NORMAN — Blaine Peterson starts his pregame meeting with his team the same way, every time.
“Who is ready to have fun?” the coach asks his team of six- and seven-year-olds as they gather around him before the first ball is loaded into the pitching machine. “Who is ready to get loud?”
On command they answer him, a dozen little voices raising as one as the Truman Elementary Red Sox rush onto the field to compete in an elimination game for the season-ending tournament.
It’s a position that will be loaded with pressure as the children get older, with pitchers on the horizon and elimination games that matter. Some of the kids on the squad are advanced beyond their age and will play on traveling and then high school teams as they grow up, while others will leave the field in a year or two and not return.
But as the players leap off their feet to high-five their coach and sprint to their positions in the field, things are simple at Griffin Community Park.
“Our priorities are, in order, to number one, have fun; number two, have fun; and number three is competition,” Peterson said. “That’s a distant third.”
It’s an approach that has served the lawyer well in his time at the ballpark. Peterson began coaching when his 10-year-old son first began playing T-ball and never stopped. He coaches the Red Sox with lifelong friend JD Younger, and their sons James and Mason play together on the team.
“It’s a joy and a blessing to be able to come out here and forget about work and just let them have fun with their friends,” Peterson said. “It takes you back to when you were a kid. We try to balance the drills and having fun. You want to let them get outside and scream, which is something they can’t do all day. Hopefully they’ll learn a little about the game and the ultimate goal is for these kids to develop a passion for the game.”