So school finally started a couple months ago. In person. We’re lucky to live in a district which is taking things seriously so everyone’s masked, anyone who can be vaccinated has gotten vaccinated, HVAC has been upgraded districtwide, and our class sizes are even reasonable. Is kind of a weird feeling since it’s been a year and a half since I last had this much time to myself.
I haven’t written too much about what we’ve been doing day-to-day. Exciting stuff like bats and fires? Yes. But the everyday grind of trying to keep things interesting and moving? Not so much. It’s been tough. School is hard and while I appreciate being able to know what they’re learning, it was a lot to stay on top of all their work.* Plus the daily grind of lessons and homework is not the most compelling stuff to write about.
*Though it has paid off as real-world events have required us to better explain things.
I can however comment on how baseball and baseball cards have given the boys somewhat of a rock to hold on to amidst all the uncertainty over the last year and a half. Not collecting—lord knows that that’s been basically inaccessible to them as Target was always sold out for months before they stopped carrying cards at all—but the hobby itself has given them something reliable to turn to for multiple school assignments.
My youngest started off remote learning with a “passion project” where he would have to research something he was interested in and then report about it to his class.* He picked baseball but sort of panicked about his presentation because he hates being on camera. After talking things over we figured out that if he made oversized baseball cards he could draw something on the front and have his notes on the back.
*Not the best assignment but his teacher used the time to put together an excellent remote-schooling curriculum so it worked out great.
So that turned out to be a fun thing to work on. We’ve got plenty of books and could also watch the Ken Burns documentary. He ended up doing a mix of small stories about early rules*, early games, and some stories about how teams got their nicknames.
*Something we all learned about at a vintage baseball game a couple years ago.
My two favorite cards that he drew feature the first game in Hoboken—very appropriate given that we live in New Jersey—and a picture of a trolley mowing down inhabitants of Brooklyn. We may be a Giants household but the Dodgers nickname story is vastly superior. Oh, and these are intentionally uncolored because they’re supposed to be old and old photos are black and white.
My eldest meanwhile did a similar project and ended up making a presentation about the Giants where he picked the “best” lineup from their time in San Francisco. So he did some research into stats and had to make an argument about why he chose who he chose.
It wasn’t specifically a Baseball Card project but he ended up using baseball cards as his illustrations. Part of his choice to use cards was because it made for the easiest way of finding photos online and having them labelled clearly on his Power Point. But it also worked as a way of situating those players in time and showing when they played.
He’s made some noises of using this to make a small sent of custom cards but aside from a few design experiments nothing’s really come to fruition. As much as he likes the idea of making custom cards like I do, he hasn’t quite figured out that having a set theme is a good idea.
The following school year, my youngest decided to research baseball cards for one of his writing projects (specifically a research paper). This one felt a little weird to me since he had to list his sources and, while I didn’t spoonfeed him things, he definitely consulted with me.
At the same time, he has been to museums and seen old cards* and has a decent understanding of both card history as well as the nature of the hobby today. He definitely knows more about cards than I did when I was his age since I never got to see any of them.
*Also the Burdick cards at the Met.
He also was writing his report right when coverage of the hobby started to hit national media again. Between the number of high-profile sales—in particular the Mike Trout Superfractor which was briefly the most-expensive card out there—and the amount of other market craziness we all experienced last year, his report had a lot of almost current events to cover as well. I got a chance to see a lot of surprised comments from his teacher and he got to learn how nice it is to turn in a research project that teaches the teacher.
I don’t have screenshots of either of their reports (sharing writing seems a lot more personal than sharing drawings) but I was very happy to be able to read both of them and recognize how with everything else in upheaval, they were still able to draw on some hobbies as a source of inspiration and comfort in their schoolwork.