As junior Colby Molle and his teammates walked into K-2 ESE Separate Class Teacher at Osteen Elementary school Alicia Zimmerman’s classroom, they were shocked by the impact their letters had on her students. Over the previous weeks, eight baseball players were chosen by head coach, Jake Norman, to participate in a pen pal program with Zimmerman’s students.
“The kids were so excited when we showed up,” Molle said. “They all kept saying ‘This is the best day of my life.’”
Zimmerman organized pen pal programs every year she has taught. She sometimes even has pen pals in other states.
“Students love getting letters from their pen pals,” Zimmerman said. “My students consider their pen pals their ‘friends’ and in a sense, they become an important person in their life.”
On May 3rd, 2018, Norman took his eight players to Zimmerman’s class at Osteen Elementary, so they could meet their pen pals in person. By putting a face to the name that they were writing to, it made it all the more special for the kids.
“The purpose was for the kids who had a pen pal to go and meet their pen pals and to go and spend some time with them,” Norman said. “That way, they could be a little bit of a role model for those younger kids.”
Norman stressed the idea of his baseball players being role models for kids who might not have one otherwise. They could help them and teach them lessons that they could carry with them for the rest of their lives.
“It’s very important for those kids to have role models, you don’t know what things are going on for other people,” Norman said. “Maybe that might’ve been the only male influence in their life, maybe it was the only older influence in their life, you never know.”
With a smile on his face, sophomore Eric Hartless writes his response letter to his pen pal, Khloe. She asked him if he liked Frozen, and what his favorite sport was.
“It’s a cool idea to care about little kids as a team, and talk about our lives with them,” Hartless said. “They look up to us, so I’m sure when we write them, it makes them feel important.”
While some students used their first letters to get to know their pen pal, others made an instant connection on the others.
“This is the best day of my life. I love Brendan [Whaley] he’s my best friend,” Osteen Elementary first grade Mason said. “He came to my mailbox to bring me this letter. I can’t wait to eat Doritos with him.”
Seeing how much Mason looked up to him, junior Brendan Whaley waited in anticipation for their first meeting.
“When we showed up, all the kids’ faces seemed to glow, they were all really happy,” Whaley said. “Mason comes over and says, ‘Which one of you is Brendan?’ in a really loud voice as the others sat in their faces.”
In his meeting with Mason, Whaley was happy to spend time with the students, even if he was unable to do everything they wanted to.
“Unfortunately, [Mason and I] didn’t eat Doritos together,” Whaley said. “However, we did eat cookies together, which was just as good as Doritos.”
This experience has meant a lot for both the baseball players and the elementary school students. It showed the baseball players the responsibilities that go into being a role model and how to connect with others who look up to you. Hopefully, these connections will last a lifetime and the Titan baseball team will have gained a few forever fans.