Andy Mickle is making a special presentation next week to his educational peers. Mickle, a veteran city teacher whose current duties include the fifth grade at Stearns Elementary School, will swing and hopefully connect as he displays and talks about his use of baseball as an educational component and complement to just about every core subject.
The Wednesday afternoon seminar at Stearns will include an interactive showcase put together by the Educational Outreach folks from the National Baseball Hall of Fame Museum in Cooperstown, N.Y., which stands behind many of the study tools used by Mickle.
This event is in advance of Thursday afternoon’s Education Fair at Stearns, which will be a baseball affair authored by the fifth graders at the school, all of whom expect to present projects on specific teams and Hall-of-Fame players. First pitch, if you will, is at 1:30 p.m., and the event is open to the public.
This has been Mickle’s baby for a couple of years now, and he is quick to give praise to Jean Bednarski, the recently retired principal at Stearns, and to current school leader Aaron Dean. Both, he said, have been very supportive of the process and the program.
"Initially, Jean just wanted to make sure I wasn’t straying too far from the educational mandates," Mickle said. "But she has endorsed the program and so has Aaron."
Mickle was introduced to the specifics of the unique study tactics by former Dalton educator, Larry Moore, who is part of the Cooperstown outreach program. Math, physics, history, civil rights, literature, music and more all get addressed at some point during the program.
The students do research and essay writing during the summer, and the school usually has some baseball-themed events to help maintain the momentum. Music teacher Karen Burgess, for example, has taught and led the students in rousing renditions of baseball songs made popular throughout the 20th century and even earlier.
A recent part of the program focused on Jackie Robinson and was called "Breaking Barriers." Mickle said the students divided into groups and presented skits that showed how cultural or economic barriers could be dealt with and ultimately knocked down and defeated.
The kids and the parents, Mickle said, have bought into the program and the results have been immensely successful. His own presentation to peers and hopefully some administrators on Wednesday afternoon and the subsequent fair on Thursday is both a payoff for the hard-working students and put forth with the hope of enlightening the district as to what’s available.
It’s hard to imagine Mickle not belting a four-bagger on this at-bat. Mickle added that they may even pop some fresh popcorn on Thursday to put those in attendance in the mood.
Play ball and education. Sounds like a good deal.
Maybe it was that Charlie Maxwell baseball card that hooked me. I bought my first fresh pack of baseball cards from the Dalton Avenue Variety when I was about 8. What an educational investment it turned out to be. Five cents, and the knowledge I gained was incalculable. Plus, a slab of gum.
I studied the back of Maxwell’s card -- he was a two-time all-star with the Tigers during the 1950s -- and learned that he threw and hit lefty, just like me. There were measurements; he was 5-foot-11 and weighed 185 pounds. There was geography; he was born in Wisconsin.
And there was all that math. I quickly figured out that batting averages could be conjured up by simply dividing total at-bats into number of hits. All you had to do was carry the long division out to the thousandth number, and presto, you know "The Mick’s" 55 for 165 was .333.
More important for an aspiring Little League player was that you now knew that your own 9-for-27 was also .333. Yeah, you were as good as Mantle!
It didn’t stop there. The standings. If my Yankees were 60-40 and the dreaded Red Sox were 58-42, then I knew Boston "was two games back." You spit that information out around the playground at recess like you were some math wizard. But you know what? You were secretly proud that you knew it.
And, the brightest among us knew that if the Yankees won that day and the Red Sox didn’t play, then the lead went to 21Ž2. It was all that and tons more. All starting from the back of a baseball card. Charlie Maxwell, by the way, turns 87 on April 8.
I should send him a card and thank him for igniting a young mind and offering a portal into a wonderful statistical universe. All these years later, nothing has changed.
Brian Sullivan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.