Finn Hatch called it about an hour before the first pitch in game four of the American League Championship Series.
The Kansas City Royals would sweep the Baltimore Orioles to win , then head to the World Series for the first time in 29 years, 6-year-old Finn prognosticated with a nod.
His favorite Royal is Salvador Perez. What does Finn like about Perez?
“That he’s the catcher.”
Finn and his 18 first-grade classmates at Liberty View Elementary School in Olathe have been catching Royals fever like many others in these parts and around the nation. Their teacher, Molly Gentz, started bringing that fever into her classroom full time about a week ago to heat up her students’ interest in reading, writing, math and social studies.
Gentz incorporates baseball — and especially those beloved Royals — into her lesson plan in various ways:
▪ Graphing “who got to stay up late for the game last night.”
▪ Working on word problems with baseball scenarios and Royals players’ names, for math.
▪ Reading aloud and then singing “Take Me Out to the Ball Game” to work on phonics and fluency.
▪ Making predictions about various statistics and games’ outcomes, for literacy.
▪ Working on map skills by identifying which states teams play in.
“The kids are extremely motivated and engaged,” Gentz said.
She has taught at Liberty View, part of the Blue Valley School District, on and off for 10 years. The school’s first-grade teaching team started working the baseball theme into their lesson plans on opening day in 2002, the year the school opened, she said.
“It never went this far,” she said. “It was more like a one- or two-day kind of fun thing for reading motivation for the kids.”
This time of year, Gentz usually graphs the Kansas City Chiefs’ wins and losses, and locates on a map where they play, “but because the Royals are still playing, I’ve just kept going with the Royals.”
“A lot of first grade is having a routine and then adding some novelty into it,” she said. “It sparks their brains. The kids are going home and talking about what they’re doing in the classroom.”
Finn’s mother, Terri Hatch, said Finn “gets in the car every day excited that he’s participating in the Royals.”
“I really feel like it’s getting them involved in school,” Hatch said. “For the kids who are really into the Royals but not as academically driven, it’s making them want to learn because they love baseball. And for the kids who are really into the books, it’s making them appreciate baseball.”
Some teachers in other Blue Valley schools also use thematic approaches, district spokeswoman Kaci Brutto said. Students in a middle school Spanish class learn to say the things they’re going to do, and lately they’ve been asking one another if they’re going to watch the Royals play.
Another first-grade class wrote time capsule stories about the Royals. A kindergarten class is taking pictures of classmates wearing Royals shirts, and they’re creating an iMovie, which develops their technology skills, Brutto said.
One school has students studying the batting averages of Eric Hosmer and Mike Moustakas in math classes, she said. And one of the district’s high schools sold shirts in its school store on Thursday.
Gentz hopes her first-graders will have a lot of replays of October 2014 for years to come.
“This is going to be an amazing memory for them,” she said. “Anytime you can motivate the kids and get them engaged in something, it makes my job a lot easier.
“I think it’s always important to follow the kids’ lead about what they’re interested in. It just makes learning more fun. … That’s part of my job, too — keeping it fresh.”