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Nazareth, Pa., United States

Monday, June 30, 2008

Insects Devouring Young Baseball Players

Early Saturday morning, I watched helplessly as a group of eight and nine year-olds from Lehigh Little League dumped all over my grandson's team from Northwest Bethlehem in a scrimmage. As painful as that was, these noble rivals faced two bigger enemies. One was the heat. But the biggest foe by far? Insects. They've been merciless. They're ravenous this year.

Some kids sent into the outfield have never returned.

I'm pretty much useless in the field, so I've been acting as the first aid guy. The kids are getting ready for a tournament in Coplay, starting on Tuesday night. I look after minor injuries so that coaches who actually know what they are doing, can teach fundamentals to these young athletes.

One of my rituals is to spray insect repellent on every kid I see at the beginning of every practice. I usually have to repeat it before practice is over. I worry whether I'm giving them cancer. Last week, I missed one ten year old. He went out into the field, but returned in tears a few minutes later, claiming a bee had stung his ear. His ear was beginning to swell up like a balloon.

Me: "Did you see a bee?"


Me: "Are you allergic to bees."

"Kind of."

Me: "What's your dad's phone number?"

"He's out of town on business."

Me: "Well, how about your mom. What's her number?"

"I don't know."

I did what I do with every injury. I applied ice. I think I learned that in the Army. Maybe it was the boy scouts. Earlier in the week, my grandson stopped a line drive to third with his adam's apple. Our best fielder scratched up his legs while diving for a ball in stones. Everyone, including the insect bite victim, got the same treatment. An ice cube. He sat in the dugot, holding an ice cube to his ear, while I ran all over the place, looking for some sting medicine. A coach from another team had some, and it helped this boy right away.

When this boy's mom arrived on the field, I asked if her son was allergic to bees.

"Kind of."

I decided not to ask whether she knew her phone number.

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