Everywhere you looked there were Tigers.
Little cats like 5-year-old Kalbe Gee. Big cats like Adam Dapkewicz.
There were adults … supervising the Tigers in what became a lovefest of everything that’s good about Davis Little League baseball.
T-ball, AAA and Major-division teams — all called the Tigers — congregated at Community Park last week after parent/manager Stephen Inouye organized what he called Buddy Day.
“Several years ago, when some older players from the Mariners team walked by my son’s Farm team (also the Mariners) and said ‘Good luck, Mariners,’ I remember my son being in awe of the older kids,” Inouye explains. “(They made) an immediate connection.
“I also remember hearing, in other years, coaches saying things like ‘wouldn’t it be cool to get the older kids to come cheer on the younger ones?’ ”
Now, with each of Inouye’s kids — 4-year-old twins John and Justin, and Jason, 9 — in Little League together for the first time, and each on the Tigers, of course, dad “decided (a Buddy Day) would be a cool thing.”
Unfortunately, last Wednesday when all this camaraderie evolved, the AA Tigers had a game and couldn’t participate.
But eventually, each of the other Tiger team members have been to a AA Tiger game, wishing their namesake comrades good luck.
Different levels of Tiger teams have worked out together — like the recent Sunday practice at which parents were loaded with cameras, treats and great reviews.
“This is just terrific,” American League rep and Tiger Farm manager Mark Breckner told The Enterprise as he surveyed more than 30 assorted catlike Little Leaguers interacting before the T-ball Tigers played the Rangers last Wednesday.
Redding native Breckner, whose daughter Heidi plays for Dad, was a Giants fan until a fifth-grade book report changed all that …
“Our teacher wanted us to do a book report on a Sports Illustrated story,” Breckner said. “The cover was about the Detroit Tigers.”
Ever since, it’s been Bengal stripes for the Breckners (older daughter Heather, now playing softball, spent four Tiger years in DLL).
There they were last week — the Tigers ranging in age from 4 to 12. Dozens of parents engaged in the festivities. Managers Jack Dapkewicz (Majors-division Tigers), Inouye (AAA) and Breckner orchestrating the activity.
Inouye, who teaches at Dixon High, took great care in matching the T-ballers with the AAA players — meanwhile having the majors-level Tigers providing encouragement and instruction wherever they could.
The pairings? Interesting, to say the least.
There was Parker McMahon, 4, playing catch with Jason Inouye. The two were together because they both wear the No. 3, both have brothers, they like TV, video games and apparently both “like to cheer,” according to Papa Inouye.
“Also, they are both funny, like to laugh and both can write their names on paper,” he adds — an important skill when filling out a lineup card.
Then there was Wyatt Kruse, 5, and Luis Garibay, 9. The first connection was the No. 8 on their uniform backs, but after that, Panda, Bob and Mario came into play.
It’s an automatic that both like pizza and video games, but the color red seemed to be a common bond, too. They both are Giants fans, cheering mightily for Pablo “the Panda” Sandoval, watching SpongeBob SquarePants (a topic Sandoval also apparently enjoys) and playing Super Mario Brothers.
Then there was Adam Studer and Teo Honda-Scully.
Six-year-old Adam and Teo, 9, have brothers, run a lot, “like to go for doubles,” like batting and eating snacks. A perfect match. But when outsiders learn, according to Stephen Inouye, that these two kids “love throwing stuff,” well, who wouldn’t put them high up on the draft order?
“I originally came out (to coach five years ago) for the love of baseball,” Breckner says. “But being a part of all these kids learning how to play baseball — having an event like this Buddy Day — and watching them fall in love with baseball … It’s all just wonderful.”
— Reach Bruce Gallaudet at [email protected] or 530-747-8047.