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Archive for Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Baseball Hall of Fame not just for adults

September 15, 2009

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A decade or so ago I woke up in a cold sweat, panicked that I had never been to the Baseball Hall of Fame.

So I booked a flight to Albany, N.Y., rented a car, and my wife and I drove to Cooperstown, the small New York village where the game’s greatest players are enshrined.

Uplifted by the experience of treading among the plaques, memorabilia and exhibits, I figured I never would need to return. But that was before I had grandchildren.

If there is anything better than visiting the Baseball Hall of Fame, it’s taking your grandkids there. And since mine — Katie, 9, and Blake, 8 — live only about 31⁄2 hours from Cooperstown, we made the trip a fortnight ago with their mother and grandmother tagging along.

To tell the truth, Katie isn’t much of a baseball fan — she’s into cheerleading — but Blake … well, let’s just say he and I went to a sporting-goods store, where I helped him pick out a traditional Yankees ball cap.

Once we arrived in Coopers-town, my biggest concern was maintaining their attention while traipsing through the three floors of all that baseball stuff.

But I needn’t have worried. Lacking a wide range of interactive exhibits that appeal to children, the Baseball Hall of Fame makes up for it with a scavenger hunt of sorts.

On entry, youths are given a sheet of paper with 10 questions that can be answered only by visiting each area of the building. For example, one question asked for the number of American flags on a suitcase used by a women who played pro ball during World War II.

In helping the kids obtain these answers, adults are assured they won’t miss any of the specific areas, either. Thus the “hunt” serves a dual purpose of educating the children as well as the adults.

Once complete, the forms are turned in at the bookstore for a set of 10 sans-bubble-gum cards that describe the areas they have visited. I would have preferred a 1952 Topps Mickey Mantle replica card, but Katie and Blake were delighted to be rewarded for their work.

I have to admit I had an ulterior motive for my second trip to Cooperstown. I wanted to have my picture taken next to the life-sized statue of Buck O’Neil, the Kansas City icon who fell two votes shy of induction to the Hall during a special election, but since has become the namesake of the shrine’s Lifetime Achievement Award.

The grandkids, of course, didn’t know Buck O’Neil from Buck Rodgers, but the moment was special for me because I’ve felt an affinity for the former Negro League player ever since I learned he was buried in the same K.C. cemetery as a slew of my relatives.

On the night before we visited Cooperstown, we stayed in nearby Oneonta, where we went to ancient Damaschke Field and watched the Oneonta Tigers, a Detroit farm team, tangle with the Hudson Valley Renegades in their last homestand of the fading summer.

Also located in Oneonta is the National Soccer Hall of Fame, but we didn’t have the time — or the overwhelming inclination — to darken its doors. Our youngest daughter is a soccer nut. Let her take Katie and Blake there. How’s that for a classic example of rationalization?

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