As Liam Yale and his grandfather Dave Yale Sr. pulled up to the rickety community baseball park located behind American Legion Post 164 in Yelm, Liam quickly got out of the vehicle and dashed toward the park.
Jogging through the green-painted dugouts, 4-year-old Liam then made a straight sprint toward home plate. From there, the giddy player, clad in a cap and a T-shirt that says “Sandlot,” ran to first, then second, then third and on to home.
All the while, Liam held a grin — you could tell he’d been looking forward to this.
“I actually used to coach here for years, but I haven’t been back here since (my son) was Liam’s age,” Dave Yale Sr. said. “It’s pretty amazing to think this boy was only born a couple years ago and he’s already playing baseball.”
The Yale family and local parents are inviting kids ages 4 to 7 out to the park every Wednesday at 6 p.m. for Yelm Sandlot Baseball. Kids will learn the basics of baseball and teamwork while participating in friendly scrimmage matches during the weekly event.
The event is free to attend but requires a parent or guardian’s signature on an injury waiver form. Sandlot uniforms cost $30.
“It’s not just about having fun. It’s about getting them set up for Nisqually Basin Youth Baseball and it’s also about improving the level of baseball in Yelm,” organizer David Yale Jr. said Wednesday, July 10, as he was setting up for practice.
It’s not all fun and games, but it’s also not all business either. Parents are invited to join in on the fun during practice and learn the sport alongside their kids. Many parents said it’s a great, casual way to have their kids try something new.
“We wanted to see if he liked it,” Elena Licxandru, 38, said of bringing her 4-year-old son, Alexander. “I like it cause it’s so casual.”
Yelm Sandlot Baseball usually runs about an hour. For the first 30 minutes, players participate in a number of drills that hone in on the basics of throwing, catching and batting. The last 30 minutes are usually reserved for a scrimmage (teams are chosen by captains).
Going into its fourth week, David Yale Jr. said Yelm Sandlot Baseball usually sees anywhere from five to 12 kids in attendance. Around 50 people have liked the program’s page on Facebook.
Alisha Yaguchi, 32, and Kyle Hanson, 34, brought their son, 5-year-old Jayse Yaguchi, to Yelm Sandlot Baseball for the first time last Wednesday.
Jayse has three years of recreational soccer experience under his belt. When they heard through Facebook that an informal group was getting together to play baseball, they thought it’d be a great idea to introduce him to a new sport.
“When they’re 5, you gotta keep them busy or they start kicking dirt and picking grass real fast,” Yaguchi said.
Out in the field during drills, Jayse began learning the basics of swinging a baseball bat. Dave Yale Sr. threw him baseballs, but Jayse couldn’t quite seem to get a hit on it.
Yaguchi and Hanson watched from the dugout.
“Did you hear him? He said, ‘C'mon, that’s too high,’” Yaguchi said.
“Oh, what? Now he’s the umpire now?” Hanson joked.
At around 6:30, David Yale Jr. brought all seven of the young hitters together and allowed them to pick their teams. They played a 3-on-4 match with two outs in an inning and allowing five strikes per batter.
As the game commenced, parents yelled and shouted to their kids, explaining where to go as they made hits and how to advance to each base. Dave Yale Sr. threw the pitches — mostly soft tosses.
A winner wasn’t declared at the end of the game, but the two teams gave a unified chant of “Go Sandlot” as they wrapped up practice.
“I’m hoping more parents come so I can sit back and watch. I always end up being the pitcher for some reason,” Yale Sr. said.
Learn more about the group by searching Yelm Sandlot Baseball on Facebook.