PANORAMA - The Boys of Summer

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An explosion of sunlit dust erupts from the solid thud of a strike hitting the glove of Walla Walla Valley catcher Joseph Terry.

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Walla Walla Valley's Michael Cornia holds his breath on the throw to first base.

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While the two teams battle it out on the field, two girls practice the calm of yoga beneath the scoreboard.

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After the game, a player exits the field, hot dog in hand.

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Glove on hand and sporting a shaved head, Carter Schreindl watches a friend playing in the State District 5 Little League Tournament semi-final game last Tuesday. Carter shaved his head over the weekend so that his grandfather, who returned home last Sunday from chemotherapy treatment, wouldn't feel awkward over his loss of hair.

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Walla Walla Pacfiic's Garrett Martin jumps high for the high-five at the start of Tuesday's semi-final game.

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Watched by a younger boy, a youth grabs a dangling branch from a tree near the field to swing, like Tarzan on a vine, from table to table.

One game.

One microcosm.

A small slice of American pie or, better yet, a hot dog on a bun, smothered in all the fixings.

Tuesday's 9/10 District 5 semi-final game at Pacific Little League Fields served as a single taste of the greater feast played out on Little League Fields everywhere. It could have been a championship game if Walla Walla Pacific would have won. Instead Walla Walla Valley extended play and held on a little longer in the double-elimination tournament to advance to Thursday's championship - a rematch with the team they had just beaten.

Familiar faces.

The best of the season's best 9- and 10-year-old kids.

Battling back and forth while in the wings, boys grabbed dangling branches from a tree near the field, swinging like Tarzan on a vine from table to table.

The sun coming low and sharp through the trees in the west to backlight the soft explosions of dust with each hard thud of the ball in a catcher's glove. In the stands, parked in picnic chairs or hung along the fence, family, friends and fans watched the action, cheering on the spirit of competition and the sportsmanship of good play.

Being there for a friend on one of the teams, with a freshly shaved head for a cool, summer hairdo - and to make grandpa feel more comfortable with his loss of hair from chemotherapy.

Holding breath.

Sharing in the moment, while firing the ball to first base.

Team play.

You can't win when you play alone.

But that's the beauty of the boys of summer. There's a hunger to see gracious winners, good losers and simply share in the spirit to play.

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