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.
One 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.