What’s Up with Being A Lil’ Rusty
By Rusty Stroupe
It started for me when I was in high school. Because my mom was a fifth grade teacher, I spent as much time as possible hanging out with the kids in her class. I had a blast with the kids and for whatever reason, they treated me like a hero or something.
One of the fifth grade girls even handed me a Coke outside the locker room after I played in a high school football game one Friday night. In a scene similar to the one with Mean Joe Green in the famous commercial, I gave her one of my jerseys when she gave me the drink.
As I grew older, I made sure not to grow up. I’ve tried over the years to hang out with the elementary kids as a lunch buddy and as an occasional speaker at their assemblies and on other special days.
Recently I was asked to speak to the first graders at a local elementary school on Hero Day. The teacher informed me that due to my being the college baseball coach in town as well as the author of this weekly column, I was somewhat of a hero (she used the term celebrity) to the kids.
It was an honor to go speak but it’s comical to me to be considered a hero or a celebrity. I was even more intimidated when I showed up and the poster behind me said something about heroes and there were pictures of George Washington, Abe Lincoln, and Martin Luther King, Jr. plastered all over it.
Then all of a sudden it hit me. None of those guys were available to speak so they went for the first person who was willing to take the gig. And this person was proud to accept.
The script is similar every time I do one of these things. I talk a little bit about working hard in school and not giving up. I tell them how bad I was at baseball when I first started. Then I read them the little children’s book I wrote (as yet unpublished) about a paper clip who overcame multiple obstacles to eventually succeed in holding some important papers together. Yes, it’s cheesy but it’s mine.
Then it’s question time. Most want to tell me about their coach pitch and little league teams and how they toss with their brother in the back yard. That’s cool and I’m always glad to hear about that sorta thing.
But I really like it when they ask me questions about writing. It’s a nice aside from the usual sports stuff. One of the little boys in the most recent class I visited raised his hand and asked simply, “Where do the words come from?”
t was quite possibly the most profound question I’ve ever been asked. One that I couldn’t fully answer other than to say the words only form when I turn off the television, the video games, and either sit quietly or stick my nose in a book.
No matter how wise I become as the years roll on, I can always learn something from a child. And I may not be a real hero, but when the kids step out of line to give me a high five while walking down the hall with their class, I sure feel like one.