Results tagged ‘ John Odell ’

History in Cooperstown

By Samantha Carr

Baseball history comes alive every day at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum, but during New York State History Day, the topics grow to cover a wider range of the past.

Cooperstown has been the location of New York State History Day for more than 10 years now, and continued that tradition Friday, hosting a competition for a yearlong educational program where students from all over New York State learn an exciting way to study history and present their ideas.

“Each year the competition has a theme and this year’s is Debate and Diplomacy in History,” said John Odell, the curator of history and research for the Hall of Fame and a judge for the competition. “Then each student can choose their topic in that theme. This year’s run from Ancient Greece all the way to the Patriot Act.”

Students express what they have learned through a paper, creative and original performance, documentary, website or exhibit in either a junior division (6-8th grade) or senior division (9-12th grade). They have won at local and regional competitions before competing at the state level.

“Over 400 kids will participate today and the top students will have a chance to go on to nationals,” said Jim Gates, Librarian for the Hall of Fame and also a judge. “There are college scholarships awarded there, so for those that move on, the rewards can be quite substantial.”

The Baseball Hall of Fame is only one location for students to explore during History Day as judging is also taking place at the The Farmers’ Museum, Fenimore Art Museum and Otesaga Resort Hotel. Cooperstown Village Historian Hugh MacDougall, who spent 30 years as a diplomat in Africa and Asia with the U.S. State Department before retiring, teamed with Odell and Gates to judge papers on Friday. They received the works two weeks in advance to preview and read them before the student is interviewed.

“The interview is meant to clarify questions the judges have on the paper, rather than affect the rating or scoring,” said MacDougall. “It gives us a chance to speak with the student and find out why they chose their topic and made the choices they did.”

Students have strict rules for their research and must meet proper style, citation and source requirements.

“One of the goals of this program is to maintain the excitement about history these kids have and educationally, to learn the research process, which can be a real challenge,” said Gates. “It allows them to develop critical thinking and analysis skills.”

Not only do students get a chance to tour world-class Museums and present their work, they are encouraged to meet students from other schools, exchange ideas and gain new insight. Through this experience, students learn all of the hard work that goes into understanding a topic of history and gain context as to why it was important.

“The students are encouraged to take a topic and apply it broadly to the real world,” said Odell. “They have to make interpretations of the topic and draw conclusions about how it applies to American culture, which is very much what we do at the Hall of Fame with baseball history.”

Samantha Carr is the manager of web and digital media at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.

California dreams, Cooperstown memories

Carr_90.jpgBy Samantha Carr

After 34 successful years as head coach of the Stanford University baseball team, it’s still all about the dream for Mark Marquess.

“When you are in the backyard and playing ball pretending to by Mickey Mantle or A-Rod, you dream to be a major league player – and I get these kids on their path to that dream,” Marquess said Thursday during a visit to the Baseball Hall of Fame.

07-08-10-Carr_Marquess1.jpgMarquess and his wife, Susan, were visiting their youngest daughter, Maureen, in Manhattan, and they decided to make their first trip to Cooperstown.

“If you are a baseball fan, and even if you’re not, it’s just so American,” said Marquess. “The Museum is a special place, and the town is so quaint, we could stay here for a week.”

A Stanford alum, Marquess played baseball and football during his college days. An All-American first baseman, he was drafted by the White Sox and spent four seasons in their system before returning to his alma mater as an assistant coach. Five years later, he took over the team and since has posted a 1,356-694-7 record. That puts him in the top 10 in NCAA Division-I baseball history in wins.

He has led the team to two NCAA Championships and is a member of the Stanford University Athletic Hall of Fame and the American Baseball Coaches Hall of Fame. He is a three-time NCAA Coach of the Year recipient. He has also served as President of USA Baseball and earned a Gold Medal as the head coach of the 1988 U.S. Olympic Team.

“Baseball is still our National Pastime, but it is very much becoming a world game,” said Marquess. “You travel to Latin American countries and some of those kids don’t have much, but they are playing baseball.”

Susan Marquess is a counselor at St. Francis High School in Palo Alto, Calif., and each year sees kids that dream of being a major league player, but are taking the steps of going to college and getting an education too.

07-08-10-Carr_Marquess2.jpg“I think the exposure of the College World Series is helping a lot,” she said. “It becomes part of the dream.”

Division I baseball is very competitive, but unlike at the professional level, a coach’s job is not just win games.

“The difference is teaching,” said Marquess. “These kids are bright and can do so many things, but their focus is to be a major league player. I need to make sure they are getting an education and on track to graduate.”

Marquess has taught players like Mike Mussina, who achieved their dream that began as a kid on a diamond. But the percentage of players who see that kind of success in the game is small.

“It is just as rewarding for me, and sometimes more so when a second-string player who is now a successful heart surgeon comes back and donates money to our program because of his memories at Stanford. They don’t make their dream, but it is a different kind of reward.”

Susan is already making plans to come back to Cooperstown and bring their four grandkids with them. And after 34 years of coaching, I don’t doubt that Marquess will pass on his passion for the game to the next generation.

“Being here,” Marquess said, “reminds you of the dream.”

Samantha Carr is the manager of web and digital media at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.

Designated history

Francis_90.jpgBy Bill Francis

Former big leaguer Ron Blomberg was reunited with an old friend on Tuesday afternoon – a bat that he jokes might have had 50 more hits in it.

05-27-10-Francis_Bloomberg.jpgBut for Blomberg, immortality at the Hall of Fame was well worth the trade.

Blomberg was in Cooperstown working with a film crew from the YES Network on a program involving the history of the designated hitter. Blomberg made history when his New York Yankees visited the Boston Red Sox for the season opener on April 6, 1973 and he became the first designated hitter used in a regular season game. After the game, he donated his bat to the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.

“People don’t realize when we played they gave us (only) two dozen bats right before the season,” said Blomberg in an interview soon after arriving. “And that was a bat that I knew was going to have a lot of hits in it. But it’s great to give back to the game of baseball.”

Blomberg didn’t know what to expect when approached by the Yankees before the game about serving as a DH in the game.

“It was a very unusual day because in 1972 I was coming off a pretty good year, and then in 1973 I pulled a hamstring down in spring training,” Blomberg said. “Our manager, Ralph Houk, and coaches Dick Howser and Elston Howard asked me on the flight from Fort Lauderdale up to Boston if instead of going out on the field could I, because of the pulled hamstring, be the DH. I said, ‘What is it?’ I thought it was a glorified pinch hitter to be honest with you. They said just (go) up to bat four or five times, try and knock in a few runs.

05-27-10-Francis_BloombergAction.jpg“Unfortunately we lost 15-5, but I got to be the first designated hitter.”

Highly recruited in both football and basketball, Blomberg was drafted first overall out of his Georgia high school by the Yankees in the 1967 amateur draft. But injuries to his knees and shoulders ravaged what could have been a very successful career in the major leagues.

Looking back on his eight-year big league career, the lefty-swinging first baseman/right fielder/DH has no regrets.

“I got lucky. One AB (at bat) got me into the Hall, one AB got me into every newspaper and magazine in the country,” said Blomberg, who does a lot of motivational and corporate speaking these days. “Everywhere I go two things happen – people know who I am because I was the first DH or they think I’m related to (New York City) Mayor Bloomberg.

“The funny part about it is to be able to be the first, and after 38 years people still remember. Fifty percent of the people love it but 50 percent of the people hate it,” Blomberg said of the designated hitter.

“It’s really been a fun ride, I really enjoy it. I got in the Hall of Fame the back door rather than the front door.”

Bill Francis is a library associate for the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.

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