Fifth Grade Baseball Talk


I’ve been student teaching the last four months in a fifth grade class on Manhattan’s Upper West Side. This past Thursday was my last day and so the kids made a bunch of individual farewell cards. I love this one because of the kid who made it and of course because of the Derek Jeter triumphant gesture. We bonded over the Yanks and he was the student who introduced me to the world of fifth-grade sports talk (which is similar in form to YFSF talk, but different in content). Here’s an example:

I came in a morning after a wild-card game between the Yanks and Tigers was rained out and I saw this kid, a Yanks fan, surrounded by his friends, all of whom are Mets fans. They were laughing at him as he frowned and looked downward at his feet. Turns out, they were mocking him because his beloved Bombers had the audacity to be rained out the previous night. I was confused. "Um…hmm…I don’t understand…"(a phrase I used often this past semester. Contrary to what the card says, I’m not the best student teacher yet…Far from it.)

"The Yankees were rained out. They couldn’t play. Ha!" One of the kids taunted me knowing that I was a fan as well.
"But it’s something they couldn’t control…" My brow was furrowed at this point and I painstakingly tried to understand this line of trash talking. Nothing but silence on the other end.
"It’s true, Nick. The Yanks were rained out," my fellow Yanks fan glumly chimed in, looking away in shame. We had clearly lost this round and it was best to retire with dignity. But I was still confused and I still am.

Another time, I was the arbiter of a debate between a Yanks fan and a Mets fan about who was better, A-Rod and Jeter (in tandem) or the pairing of Wright and Reyes. The argument went something like this: "But Jeter’s better!" "But Wright’s better!" They turned to me for a decision. I quickly scanned my memory of VORP totals and win shares and estimated that the Mets pair had the slight advantage this year, although I wasn’t sure. My answer was as diplomatic as I could get. "A-Rod and Jeter have been better in the past. For instance, last year they were better. This year, it’s a tie. And in the future, it’s the Mets players." The Yanks fan looked at me in disappointment. The Mets fan shook his head up and down and said "That’s what I was saying!"

Another insight I gained into baseball this year was regarding who the best person in all of baseball was. At least according to one ten year old, he knew the answer to this seemingly unanswerable question. The kid, a Mets fan (this season, by the way, seemed to create a whole new generation of Metroplitan loyalists on the Upper West Side. They outnumbered Yanks fans by a lot in my class) sidled up to meet one morning and said, "Nick, do you know who my favorite player is?"
"David Wright?"
"Jose Reyes?"
"Arthur Rhodes."
I was somewhat surprised by that answer. Arthur Rhodes, well, he never struck me as favorite player material.
"He’s the best person in baseball," the kid interrupted my startled daze. "I should know. Once I went to a game and a foul ball was hit into the stands where I was. But this guy stole the ball from me. After the inning was over, Arthur Rhodes came from the bullpen with a ball and gave it to me. He told me and my dad that he saw what happened and he wanted me to have the ball." So, there you have it: Arthur Rhodes is the best person in baseball.

Indulge me this bit of nostalgia. I had a great few months and I figured I share.

11 comments… add one
  • 10 Yr. Old Walein: Dave Winfield is the best player EVER!
    10 Yr. Old Nick_YF: Willie Randolf is.
    Walein: ‘Fraid Not!
    Nick_YF: ‘Fraid So!
    Walein: ‘Fraid Not! Dave Winfield is almost 7 feet tall!
    Nick_YF: ‘Fraid not!
    Walein: ‘Fraid so!
    …that goes on a bit and then there’s a headlock, some crying, admonishment from mom, whiffleball game.

    walein December 17, 2006, 4:46 pm
  • even to this day, you refuse to show Willie the respect he deserves, purposefully misspelling his last name!
    By the way, you were 10 and I was 8.

    Nick-YF December 17, 2006, 4:49 pm
  • Nick,
    It’s funny that you bring up Rhodes. I never thought that either, but this year I went to a couple Philly v. Red Sox games in Philly. Anyhow, both times there I went and watched BP and talked to some players. One kid I played with in college plays for Philly, and Rhodes was there. He continually gave the balls he was shagging to the fans in the stands, and he did NOTHING but shag balls and sign autographs the entire time, both days.
    I never really put it together, but he definitely took the time to get together with the Philly fans and make some friends.
    FWIW, Chase Utley was exactly the same way, and the fans absolutely loved him as well. Rhodes made some definite young fans that day.

    Brad December 17, 2006, 4:59 pm
  • My sister teaches high school in the Bronx and most of her students are hardcore fans, as one might expect. They were surprised when she joined in to their baseball arguments. (Obviously the majority of the kids are Yankees fans, but a handful are Sox fans, with a very, very few Mets fans thrown in. Now she gets asked her opinion a lot, but it’s usually followed by someone else declaring that it’s unfair to ask a Yanksfan teacher anything.)
    When she was too sick to actually put together a lesson, she offered extra credits to students for writing essays about why Derek Jeter should have won the MVP. I thought she was joking about it until I saw the essays.

    Reb December 17, 2006, 5:41 pm
  • “This year, it’s a tie. And in the future, it’s the Mets players.” Good grief, Nick! No wonder we’re losing the kids. The correct answer is, “Um, Alex and Derek, and don’t even talk to me about your candy-assed Mets twirps, who get fat off an inferior league while the real men are jacking up numbers against serious opposition in the AL. The next of you pansies I see with a Mets cap goes straight to detention.” Buck up.
    But, um, seriously, that letter is pretty awesome. Congrats. And when can you start tutoring Little Ms. YF?

    YF December 17, 2006, 5:52 pm
  • “When she was too sick to actually put together a lesson, she offered extra credits to students for writing essays about why Derek Jeter should have won the MVP. I thought she was joking about it until I saw the essays.”
    That’s awesome.

    Nick-YF December 17, 2006, 5:58 pm
  • What a great post and thread. Truly.
    It was 1981. I was twelve, I wasn’t allowed to stay up and watch the games on WPIX. However, I had a single-speaker AM-FM radio that could pick up the broadcasts that was hid by my bed, y folks must have known, but they allowed it.
    So, it was game six of the Dodgers-Yankees series. I had been sent to bed. Please correct me if I’m wrong (please, really) but Willy Randolph (?!) hit a home run in that game to give the Yanks some hope, but none was forthcoming.
    The Yanks were up to their last at bat, and Winnie was their last hope. He struck out. I cried myself to sleep that night over the Yanks losing.
    The next morning, I told my mom I was too sick to go to school. She asked me, “Are you sick or are you just upset that YOUR (emphasis mine, she knew how into them I was) Yankees lost the game last night.”
    I sat up out of bed and said, “What’s the difference?”
    At home, I stayed that day. Bless my mom for allowing me that time to process what had happened, even though she doesn’t like baseball. Yet, she was the first person to play catch with me. Moms. Go figue.

    attackgerbil December 17, 2006, 9:49 pm
  • quick comment, fraught with seplign errors! sorry,

    attackgerbil December 17, 2006, 9:53 pm
  • The kids will miss you Nick, no doubt. Great post.

    SF December 18, 2006, 8:33 am
  • Thanks, SF, I think I’ll miss them more.

    Nick-YF December 18, 2006, 9:25 am
  • What a great bunch of stories. I grew up near Cincinnati and in my grade school, they always wheeled in a TV for the opening day game (Cincy always has an opener at home in the daytime). That’s one way to make kids like baseball–let it bump off a half-day of lessons.

    froggywomp (SF) December 18, 2006, 10:09 am

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