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Play ball!

JBLM Child, Youth and School Services spring baseball season a hit with young ballplayers

Published: 02:40PM June 28th, 2012
Play ball!

Aidan Jensen takes a mighty swing while playing T-ball for his Yankees team in a recent 5 to 6-year-old league game against the Rangers. Photos by Scott Hansen/Northwest Guardian

Cerik Harbert’s two favorite things in life are sports and kids. So for the medic from 5th Battalion, 20th Infantry Regiment at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, coaching suits him perfectly.

“What could be better?” Harbert said. “I’m kind of jealous because I’m older now and I can’t play sports. This is how I have fun and play with the kids.”

Harbert was one of 55 coaches and 33 assistants who volunteered week nights and Saturdays to coach more than 600 children during Child, Youth and School Services’ spring baseball season that began April 16. Every Saturday the Lewis Main and McChord Field baseball fields were at full capacity from 9 a.m. until late afternoon.

Team names took a Major League Baseball direction, from from the New York Yankees to the Texas Rangers to the Seattle Mariners and many others, played their finale June 16. The levels varied from T-ball (5 to 6 year olds), coach pitch (7 to 8) and player pitch (9 to 11 and 12 to 15).

This year marked Harbert’s first year coaching in the recreation league where score was not kept. Jonathan Poard, a Soldier with the 1st Special Forces Group, helped Harbert coach the 7-to-8-year-old Diamondbacks team, as well as a 5-to-6-year-old T-ball team, which Harbert’s daughter KeirraBelle played.

Younger baseball enthusiasts were distracted at times by snacks, hand-held video games and playing in the dirt rather than on the dirt. Crisp white baseball pants quickly showed evidence of all-out competition with grass-stained and dirt-covered knees.

“Hands to ourselves,” a coach in a Yankees T-ball dugout could be heard saying more than once.

Alaina Lowry and her husband, Shane, an Airman with the 62nd Maintenance Operations Squadron, returned for a second year to coach. This year they led the 5-to-6-year-old Yankees team.

“We had a lot of new kids come out this year,” Alaina Lowry said. “It teaches them not only baseball, but values and sportsmanship.”

The CYSS sports programs make it easy not only for parents to watch, but also to be involved.

“It’s nice to have them active on base and you don’t have to worry about taking them across town,” Shane said.

The budding baseball stars took turns hitting off the tee and running the bases, at times needing direction as they rounded first and tried to cut straight across the diamond to third. The Lowrys were focused on their batters and before they knew it, the rest of the team in the dugout had pulled their baseball pants over their heads by the drawstrings. It was entertaining moments like those that filled the baseball fields with laughter as well as cheers.

The older athletes played the parts of their MLB heroes, spitting out sunflower seeds and resting in between games, while the younger ones enjoyed juice boxes and cake. Sportsmanship was promoted in every game; medals were awarded to those who displayed the best sportsmanship.

Marion Smith, a Soldier with the 593rd Sustainment Brigade was unable to commit to coaching because of his work schedule, but sports are still very much a family affair in the Smith household.

Smith was present for the June 16 finale as son Roy, 7, played for the Diamondbacks and other son Jackson, 11, played for the Red Sox. Smith’s wife Amy was busy coaching the Red Sox. The Smith children also participate in CYSS soccer, flag football and baseball.

While June 16 marked the last day of spring baseball, several coaches and players started flag football only a few days later. But for the baseball diehards, the summer baseball season begins July 9.