulous.
“Attrition is the name of the game,” he said of 2B, the notoriously oft-injured dorm.
Finally, it was game time. Since 4B was “late,” they batted first as the visiting team, quickly plating two runs in the opening inning. (Runs, not points.) In the bottom of the inning, 2B left two runners on base and failed to score. It was during this at-bat that I noticed 2B’s wacky socks, imprinted with donuts, pineapples, anchors, sushi, tacos, cacti, and other quirky designs. Dorm 2G had gifted 2B these socks at Etiquette Night the day before.
Building on its strong start in the first frame, 4B tacked on four more runs in the second inning, pushing its lead to 6-0. When Mr. Haddad took his turn at the plate for 2B, he realized he was wielding the wrong weapon.
“It doesn’t matter what bat!” I called to him as he switched sticks. Disagreeing with me, he yelled, “I’m pretty bad!”
Literally one pitch later, Mr. Haddad smoked a pitch over the left fielder’s head. Maybe it does matter what bat. After hits by Trenton, Sevren, and pretty much every other 2B camper, the game was tied at 7. With each at-bat seemingly turning into an out or a hit after one pitch, the action was happening faster than I could take notes. Much of this ought to be credited to Mr. Nice, who virtually banned the walk this year.
His reasoning was simple enough: “Kids were standing there, hoping to walk.”
So basic, yet so true. I wondered why I hadn’t implemented a similar rule in my three years as pyc softball instructor.
Following an onslaught of scoring in the early innings, the game morphed into a defensive standoff. Dorm 2B took advantage of a costly dropped fly ball to score two runs and eventually win the game, 10-9. Mr. Morrison attributed the team’s comeback victory to their big improvement in attitude, and to their ability to string hits together.