Baseball team starts reading program at Hoglan

Bobcat baseball players Alex Thompson and Tre Blackford read with students in Abbe Callahan's third grade class at Hoglan Elementary.

Thursdays are special for Hoglan Elementary third graders. It’s the day Bobcat baseball players from Marshalltown High School visit their classrooms – not to talk about sports, but to read books.

The weekly reading program was the brainchild of senior centerfielder Alex Thompson, who approached coach Steve Hanson with the idea.

“I had considered doing some team building activity in the past, but didn’t really have a good avenue for such an endeavor,” Hanson said.

The program started on Oct. 13, with players (sporting shirts made by Todd Thimesch at the Sports Page) visiting the Hoglan third grade classrooms and having students read books with them. During the fall there are 17 players visiting, though the numbers and players will change with the sports seasons.

Hoglan third grade teacher Abbe Callahan said her students light up when Thompson and teammate Tre Blackford visit her classroom. The excitement is not lost on the players.

“Whenever we show up the kids are super excited to see us,” Blackford said.

In Ms. Callahan’s classroom, students take turns individually or in pairs sitting with Thompson and Blackford, reading a book and talking about it as they go.

“It gives us and them something to look forward to,” Thompson said. “It gets us out of our ordinary high school routine and it’s fun.”

Hanson says the team hopes to continue the weekly reading program until May – just before the baseball season begins.

“The experience is quite rewarding seeing our players enjoy a greater sense of academic self-worth,” Hanson said. “The program also allows the guys to gain a realization that people look up to them for what they do because many of them understand the discipline and commitment it takes to be a high school athlete at this level.”