April 26, 2013 10:52:37 AM
Glenn Lautzenhiser loves baseball.
As an ambassador for First Book of Lowndes County, Lautzenhiser shares the benefits and importance of reading to children.
Lautzenhiser combined two things he loves Thursday morning in a series of presentations about the Negro League to students at Fairview Elementary School in Columbus.
Lautzenhiser teamed with Dick Mahoney, a longtime baseball fan who lives in Columbus, and Gail Boland, another ambassador for First Book of Lowndes County, to stress the value of reading and to share some of the rich history of the Negro League and the great players who competed in the league with students in kindergarten through fifth grade.
"I want to let them know they can be successful where they are right now (and that) they don't have to go to New York, or Chicago, or Los Angeles to be successful," Lautzenhiser said. "If they apply themselves, take advantage of their opportunities, and work hard, they can be successful right here in Columbus, Mississippi. We have had so many people that have been successful in Columbus and in Lowndes County."
Lautzenhiser and Mahoney talked about Sam Jethroe, whose nickname was "The Jet". Jethroe was an outfielder in the Negro League and in Major League Baseball. He played with the Cincinnati and Cleveland Buckeyes in the Negro League, and helped the team win two pennants and the 1945 Negro League World Series title. In 1950, he was named the National League's Rookie of the Year with the Boston Braves.
Lautzenhiser, who is running for mayor in the city of Columbus, said he hopes to form a committee that will formally recognize Jethroe for being born in Columbus. He said Jethroe was thought to have been born in East St. Louis, Ill.
"I love history. The reason history is so exciting is the people who lived a long time ago were just like are," Lautzenhiser said. "They had hopes and dreams and aspirations and had successes and failures. They had families and were real people. What I tell young people is to try to go beyond the facts and figures and try to know these people as human beings."
First Book of Lowndes County is an affiliate of First Book of Washington D.C., a national organization that puts books in the hands of children and encourages them to read and to build libraries. Boland is a First Book ambassador at Fairview Elementary, while Lautzenhiser is a First Book ambassador at Children First Learning Development Center in Columbus.
As part of the presentations, children were given books, including a copy of "We Are the Ship: The Story of the Negro Leagues," by Kadir Nelson.
Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.