Daily News-Record (Harrisonburg, VA)
Rebels With A Cause
New Market Ballplayers Spend Their Day Reading With Kids
Leah Nylen, Daily News-Record. July 18, 2006
With a little help from New Market Rebels players Ryley Westman and Frank Gailey, Raphael Mueller, 5, searches for Waldo on the beach. Children visited the baseball players Monday as part of the "Reading with the Rebels" program.
Photo by Mindi Westhoff
NEW MARKET— Noah Dodge arrived at Rebel Park early Monday morning, his shoulder-length blond hair covered in a black New Market Rebels baseball cap. The 12-year-old from Mount Jackson clutched a paperback copy of "How Georgie Radbourn Saved Baseball" to his chest.
"It’s about how a kid saves baseball," said Noah, the son of Charlie and Melissa Dodge. "I’ve read it probably 15 times."
Though he hoped to hear one of his favorite stories read aloud, Noah also had another motive for showing up at the park. An avid fan of the New Market Rebels baseball team, Noah hoped to meet some of the players in person.
He was not disappointed.
Eleven Rebels players and two coaches gathered at the ballpark Monday for the sixth annual "Reading with the Rebels," a program to promote youth literacy sponsored by the Rebels and the New Market Area Library.
Setting an Example
"The New Market Rebels are something everyone here identifies with and loves," said Becky Kipps, the coordinator of the children’s program at the New Market Area Library.
The team’s widespread popularity among children encouraged Kipps to start the reading program five years ago.
"The first time we had it at the library it was so well attended [that] we had to move it to the ballpark the next year," said Kipps, 51.
In New Market, the community tries to incorporate the players into the town and make them feel welcome, Kipps said. Families host some of the players in their homes.
"The Rebels are very community-minded," Kipps said. "They are encouraged to do community service while they’re here. They also consciously choose players that have good character."
Rebels Head Coach Blaine Brown said they encourage the players to become a part of the town while in New Market.
"The community has done so much for us," Brown said. "[This event] gives us the opportunity to give back to the community. It’s good for the players to learn that they’re here for more than just baseball."
Rebels players said they were looking forward to the event.
"[We came] just to interact with the kids," said pitcher Kenny McGrady, a junior from Wilmington College in Delaware. "We’re down here for the community."
Before the event, Kipps said she asked the Rebels players to tell her what their favorite childhood book was. She collected all their top picks, added a smattering of books about baseball and brought them all to the picnic area at the park.
Clifford the Big Red Dog and Dr. Seuss are always favorites, she said. Other childhood staples such as "Where the Wild Things Are" and "Go, Dog, Go!" were also top picks.
Once the children and players arrived, head coach Brown spoke to the participants about the importance of literacy. After the introduction, children broke down into smaller groups and selected library books for the Rebels players to read aloud.
Third baseman Kevin Miller, from Southwest Baptist University in Missouri, read books about the sport, "Baseball Players Do Amazing Things" and a longer book titled "Baseball" to his group of children. At a nearby table, catcher Ryley Westman from Northwest Missouri State helped children find Waldo in "Where’s Waldo?" books.
The kids were also encouraged to read aloud to the Rebels players to improve their reading and speaking skills.
During this time, Noah finally got a chance to read part of his book "How Georgie Radbourn Saved Baseball" to McGrady and other children.
Kids who read aloud received tickets that they could trade in for candy and trinkets. All the participants also earned plastic kazoos that they used in a round of "Take Me Out To The Ballgame."
But the best part, many children said, came after the reading and singing, when some Rebels players started a Wiffle ball game and a ball toss for the kids.
"I think this is a real positive [program]," said Noah’s father, Charlie Dodge. "The kids get to be with the players and its good for their reading skills."
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