On Tuesday I gave a talk at the primary school to a bunch of six-year-olds. Each class year was learning about specific country for the entire week. The year 1 one classes (first graders) were learning about America. So, I went in and gave them a little introduction to my favourite sportâbaseball.
I loaded up a gym bag with a few bats, some bases, a couple of gloves, and some balls from my baseball collection. I gave a short little presentation on what I liked to do at their age. When I was little, my hero wasnât Wayne Rooneyâit was Tony Gwynn. We didnât play football, we played baseball. I told them about my little league team. I let them each hold a baseball and feel what the gloves and bats felt like. I showed them my special foul ball I caught at a Padre game in 1996 after years of taking my glove to the ballpark (still in a protective case).
Then we went outside to hit balls and run the basis. I used wiffle balls and a foam bat. We set the bases out in a small diamond and had all the kids stand in a semi-circle in the outfield. Each child came up to the plate to hit the ball while the others cheered them on. I threw underhand and most of them were able to hit it and run the bases. It was a great time.
Most people in England donât know very much about baseball (the same way most people in the States donât know much about Cricket). It was one of the things I missed the most when I moved here 12 years ago. No baseball.
Baseball is such a big part of American life. Even if you are not a fan, you have a general idea how the game works. Itâs woven into our culture. Television programmes make occasional references to baseball. We use baseball terms in common speech. So, when kids over here watch American TV programmes, they donât always understand when there is a baseball reference. I was watching Arthur (the cartoonânot the Dudley Moore movie) with my kids and they were playing baseball on the show. My kids are familiar with baseball, but many of their friends are not.
But kids here love football (okay, soccer). Even at six-years-old, they knew a lot about the World Cup.
Surprisingly, the classes I spoke to knew a little bit about baseball from Wii Sports. That was their exposure to it. At the end of playing with one of the classes, a little girl who hit the ball pretty well said to me âI never hit the ball on the Wii, but I hit the ball today.â She had a big smile on her face.
Iâve done my part as ambassador.