I think any clinical psychologist worth their salt would agree the most effective way to combat depression is to watch a T-Ball game.

T-Ball is baseball for guys too little to hit actual pitches. The ages range from four to six in most leagues. Instead of pitching to the batter, a coach sets a ball on a rubber pole (called a ‘T’ for some reason) and the batter smacks it off the top.

It is virtually impossible to be unhappy when you watch a T-Ball game unless you are the actual coaches of the team. Note I said coaches – not coach. There is no such thing as a T-Ball team with one coach. It takes an army of dads to wrangle a mob of four-to-six-year-olds into any semblance of playing a baseball game.

The coaches are constantly hollering directions at their charges. The directions usually come in half-sentences, because, before you finish one sentence with one charge, you spot another charge doing something that needs immediate correcting. A typical thirty seconds for a coach is on the order of: “Turn around! You’re facing the wrong…” “Quit pulling up grass, we have a game to…” “Where are you going? Get back over… ” “Bathroom? You were supposed to go…”

And that is the thirty seconds before the game actually begins.

If you can, always make sure you attend the first game of the season, else you will miss witnessing the “mob charge.”

Here is how it goes:

The batter smacks the ball a good one. It zips past the infielders and rolls to a stop in the outfield. The mob charge erupts! The entire infield, outfield and both dugouts clear out to run the ball down. Even the guys that played last year and know better get caught up in the excitement and take off.

The coaches holler for them to come back, but both teams are lost in the thrill of the chase. You might as well try to turn back a hurricane.

The first player to the ball picks it up. For umpteen practices it has been drilled again and again into his tiny mind what you do with the ball when you pick it up, but in the heat of the moment he has forgotten. He hesitates, staring at the ball. Then, just like that it, comes to him. You throw it! You throw the ball! Where you throw it is not a factor for consideration. That the ball must be thrown is all that matters.

He rears back and flings it skyward in the direction he is facing with all the might forty pounds of muscle and determination can muster. The ball arcs over everybody’s head and lands a few yards away. The mob descends on the ball once again. The ball is picked up and thrown in another random direction. The mob descends on the ball once again…

Coaches now wade into the melee collecting players as they go. One of the coaches takes the ball from a fielder as the fielder winds up to throw it. With considerable effort and the suppression of words and phrases that would educate their players far beyond their tender years the coaches reposition their fielders back on the field. The dugout crowd is herded back to their respective dugouts. The batter is carried to second base and deposited there.

During the confusion, one player for reasons known only to the five year old mind, fills his glove with the red, sandy dirt of the infield. Once back in the dugout, while engaged in the forbidden act of “horseplay” with his teammates, he accidently smacks his glove against a pole and a big, red cloud of dust poofs out. This miracle is witnessed by all. Through the course of the season, threats of all varieties are used in an effort to end the glove filling, dust poofing craze. Nothing works. It continues until the nuclear option of “No snow cones after the game” is brought to bear. Drug addicts on Skid Row would give up crack and meth sooner than a T-Baller would pass on a Grape snow cone after a game (or possibly even Cherry).

The craze ends.

Random base running is a big part of what makes T-Ball fun to watch. It is the rare batter that actually runs towards First Base. It is more a general direction type thing. So general, a coach must intercept the runner before he passes by First Base and continues on through the outfield until he encounters the outfield fence at which point he turns left or right and keeps going. Soccer goalies have less to contend with than a father with T-Ball base duty. At least soccer balls don’t have two legs and try to dodge you.

Once a base runner is captured, he must often be physically lifted and re-aimed toward the next base, where he must be re-captured by that coach, re-aimed and so forth and so on. Home runs often involve one runner, three aimers and someone to prevent him from running headlong into the fence behind home plate.

Of course a prerequisite to base aiming is for the runner to run more or less toward First Base in the first place. Some batters cut down on time by running directly to Second. Third is a popular target, too. Opting for Third makes sense in a way. After a batter hits the ball he is usually facing Third and, let’s face it, a base is a base.

Then there is the Lord only Knows (LOK) which way he’ll go runner. There is no heading toward a base for this guy. There is no heading toward anything. It is just sort of an “off you go and let your legs carry you where they may” sort of deal. Catching the LOK requires an agile coach, quick on his feet, and is one of the many reasons why coaching T-Ball is a young dad’s game.

My all-time favorite play by a T-Baller was the guy who hit the ball, dropped his bat, ran the ball down and threw himself out at First. He was truly and all-round athlete.

Then there was the time my son was rounding Third for his first time ever. The coach hollered “Go home! Go home!” He interpreted this as he had done something wrong and his coach was sending him back to his house as punishment. He stopped running and started crying. He then walked to home plate while everyone in the stands yelled “Run!” He stomped the plate and was largely done with baseball for the day.

The first baseball player boycott I ever saw was at a T-Ball game.

Just before a year-end playoff game was to begin, a player’s older brother announced to the T-Ballers that there was a dead bunny behind some bushes a few feet from the center field fence. The magnitude of this discovery was nothing short of earth shattering. The T-Ballers to the man were beside themselves with excitement.

Everyone! wanted to go and see the bunny!

The ball park officials said ‘No.’ They had a schedule to keep.

There was a wail of despair from the T-Ballers. A few cried. Mom’s got involved. Not even the threat of no snow cones moved the players (up to and including Grape!). It was soon apparent the game was absolutely not going to start until every player from both teams got to go and see the dead bunny.

The park officials caved.

A line formed and all the players got to go see the dead bunny.

Then and only then did the game go on.

I would tell you who won the game, but nobody keeps score.