Archive for Wednesday, January 26, 2005

T-Bones’ manager challenges students to read for tickets

January 26, 2005

All hands went up.

When T-Bones manager Al Gallagher asked fifth- and sixth-graders at Tonganoxie Elementary School to raise their hands if they liked the Kansas City T-Bones baseball team, the students eagerly showed their approval.

But when Gallagher asked students if they liked to read, only about half the students raised their hands.

However, that number doubled when Gallagher asked them how many would be willing to read books if they'd get free tickets to T-Bones baseball games.

As part of his contract, Gallagher visits area schools and provides a motivational talk in which he encourages children to read books, and helps them understand why sportsmanship is so important.

In an interview before the assembly began, Gallagher elaborated on his thoughts.

"I think that the thing to understand is that not everybody loves baseball, and not everybody is going to go home and read lots of books," Gallagher said. "But if one kid does read just one book, I've had a wonderful day."

To obtain the free tickets:

  • Students in kindergarten through second grade must read nine books (or have their parents read the books to them).
  • Third-graders must read five books.
  • Students in fourth through sixth grades must read three books.

They write the titles on a required form and mail their reading scoresheet to the T-Bones office in exchange for the two tickets.

At the end of the assembly, TES assistant principal Tammie George reminded the students that the reading assignment should be a challenge. She encouraged them to read harder books than they're accustomed to reading, and to read books that they haven't read before.

Gallagher, who talked to more than 800 students in Tonganoxie during three assemblies, said he was thrilled with the opportunity to discuss with them the importance of being good readers -- especially when sports are concerned.

"Ninety-eight percent of American professional athletes come from colleges," said Gallagher, a former sixth-grade teacher who holds a master's degree in education.

Gallagher said he's a firm believer in trying to make children feel good about themselves.

He said that during the 10 years he taught school, he kept track of his students, finding one positive thing to praise about each one of them every day.

"You have to say something positive because they get so much negative reinforcement," Gallagher said.

Gallagher said he grew up in the ghetto of San Francisco. It was his talent and hard work as an athlete that gave him the opportunity to go to college and leave the ghetto behind.

"All my buddies from when I was a kid are in jail," he said.

And, Gallagher said, he knows what it's like to be challenged by school. He told the children he had attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.

His story is like that of Horatio Alger, said Gallagher, who's been involved in professional baseball for 40 years.

"I came from the ghetto all the way to the top," Gallagher said.

Gallagher's nickname, "Dirty Al," reflects how important sports have been to him. He said when he was in college the team won its first game. So, being superstitious, he decided to wear the exact clothes every day. The team continued to win, and eventually, his teammates, began calling him Dirty Al.

Gallagher said he and his wife have six children, 11 grandchildren and a great-grandchild on the way.

"I'm the luckiest man in the world," he said, "because I get to do what I wanted to do -- be in baseball."

Gallagher again encouraged the children to read their books, turn in their certificates and bring a friend to a T-Bones game.

And, he reminded them to think about their goals and work to achieve them, giving one last tip to remember:

"In America, you can succeed if you don't give up."

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