Posts tagged ‘baseball’

April 18, 2013

Peanuts and crackerjacks

Pete O’Brien was my favorite player. He played first base for the M’s, back when the Mariner’s had yet to have a winning season. If you are saying “Pete O’Who?”, that’s okay. He was mostly my favorite player because he wore glasses and so did I. And I’m still pretty sure that’s a good reason.

Ballpark

There is nothing I like more than playing or watching baseball on a sunny day. I remember playing ball with my dad in our yard and then cheering with him at the stadium. I remember thinking the Mariner’s were going to win (every time) even during the years when their bullpen lost it in the ninth (every time–except when they lost it in the eighth). I remember doing all of my homework with the games on the radio (Dave Neihaus, you are responsible for any bad grades). I remember getting into an argument about Dave Valle (catcher) with my Middle School Crush (now husband) that ended in him sitting (temporarily) on the other side of the movie theater. I remember wearing my M’s hat with duct tape over the “S” during the strike in 8th grade. I remember gleefully watching the postseason games with the Yankees in 1995 with a Yankee fan and personal foe. I remember Edgar’s double.

Betsy and Grandpa

As I’ve “grown up” (for lack of a better term), baseball still has me. At a recent Tiger’s game, I could feel my heart race just walking into the stadium, seeing the light reflect on the grass. I’ve lost a little of my loyalty to the major leagues, but paying attention to money and drugs will do that to you. And while you will never see me root for the Yankees, I’ve transitioned to a Tiger’s fan with little ado.

Which is why I was excited to see Betsy’s Day at the Game come across my desk. I love that the book is about a girl going to the game, as sports books often target boys. I love that it focuses on keeping memories along with the scores. And I love the way it integrates a story with a lesson on how to keep score, which is complicated business. I remember the first time I learned how to read a box score and to check player’s stats in the paper. Keeping score is a great way to watch a ballgame. It’s a great way to stay focused on the action. And it’s great for kids who are more numbers-oriented than sports-oriented: it might open up a world they never knew was there.

page 16

Betsy’s Day at the Game is the size of a picture book, but really an early reader, meant more for the adult to read to the child. It’s a text-heavy given the nature of teaching, but explains the game and score-keeping well. This is a book that brings it’s own family acitivity: simply read, head to the ballpark, and start keeping score! Don’t forget to include the family memories like Betsy does, and if you aren’t heading to a ballgame anytime soon, you could start your own memory book instead.

Betsy's_Day _at_the_Game-coverTitle: Betsy’s Day At The Game
Author: Greg Bancroft
Illustrator: Katherine Blackmore
Genre: Early Reader, Sports
Ages: 4 – 10

If you’d like to win a copy and help pass on the love of baseball to your sons and daughters, students, or grandchildren, please leave a comment below. Maybe tell me your favorite player, or favorite team. I’ll choose a winner with random number generator and forward on the copy the publisher sent to me. Good luck! [AND UPDATED NOTICE: YOU MUST LEAVE THE COMMENT WITHIN ONE WEEK OF POSTING, SO BY NEXT THURSDAY…I’LL GIVE YOU UNTIL MIDNIGHT EASTERN TIME] TO BE ELIGIBLE.]

And if you need some more baseball inspiration, I will end with a link to my absolute favorite essay ever, The Green Fields of the Mind, by A. Bartlett Giamatti.

June 7, 2012

You don’t have to wear your glove on the correct hand to read these books

Is there anything better than standing in the outfield? The sun on your back and a glove in your hand? If you are a baseball fan, you might not think so. But I think I recently found something slightly better. And that is standing in the outfield, the sun on your back, telling the five-year-old next to you that their glove is on the wrong hand and they should probably switch it over before the batter swings, even though the likelihood of the batter connecting with the ball–much less hitting it to the outfield, even though the outfield in this case is about 18 inches behind second base–are, frankly, low.

I just completed my first (of what I hope will be many) season of assistant tee-ball coaching. It was really the most fun thing a person can do with a few free weekend hours. And so in honor of that, I’d like to suggest a few of my favorite baseball books for all ages, starting with the newborns and going all the way up to the adults. Yep, I’m including you all this time because it wouldn’t be practice without the people in the stands.

Title: Home Run!
Author: David Diehl
Genre: Board Book, Sports
Ages: 0 – 3

The David Diehl sports books were some of my son’s favorite early books. They were the first he learned to “read” by memorizing the words on each page and he was excited to turn the pages and shout out what he remembered. (This one already made the blog, so you can read more about it here if you like.)

 

TitleBaseball Saved Us
Author: Ken Mochizuki
Illustrator: Dom Lee
Genre: Picture Book, Sports
Ages: 2 – 10

I’ve blogged about this book already, but this is a great one for young kids and preschool kids and even elementary students. They will each get something a little different out of it. It’s a very versatile book: the youngest readers will hear a great baseball story and be introduced to some harder topics they will only really understand later. Older readers could use this to talk about more serious historical and ethical issues, especially in a teacher-led discussion. In fact, you could use this book in a middle school class and have the kids do their own picture book on an historical event. That would be interdisciplinary awesomeness! 🙂

 

TitleFantasy Baseball
Author: Alan Gratz
Genre: Fantasy, Sports
Ages: Upper Elementary and Middle School

I’ve never read this one! But I bought it recently and am excited to. Have you read it? Let me know what you think. He’s a local author and he’s got other baseball books out there, including Samurai Shortstop, if you are interested in more.

 

Title: The Art of Fielding
Author: Chad Harbach
Genre: The Great American Novel (I read recently that this is now a “genre” which I thought was both hysterical and accurate. This books certainly fits within that genre, Moby Dick references and all)
Ages: Adult

I loved this book. It’s a great read for anyone who likes literature and baseball. And if you had to pick only one of the two, I’d probably buy it for a literature-lover before a baseball-lover, although the whole book really does revolve around the sport.

Enjoy your summer, your baseball, and your books!

October 24, 2010

Our nation’s pastime, in funky illustrations

My mother-in-law bought us this book.  I still remember meeting her at Barnes and Noble with growing newborn in his sling.  She took one look at me and burst out laughing, and admittedly, it does look funny when the baby is hidden away in a sling.  He was getting bigger, but still able to fit inside the sling, tucked away from all the world around him.  At some point during the shopping trip, she picked out this book.  At that point, he was too young to read for himself, so I was choosing books that I liked to read, like Winnie-the-Pooh chapter books or really anything short of a Biology textbook because, seriously, it didn’t really matter.

This book was one of my first introductions to board books as a parent (and I don’t remember them as a kid so it was really my first introduction).  I remember wondering what was the point of board books, especially since it would take quite a few of them to meet our nightly reading ritual of fifteen or twenty minutes.  My husband wondered too.  Not for long.  It turned out to be a brilliant choice of a book, my son’s favorite above all other books and as I sit here writing about, two years later, the same copy sits here next to my computer held together with tape on my desk.  And now, our son “reads” this book to us.  If that isn’t beautiful, I don’t know what is.

Title: Home Run!
Author/Illustrator: David Diehl
Genre
: Board Book, Sports
Age: 0 – 3, although I can tell you right now, we are going to be older when we stop reading this book

Summary and Review:

Each page is a colorful and fun illustration of a crucial part of the baseball game, usually with one simple word to describe it (bat, ball, glove, etc.)  I love the drawings, and if I knew more about art, I could probably describe with with some sort of high-falutin’ word, but I can tell you that they are fun and slightly funky.  One of the greatest things about this book is that even though it appears at first glance to be just a list of baseball terms, one on each page, it actually reads as the story of a whole game.  There are hits and slides, runners who are safe and those who hit fly balls and get out.  And of course, there is a home run, which looks by the scoreboard at the end of the book to be a game-winning, bottom-of-the-ninth, grand slam.

To say that my son loves this book would in no way capture his true feelings.  He knows it by heart and has for some time.  He recently took it to school with him to share with his classmates.  And it’s almost always in our car, ready to go with us wherever we end up.  As we enjoyed this one so much, we’ve since bought the soccer and basketball ones, and there’s a football one as well.

Possible conversations to have with your kids:

Invite your child to really interact with the art in this book.  What does the umpire do when he calls a “strike”?  My son loves to throw his hand up in a fist and yell “strike!”, imitating the book, even when we are playing baseball at home and he’s the one with the bat in his hand who just missed the ball.   Same with the sign for “safe” which I am all but required to deliver when my son slides onto our carpet after running around the bases, which is either a lap around the house or about twenty laps around the carpet, necessary of course because almost everything he hits he declares a “home run!”

You can also engage your toddler in the story.  Instead of just showing him the “grounder” page and the “out” page, show the two-page spread as part of a story.  The fielder is getting the grounder, so the runner is then tagged out.  This will help them recognize story format, even in a simple board book, and also help teach them the flow and rules to America’s greatest game; which, seriously now, is an important lesson.  On the next page, the two pictures are “steal” and “slide”, and you can do the same thing–telling the story of the base runner who slides when he steals a base–with these pictures as well.

The pictures are simple, so asking your child to recognize details can also help them become good observers.  (I have to laugh every time I use the word “observe” now because it’s something they taught my son as part of some introduction to science lesson and now he is fond of complimenting almost everything I say with “That’s a good observation, Mom.”  Seriously.  But an example: the “on deck” page shows a donut-style bat weight on the bat.  Ask your child if he notices anything different about the “on deck” bat and the other bats and then you can tell him or her about the weight.

At the end of the game, the final score is 8 to 9.  Ask younger children to read the numbers and ask older children which is the higher number–i.e., which team won the game?

And then, if it’s the right season, head out to the ballpark and test your toddler’s new knowledge in the real world.

September 20, 2010

Save the next generation of politicians, ball players, and world citizens by reading real books like this one

I swear, so many picture/board/early readers about baseball end with the short guy hitting a game-winning home run, that my son is going to grow up thinking that that’s just how baseball games end.  But this one goes a lot deeper–a LOT deeper–than most of them, so not only do I love reading it, but my son, who loves any book with pictures of bats and balls in it, loves hearing it.  The great thing about this book is that it has a strong message and an important historical lesson without sounding too preachy.  The illustrations are beautiful, although I do have a slight issue with books that differentiate between the past and the present with the number of colors used.  I mean, seriously, history was NOT actually in black and white.  Or sepia.

Title: Baseball Saved Us
Author: Ken Mochizuki
Genre
: Picture Book, Historical Fiction
Age: 0 – 9

Summary and Review:

The book follows the story of a young Japanese-American boy who struggles to play on a baseball team in America with kids who are often taller than him.  Then he starts to hear a lot of things about “some place far away” called Pearl Harbor and all of the sudden, his school friends hate him and call him awful names.  Before he knows it, his family is shipped off to a “camp” with other Japanese-Americans, forced to leave their homes and most of their belongings behind.

The book describes some of the basic details about camp life and then describes how they decided to start baseball games.  Our young hero gets better with practice and finds his strength by wanting to defy the armed guard in the tower above him, watching his every move on the field.  Later, he returns home and joins another baseball team.  He’s still one of the shortest players, but he’s gotten much better.  Over all, it’s a story of human strength and perseverance in the face of terrible obstacles.

Possible conversations to have with your kids:

Most people would say you can’t read a story like this to a younger kid–they won’t get it, they won’t sit for all the text, or the issues are too deep.  I say “bullocks”.  Or “bollocks”.  I’m not sure because I’m not British.  At any rate, I don’t believe that.  When I started reading this to my son, he wasn’t even one, but he liked the baseball picture.  I would summarize the text on each page to about one sentence and read the book that way.  (I read a lot of books this way and eventually lengthened the summaries until I was reading the entire text.)  As far as introducing deep issues goes, I believe that kids will understand what they are ready to understand.  By being honest with them from the beginning, we give them a framework in which to analyze the complicated world they eventually must navigate for themselves.

For older kids in grades 3 and up

Even though it’s a picture book, much older kids will relate to this book.  Do you have an elementary student–or even a middle school student–struggling to understand something in history class?  Too often classroom history takes issues like geography, war, and politics and disassociates them from the reality of people living in that time frame.  Ask your kids to read this book and then talk about why the United States created policies and camps like this.  Talk to your kids about what they think about that.  Talk to them about what these camps did to the people living in them.  Then ask them a crucial question–what would they think if something like this happened today?  Helping kids relate characters from history to characters today can help them realize that history isn’t just a list of dates–it’s real people living real lives, with all the love, hatred, heartbreak, and adventure that comes with that.  Then go back to the issue in history with which they were struggling to understand.  Can they picture the people who were going through that?  Can they imagine what kinds of things they were doing and how they would have felt?  If so, chances are they understand their issue a lot better.