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English Class Takes Trip to Minute Maid Park, Meets with Astros

For a group of Lone Star College-Montgomery College English students, an early April field trip to Minute Maid Park was more about challenging them to become the next W.P. Kinsella than the next Hunter Pence.
It was Kinsella's novel, "Shoeless Joe," that inspired the classic baseball movie "Field of Dreams," in which the late, great outfielder returns to play baseball in an Iowa cornfield. Instead of encountering mythical heroes, students in the college's Writing About the Culture of Baseball (English 1302) course met some of the real-life men and women who do the behind-the-scenes work necessary to keep a major-league baseball franchise running smoothly.
Astros personnel including the assistant groundskeeper, director of guest services, coordinator of amateur scouting, and head of guest services spoke to students and answered their questions.
The course was taught by English professor Dr. Ron Heckelman, a lifelong Chicago White Sox fan who said he wanted to offer an English 1302 course that challenges students to write about the connection between baseball and American culture.
Writing About Baseball is one of several thematic English 1302 courses that LSC-Montgomery offers. Others include Writing About the Movies, Writing About Science Fiction, Writing About the South, and Writing About Fairytales. Many of these classes are offered for the upcoming fall semester, which begins Monday, August 29.
Each of the thematic courses is a variation on the traditional English 1302 Writing About Literature class, said Heckelman, who taught the same class from 2000-2004 before taking a break for a few years.
"These courses satisfy the college district's requirements for learning outcomes for English 1302," he said. "The benefit of the thematic courses is that many students do better when they choose a subject they enjoy."
Students in the writing-intensive course kept a reading journal, wrote a personal memoir about their connection with baseball, reviewed a baseball movie and a book about baseball and ended the course with a research project. A part of the research was the field trip to Minute Maid Park to interview front office and other personnel and watch the Astros play a game against the Chicago Cubs.
"It was very valuable for the students to see how the guest speakers got into baseball and to learn the nuances of their jobs," said Heckelman. "The students submitted a paper about the field trip, highlighting the most intriguing things they learned."
One student wrote, “There is no other genuine way to learn about the culture of a baseball organization than to interview the people of the park. We saw first hand what it’s like working for a professional baseball team. The culture suggests that you must love the sport to be able to survive the long hours and extremely busy lifestyle. No matter what job each worker in the stadium has to do, they all share one thing in common: the love of the sport.”

The baseball course and all of the college's thematic writing courses are a win-win situation for both students and faculty, said Heckelman, while noting that, unfortunately, the win-win situation did not carry over to the game itself, as the Astros lost 9-5.      
LSC-Montgomery is located at 3200 College Park Drive, one-half mile west of Interstate 45, between Conroe and The Woodlands. For more information about the college, call 936.273.7000, or visit www.LoneStar.edu/montgomery.
With more than 69,000 students in credit classes for fall 2010, and a total enrollment of more than 85,000, Lone Star College System is the largest institution of higher education in the Houston area, and the fastest-growing community college system in Texas. Dr. Richard Carpenter is the chancellor of LSCS, which consists of five colleges including LSC-CyFair, LSC-Kingwood, LSC-Montgomery, LSC-North Harris, and LSC-Tomball, six centers, LSC-University Park, LSC-University Center at Montgomery, LSC-University Center at University Park, Lone Star Corporate College, and LSC-Online. To learn more visit LoneStar.edu.