As one of three female coaches on the Martha’s Vineyard Little League roster, Cathleen Vincent said she likes being an inspiration for little girls. She added that the men have been welcoming. Some even gave her the shirt off their backs.

Ms. Vincent coaches the AA Minor League Orioles squad and that team in particular comes with a lot of tradition. Each year the previous coach takes off his Orioles T-shirt and hands it to next years’s coach. In years past, the shirt Ms. Vincent wore on Saturday had covered the brawny bodies of Chris Porterfield, Chris Roberts and Joe Jims.

Coach Cathleen Vincent urges on her Orioles. — Maria Thibodeau

“I’m only a little weirded out that three sweaty men have worn this shirt before me,” Ms. Vincent said while leaning against the home run fence at Penn Field during the opening day ceremonies on Saturday. “I washed it twice.”

Opening day began at 9:30 a.m. with a parade roaming from the Oak Bluffs police station up Circuit avenue and finishing at Veira Park. Then the entire community of Little Leaguers, from T-ball to the major leagues, plus coaches, parents and fans headed over to Penn Field for introductions. After the Star Spangled Banner, the 12 year olds from each team were called forward to sing Take Me Out to the Ballgame. Age 12 is the oldest a kid can be to play Little League, so this was their last parade, last opening day ceremony and last season. The kids sang well as a group, their on-the-verge of teenage voices not cracking once. That was saved for their parents, choking back emotion on the sidelines.

After the festivities it was time to play ball. But with teams fanning out to fields all over the Island, this posed a difficult question: what to watch? This year the answer was T-ball.

Grandpa Bob (Moore) gives some on-field instruction to Grady Phelps and Jack Moriarty. — Maria Thibodeau

T-ball is made up of predominantly four and five year olds, and some six-year-old beginners. To put that in perspective, it is essentially a field of preschoolers and kindergartners, given bats, balls, mitts and uniforms that look more like cozy pajamas dropping down past their knees.

On Saturday, for their first game of the season, the Mudcats faced off against the Sharks in the 1:30 p.m. game at the West Tisbury School. Heidi Vanderhoop coaches the Mudcats, her son Lewis's team, with help from his dad Alexander Moore and grandfather, Bob Moore, known on the field as Grandpa Bob.

Grandpa Bob is a tall man with a calm demeanor, perfect for wrangling his young charges. His pregame talk consisted of one important question: “After you hit, does everyone remember where to run?” There was a loud chorus of “Yeses.”

“Well, we’ll find out in a minute,” Grandpa Bob said with a smile

Bella Schilling knows you can never get too low for a grounder. — Maria Thibodeau

Meanwhile, on the other sideline, the Sharks were on the same page, asking the kids if they remembered where to run after they hit. The Sharks are led by Veronika Buckley, a second year veteran of T-ball coaching, with her husband Gary helping out. Mrs. Buckley played softball in college and also plays on the women’s adult team on the Island. She knows her baseball and was having a hard time on Saturday standing a safe distance away on account of being six and half months pregnant. Usually, she would be at the plate placing the ball on the T and setting up each Sharks player. But for this season she has to stalk the sidelines shouting out instructions from behind the batting cage.

“It crushes me to be out of the action,” she said, adding that she had told the parents it was their job to restrain her over the season from jumping into the fray. She acknowledged this would be a tough job.

Mrs. Buckley’s daughter Hannah was the first batter for the Sharks, wearing the number five because she is five years old, her father Gary said. Last year she wore the number four.

Games run approximately two or three innings, with each member of the squad getting to bat each inning. Outs and runs are beside the point.

Hannah Buckley is welcomed to the base by Jason Kornalski. — Maria Thibodeau

“It’s all about having fun,” said Coach Vanderhoop.

This is true. Whereas in the big leagues a bases loaded situation is dreaded by the fielders, in T-ball the fielders love it because it means more opportunities to welcome the opposing team to the bases and have a chat. Of course this leads to some breakdowns in communication, as players decide they like their new friend on first base so much they refuse to run to second base after the next batter hits.

On the sidelines Lea Rosbeck cheered on her sons Teddy and Peter. "He likes the uniform and playing with the gravel,” she said of Teddy, who is four and new to the game.

When a team takes the field parents join the ball players, helping to direct traffic. After all, Grandpa Bob can't be everywhere at once.

Throughout the day there were many displays of T-ball cliches. Kids wandered off in search of daisies and bugs or watched the sky for birds, unicorns or possible alien space ships. One little boy declared as he stepped up to the plate that he would bat but not run. True to his word, after hitting a scorching grounder into the gap between shortstop and third base, he took off his helmet and headed for the bleachers. Another boy, when told to keep his eye on the ball, covered his face with his mitt.

But there were a lot of solid hits too and serious plays in the field as the future of Martha’s Vineyard Little League displayed its talent. So what if on occasion three kids teamed up to catch a grounder and ran as one to first base to present the trophy and get the out.

Through it all, parents cheered, kids got dirty and the timeless advice of Grandpa Bob rang out, not just on the T-ball field but all over the Vineyard on Saturday.

“Look at the ball, and hit it hard.”

More T-ball pictures