Batter Up! Baseball in American Culture

The July Baseball teacher institute was a grand slam!  It was held at the College of Idaho in Caldwell from July 13-18, 2014.  We had 39 teachers of a variety of disciplines and representing schools throughout Idaho.  They explored the major issues impacting all sports culture through the lens of the sport of baseball, such as baseball in the popular imagination, cultural mythology, the business of the sport, controversial laws and labor issues, gender, race and discrimination, stars and icons, cathedrals of the sport, and the future of the game.

Presenting scholars included David Adler, director of Boise State University’s Andrus Center for Public Policy and one-time sportswriter; Katherine Aiken, University of Idaho Provost, professor of history and popular culture; Kevin Marsh, Idaho State University history professor, and Idaho Hometown Teams exhibition scholar; and Robert Santelli, Executive Director of the Grammy Museum in Los Angeles, and curator of the Smithsonian traveling exhibition Hometown Teams (touring Idaho in 2014).

The primary text for the series was Baseball: A Literary Anthology, edited by Nicholas Dawidoff, with additional selected readings.  In addition to attending daily lectures and panel discussions, participants attended special evening keynote presentations, viewed do cumentaries and Hollywood films, explored art and music, and shared ways of teaching the humanities through the lens of sports.

Evening events were open to the public and presenters included the keynote address by Jane Leavy, author of NY Times bestsellers about Mickey Mantle and Sandy Koufax; Steve Moore, cartoonist of In the Bleachers, Gary Gildner, author of The Warsaw Sparks (about coaching a baseball team in Poland in 1988), and Bill Buckner, major league player for Chicago Cubs and Boston Red Sox.

Evaluations were overwhelmingly positive.  One comment summed the week up nicely:  Another home run!  The institute is a “major league” institution!

Sample Comments:

Loved the congenial and communal feel for the whole week, tons of fun.  I really enjoyed the nightly speakers.  I brought my father.

I really enjoyed myself this week!  I have been able to look at baseball in more of an academic light, and that it could be used as a microcosm to explain larger overarching political and social issues like race, gender, equality, and women’s rights.

This is easily the best workshop/class learning opportunity I have participated in!  This was informative, thought provoking, collegial, and above all fun.

Well done!  There are many ways I’ll use this in my classroom.  I learned new ideas for teaching using an overall theme of baseball.

The Idaho Humanities Council puts on the best institutes in the state and these are second to none!!  I LOVED the evening speakers!  All of them!