Bay Village fourth-graders dramatize societal changes through baseball history

Cal Ripken (played by Nolan Naughton, far right) was an example of commitment and dependability for Westerly students.

There are few stories more inspiring in baseball than that of Jackie Robinson, the first black player in Major League Baseball.

Westerly Elementary fourth-graders in Bay Village brought Robinson’s struggle to life for an audience of students and parents. Narrated through the eyes of hot dog and peanut vendors, the students explained that Branch Rickey, general manager of the Brooklyn Dodgers, needed a player with a special type of character to make that first step toward the integration of our national pastime.

“What will you do when the crowd taunts you with racist remarks?” asked Rickey (played by Jacob Pullman).

Jackie Robinson (played by Doug Riley) responded, ‘My mother always taught me to turn the other cheek.” He went on to say that if an umpire called him out when he was safe, he’d just hit the ball harder the next time. He said if a pitcher threw a ball at his head, he’d just duck.

Students playing some fellow ballplayers objected to his presence, and some crowd members expressed their contempt with cries of “boo.” But others stood up for him and, ultimately that first year, Robinson led the Dodgers to the 1947 World Series and was named Rookie of the Year.

Another ballplayer held up for admiration of his character was Cal Ripken. Ripken (played by Nolan Naughton), told the audience he had been passionate about baseball since he was a young boy. He especially looked up to his hero, Lou Gehrig, who never missed a game in 13 years, playing through injuries, and even playing his last game while dying from a rare disease that would be named after him.

“I know that if Lou Gehrig is looking down on tonight’s activities, he isn’t concerned about someone playing one more consecutive game than he did,” said Ripken on the eve of his breaking Gehrig’s record. “Instead, he’s viewing tonight as just another example of what is good and right about the game.” Ripken still holds the record for the most consecutive games played (2,632), earning him the moniker, Iron Man of Baseball.

Cleveland Indian Carlos Carrasco dreamed of being a professional baseball player when growing up in Venezuela. But in an interview with a reporter (played by Brooke Rhea), Carlos (played by Greyson Buckingham) focused on another dream – that of becoming a U.S. citizen. He talked about studying the citizenship booklet, and how his teammates quizzed him.

“You have to answer three questions out loud in English,” he said. “You have to read three sentences and write down three sentences. You are not given any clues as to what those might be.”

Carlos related how proud he was to raise his hand and recite the Oath of Allegiance. He also described how his teammates replaced his clothes in his locker with an Uncle Sam costume on their first road trip following his naturalization ceremony. He loved wearing the costume on the flight and bus ride back to Ohio. “I look at my wife and kids in the stands, my teammates who helped me in so many ways, and our great fans in Cleveland,” he said. “And I know I’m home.”

All the students in Mrs. Woodburn’s and Mrs. Mahall’s class played roles in the production, including the performance of Abbott and Costello’s “Who’s On First?” and the famous poem, “Casey At the Bat.” There was even a “seventh-inning stretch” as student sang “Take Me Out to the Ballgame.”

All in all, it was an educational and exciting way to welcome back the boys of summer from a long winter break.

Karen Derby

Director of Communications for the Bay Village City School District

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Volume 9, Issue 11, Posted 10:12 AM, 06.06.2017