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Lessons of a Baseball Upbringing


Baseball holds a special place for Ron Franscell. When we last heard from him he was riding out Hurricane Rita in the offices of his newspaper, the Beaumont Enterprise. He's still watching the recovery from that storm, but he's also taken time out to contemplate the lessons of baseball.


Some years ago, essayist Robert Fulghum surmised that everything he ever needed to know he learned in kindergarten. Well, maybe I was a slow learner or maybe Little League was just the beginning of my higher education, but everything else I ever needed to know I learned on endless summer games in the sandlot that gave way to night games on my neighborhood baseball diamond when the ball become a moving bit of the twilight sky.

Just like in regular school, you're never truly conscious of your own education. It comes back to you much later, say as you watch your own son play in his first T-ball game and you stifle the urge to shout, `Keep your eye on the ball!' Come to think of it, that was one of the good lessons to be learned way back when your father shouted it to you, and maybe when his father shouted it to him.

Tonight, the first pitch of the 2005 World Series will be thrown and I'm in my 48th October; a good time to revisit some of the lessons I learned as a boy of summer. Like, being safe at home is the overall objective. Two hands work better than one. It sometimes takes every kid in the neighborhood to make something possible. Persistence can turn even a bunt into a home run. Errors are inevitable. And every season, the fences get a little closer.

I played baseball in college and in one glorious season of small-time, semi-pro ball when the fences were as close to me as they'd ever get. Today, I couldn't tell you if I batted my weight, but I recall the smell of freshly mown outfield grass, of leather, of road dust and the way the small town girls flirted with traveling ballplayers. I was no longer a Little Leaguer then and my playing days were all but done. But the lessons continue on. The sun shines in everybody's eyes. We sometimes see things differently from the guy who has to make the call. Long ball hitters strike out sometimes, too. Sometimes you get hurt, but eventually it feels better. Cry later.

I asked my daughter about baseball's lessons. Her life was either enhanced or marred by my volunteering to coach her team when she was still very young. Today, she's a professional photojournalist for a big-city newspaper. I wondered what did my little girl of summer take away from the ballparks of her youth, if anything? `If you're lucky,' she said, `you'll remember everything you need to know and your coach will forget when you don't.'

ELLIOTT: Ron Franscell is the managing editor of the Beaumont Enterprise in Texas. He's also the author of the novel, "Angel Fire."

Just ahead, spying on your kids in school. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Ron Franscell