Of all the subjects I talk about when I do school visits, the exploits of the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League (AAGPBL) seem to resonate most with students of all ages. Those kids who play ball are hungry for details of the games and life in the league. Those who value the players’ role as sports pioneers want to know what motivated them to leave home to forge careers in one of the first professional opportunities for female athletes.
My relationship with the players in this league, about which I wrote my first book, A Whole New Ball Game, has progressed from professional to personal, and I now serve on the AAGPBL Players Association Vision Committee, a group charged with considering how best to preserve the league’s legacy. As such, we have just announced BATTER UP!, a contest that challenges students in grades 6, 7, and 8 (in the United States and Canada) to write short essays answering one of three questions about the impact of the league and its players. The Grand Prize Winner, and a parent or guardian, will get an all-expenses-paid trip to the 2012 AAGPBL players reunion, to be held next September in Syracuse and Cooperstown, New York. Each of the four Runners-Up will win AAGPBL prize packs, including autographed bats and balls and other memorabilia. The winning essay will be published in the AAGPBL newsletter, and it, along with the runner-up essays, will be featured on the organization’s Web site.
“We want to encourage young people to reflect upon the legacy of our league,” explains Players Association president Lois Youngen, a four-year AAGPBL veteran and a professor emeritus at the University of Oregon. “Many of our members became teachers after our playing days,” she added, “so we know how curious and creative young people can be. We’re inviting them to do a little research about our league and to consider its impact.” Some of those players-turned-teachers will serve as first-round contest judges, along with others from a variety of walks of life. If you’re a teacher, librarian, author, or editor who’s interested in joining the panel of final judges, e-mail me at email@example.com. Contest entries are due via the entry form on the contest Web site by March 18, 2012, and the winners will be chosen by the end of May.
We understand that not every kid will jump at the chance to enter this contest. When I told a friend who works with middle schoolers about it, she suggested sexier prizes, such as iPods or iPads. Add to that the fact that entering requires work and we know that narrows the pool even more. We're hoping some teachers will use the contest as an opportunity to get their kids thinking and writing about history, and have included a small prize for the sponsoring teacher of the winner and runners-up. We're also banking on the hope that for some kids, the prospect of meeting Terry Donahue or Sophie Kurys or any of the other 150 or so surviving players is even more exciting than winning one of Mr. Jobs' miraculous devices.
So spread the word. And if you're interested in reading about some of the highlights of this year's AAGPBL reunion, see Sue's Views on my Web site.
[Note: The statue of the AAGPBL player above is on display at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum in Cooperstown.]