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The Sunnyland Express

On a windy, cold April day I dropped off Wyatt for his first Little League practice of the year. In short order “Coach” had several fathers signed up to be assistant coaches and practice helpers, running the kids through a variety of drills in the big grass field west of the ball diamonds.

A guy did not need to have a lot of years around a ball park to see that several of these 9 and 10 year old boys had a lot of talent. Three nights a weeks for a month, Coach Nelson “Sunny” Miller and “coaching staff” hit ground balls, fly balls, taught the fundamentals of throwing and fielding, base running, threw pitches or held hitting sticks assuring that all the kids received plenty of hands on instruction.

The cold windy practice days turned warm and two games a week were on the schedule for May and part of June. Work takes me out of town on a regular basis, but when I was in town, I kept the score book for the team. I had never helped out at any level with a team of kids and was just happy to watch all the boys play ball and be a part of Wyatt’s life.

I missed several games during the early season due to travel. On one of those trips to Pennsylvania, my buddy John Koritko gave me a “lucky hat” while I was watching him catch fish….I seldom wear a hat but grabbed this one while heading to a game one day……and as the team kept on winning I made sure I stuck in on my head before every game!

What a year for a special group of kids and tons of fun for the bunch of “old” guys in the dugout and and family and friends who got to watch them.

I do not recall much of my life as a 10 year old kid. Most of my memories from that age take me back to a 40 acre farm on Whitney Road in Wellington, Ohio, fishing in my grandparent’s farm pond and shooting a BB gun at most everything that moved. Just brief moments in life’s timeline that do not last more than a few seconds, but they are special memories none the less.

These Boys of Summer, The Sunnyland Construction Team, these boys, I am sure, will remember bits and pieces of the Summer of 2016 when they were nine or ten years old. The swings, the misses, the strike outs, walks, hits, catches, the errors, the close calls, the fun in the dugout, “Cooper’s catch” a diving stab in center field to save the game and keep the streak alive, and the fight for perfection, an undefeated 14-0 season. Tested on several occasions by other teams, they always came through in the end.

Wyatt told me today, two weeks after the last game that he not only misses Pop, but his teammates, his guys and their great season. I would be less than truthful if I said I did not miss calling out that batting order of bruisers, “Isaiah, Cooper, Brady, Peyton, Jovi, Luke, Joe, Jeremy, Parker and Wyatt”. What great kids.

I always wanted to be a part of something “Perfect”!

Thank you Boys!

– Big Mark

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