Spring Break is here (and almost gone…) which means it’s time for family and R&R: relaxing and reading! My reading list is long and will likely extend until summer, but top priority was a book that I’ve been working on for a while: Alou (English edition; French edition here) by Felipe Alou and Peter Kerasotis.
I’m a lifelong Cubs fan in particular, and baseball fan in general. Readers of this blog may only know me as a Spanish teacher, but my first career was in athletic training/sports medicine. When you are watching sports on tv and someone goes out onto the court or the field to assist an injured player–that was me for many years! My first professional goal was to work in professional baseball, and my special area of research and practice was in non-surgical management of shoulder injuries in pitchers. However, there was a ceiling that I couldn’t break as a female professional in that male-dominated field in that time and so I went on to a rewarding career in a different direction. However, I still wonder “what if…? ” Those experiences give me extra appreciation for female trailblazers like Becky Hammon of the San Antonio Spurs who are being recognized first for their qualifications rather than being knocked out of consideration by their gender.
Growing up near Chicago, my dad raised us as Cubs fans, though he was mostly a Yankees fan. We also lived near a minor league team affiliated with the Expos, and went to games several times a season for years. Now living in NC, we try to go to see the Cubs play every other year or so by catching them wherever we are in the summer. Nothing beats a game at Wrigley though!
My baseball fandom connected with my teaching life a few years ago in the form of Carol Gaab’s comprehension based reader Felipe Alou. It has become further connected as we have read the mini biography of Roberto Clemente in Kristy Placido’s Vidas Impactantes. You can see what I’ve done so far with these books here:
Reading Alou was a great experience that melded my love of baseball with a deepening appreciation of Mr. Alou. I loved learning more about life in the Dominican Republic and seeing world events through Mr. Alou’s eyes. Finding out that he and Roberto Clemente were friends while we were reading about Clemente in class was pretty cool too. I have several ideas of things that I want to add to the next time that I teach the reader in class, but you’ll have to stay tuned for those! My only regrets: I wish there were a Spanish edition, and that there were a children’s edition too.
There’s one more link to this awesome story, a student named Juan. Juan is a bright kid of Dominican heritage who loves baseball… and pretty much despised school. He was bored and wasted no time acting up because he was bored. One day his teacher asked if I had anything at all that might connect with him, and I gave her a copy of Carol’s book Felipe Alou in Spanish. It did the trick! He was so into the book that he had to be ordered to lunch, and came back and finished it the next day. This was his first book in Spanish! Later that semester I went recruiting for students to take AP, and Juan did–and scored well on the exam. At the end of the course Juan and a couple other students decided that they still wanted more Spanish, so we tackled AP Spanish Lit–and he did well again! Juan also went on to read a lengthy Spanish biographies of Roberto Clemente and Mariano Rivera–all great role models for a young man with tough decisions to make. One of my hopes in life is that I will someday be able to tell Mr. Alou how his story has impacted young adults–young men in particular–and thank him for allowing me to be part of that magic.
I wrote a review on Goodreads here. Stories like this deserve to be told, and we as readers need to support them. I hope you’ll give this book a chance!