4th grade

I’m in Greensboro this week for two main reasons. Yesterday, I took care of the first one: visiting Rachel’s 4th grade class to give a talk/presentation about my baseball collection. (Rachel is not IN 4th grade. She teaches it. We’ve been friends since we met as freshmen at Guilford College in 1996.)

Rachel had told her class about me several weeks ago, and whatever she said, it must’ve been pretty good because the kids were psyched to see me. As soon as I met them outside their gym class, they started screaming my name and reaching out to shake my hand. A few of them competed to see how many different times they could shake it.

I walked them to their classroom, waited for them to settle down, and told them how I started collecting baseballs and how I ended up writing a book about it. I shared some ball-snagging strategies. I showed them the trick with my glove. I asked them if they’d ever been to a baseball game. I explained how I got 13 balls the night before at the Grasshoppers game. I told them about the new baseball book I’m working on and passed the manuscript around the room. I described my new job as a baseball writer for the minor league web site. I talked about my blog. I encouraged them to find their passion. “Stick with it,” I said, “whatever it is, whether it’s writing or trains or picking your nose.” They liked that.

And I liked them. They were all so excited and well behaved (with the exception of a group nose-picking session) that I decided to give away a ball to the kid who could come closest to guessing my total number from major league games. Rachel passed around post-it notes, and everyone (14 boys and 7 girls) wrote their guesses and names. I stuck all the papers to the giant marker board and started pulling down the ones that were way off. “Mine is still up there!!!” shouted a girl in the back row. “Ohhhhhh” sighed a boy when his paper came off. I dragged it out as we got down to the last few. The kids were standing at their desks and shouting. Oh, the suspense! The final four! Then three…two…and in the end, a kid named Kyle won the ball.

“Yessssssssssss!!!” he shouted, and I tossed it to him. It was well-deserved. Most guesses were off by a few hundred. One kid estimated that I’d snagged over 54,000. (Yeah, maybe if I lived in Greensboro full-time.) Kyle was just 19 over my current total of 2,458. He came to the front of the room and asked me to sign his prize. (Have you ever written on a baseball? It’s not easy. There’s nothing to lean on. I’ve signed a few dozen balls in my life, and I still stink at it.) All the other kids followed with pieces of paper and asked me to sign them.
Zack4thgrade3One kid had me personalize it “To Jonathan” on the front of his folder. Another kid wanted two: one for himself and one for his “friend Ralphy.” Yeah right. Ralphy. I know how it goes. Make up an excuse to get an extra autograph.

There was a question-and-answer session (those are always popular), and that was pretty much it. What a great time. I got to talk to an enthusiastic bunch of kids about one of my passions, AND I helped them avoid an hour of Social Studies in the process.


  1. rachelemcg@triad.rr.com

    Hi, Zack –
    I’ve really been enjoying reading your entries. This friend of yours, Rachel, seems really cool. She walked around the ball park with you in the teeming rain to indulge your baseball fascination AND she still allowed you to have contact with her 21 impressionable students. What a gal! Anyway, keep up the good work.

  2. Zack

    Yeah, she really is great…a beautiful person inside and out. I hope I can introduce the two of you someday.

  3. rachelemcg@triad.rr.com

    Aw, shucks! I’m blushing – how sweet. The pictures came out great. You’re right – they really do enhance the entries. It’s too bad you’re not much into the supernatural realm because there is a perfect orb that has been captured in this photograph. It looks like you weren’t the only visitor in the 4th Grade that day!

  4. Zack

    Huh. Cool. I hadn’t noticed ’til you pointed it out…but don’t you think it COULD just be speck of dust in front of the lens?

  5. thegroceryman1@yahoo.com

    I dunno about any orbs but is that Jesus in the top left corner?

  6. mcrickgold@triad.rr.com


    This friend of yours, Rachel, sounds awesome. I hear her Mom is pretty hot as well (and an excellent cook).

    Have a great time in Israel!

  7. Zack

    Well I try not to lust after other people’s moms, especially when those moms are married, but I will say that she’s a very classy lady.

    Great time in Israel?! That’s it? You’re not gonna wish me a great time in France, too?

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