Belting Out A Good Book

06/30/2009 – Daily News Record

Ballplayers Inspire Kids As Part Of Library Reading Program By Tom Mitchell Daily News Record HARRISONBURG – As baseball players since their pre-school days, Brad Riddle and Garrett Parker are used to entertaining boisterous crowds.

But on Monday, the two Harrisonburg Turks players had an audience that was a bit less rowdy than your typical baseball fan.

And, in fact, the children at Massanutten Regional Library were a lot more interested in what the two players had to read than their ERA or batting average. Riddle, 21, and Parker, 22, spent half an hour reading to the children. Riddle read “Playing Right Field,” about a boy’s anxious days on sandlots, while Parker related “Casey at the Bat,” the classic tale of a mighty slugger who, with the game on the line, struck out.

Not that the 40 or so kids on hand weren’t at all interested in their hosts’ exploits on the field.

After reading, Riddle and Parker stuck around the downtown Harrisonburg library, answering questions and signing autographs for the children.

The event at the library, “Read with the Turks,” is part of the library’s annual Summer Reading Program. Last year, the program drew 2,000 area youngsters, said Mary Golden-Hughes, director of marketing at the library.

“We have 1,500 kids so far, and we’re expecting more,” said Golden-Hughes. “The program has been very successful.”

Rewards Of Reading

The Summer Reading Program rewards members for reading a selected number of books. Thanks to area sponsors, children enrolled in the program earn prizes that range from fast food to tickets to Turks games.

Stephanie Bush, branch coordinator for the library, said the Harrisonburg location, the Massanutten system’s main branch, has 700 kids in the summer reading club.

Teresa Wease, operations manager for the Turks, said the team enjoys connecting with the community. Several players on the team take part in similar activities at the colleges for which they play. Riddle and Parker both play at Oklahoma City University.

“The players we have are really good about reaching out to promote our team and work with kids,” said Wease.

Riddle and Parker agree that their sport, and their interest in helping children learn, go hand in hand.

“A lot of guys enjoy playing the game, but baseball gives you a chance to connect with kids,” said Parker.

Said Riddle: “We hope we can get kids interested in the game, but if just one kid says they enjoy reading, I’ve done my job.”

Many of the children didn’t know much about baseball. But having the attention of young adults who play for the city’s Valley League team mattered more.

“It was fun getting signatures,” said Reuben Mast, 8, from Broadway.

Mast’s cousin, Isaac Mast, 7, from Broadway, needed little urging from the Turks players to read. And the book Riddle read was right up his alley.

Said Isaac: “I like ‘Playing Right Field’ because I like baseball, and I like playing the outfield.”

Contact Tom Mitchell at 574-6275 or mitchell@dnronline.com

Harrisonburg Turks pitcher Garrett Parker reads

Harrisonburg Turks pitcher Garrett Parker reads “Casey at the Bat” by Ernest Lawrence Thayer on Monday to a roomful of children at the Massanutten Regional Library during “Read with the Turks.” Photos by Nikki Fox


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