Sunday, November 19, 2023

Around The Card Room, Take 12

More than a decade ago, I was working as an administrative intern at an elementary school in the northern part of Durham County, North Carolina. I also taught fifth grade in a room that was 50% non-English speaking students, and went to grad school classes four nights a week.

I did not have much free time, as school and school took up all of my time.  

I met plenty of great people during my busy year, but nobody taught me more about schools that year than the school secretary and attendance manager. They knew all the students, their parents, which phone calls and conversations would be easy or difficult, the staff members who called in sick ten minutes before work or did not leave sub plans when they were out, and all sorts of other minutia that made my job happier or easier. 

I stuck with them through thick and thin.  

Beyond the school secretary and attendance manager, the front office staff also included a bookkeeper and the two full-time administrators, the principal and assistant principal. The others were not as tightly knit as the two women and it showed.  

One of the proudest possessions of the attendance manager was a photo of herself with Grant Hill in which he appears to be wearing a Carolina hat. The photo was displayed on her desk along with her family members. The assistant principal was a Duke fan and would often express displeasure with the picture. Arguments frequently occurred as a result over the item's authenticity.. During one such argument towards the end of the school year, the assistant principal noted that she was a bartender during college, knew all the local athletes, and had tons of memorabilia from them in her office.  

The secretary bet the assistant principal she didn't have anything more than a single baseball bat that was in the corner of her office. The bet being for the baseball bat. Several photos of Michael Jordan appeared, a napkin supposedly autographed by Sean May, and a basketball that JJ Reddick supposedly gave her after a game.  

The Sean May napkin did not look close to Sean May's autograph, none of the photos were signed or personalized, and there is no way that JJ Reddick gave her a basketball from Cameron Indoor for a few Bud Lights. I argued with the secretary who relocated the bat to her desk after the ten minute argument ended.  

The bat belonged to former Durham Bulls player Steve Cox.  

Cox had been an A's prospect, but the Devil Rays selected him in the Expansion Draft and stuck him in Durham as the Bulls first baseman. He played two seasons in Durham, winning the Triple A MVP during the 1999 season with a .341 average, .588 slugging percentage, 25 home runs, 49 doubles, and 127 RBIs.  He was on the Devil Rays for parts of four seasons, but never hit the way he did in Triple A. Cox ended his career with a brief stay in Japan, followed by a return to the Rays and a few more games with the Bulls in 2005.  

The bat remained behind her desk the rest of the school year. At the start of the following school year, I resigned my teaching job at the school to take another job closer to home.  My going away present was the Steve Cox bat.

Here is the whole bat........

Along with a few close-ups.......

The Steve Cox bat is not hanging on a wall, rather it leans against the side of a bookcase in the card room. Inside the book case is a container of baseballs that are autographed by my former students.  

For example, this is my 2007-2008 class.......

I never saw Steve Cox play, nor do I have any connection, just a good work story.  


  1. A. Wow. Very cool going away present. I've transferred twice in my teaching career... once to work for my friend who became principal... and the second time to move up to middle school to teach my dream class. Didn't receive a going away present either time... at least from the office or administration.

    B. One of the things I learned my first year of teaching is always take care of the secretary, attendance clerk, and custodians... because they'll take care of you. Still live by this rule.

    C. Man... I'd love to see and hear the story behind that photo of Hill wearing a UNC hat.

    1. A. I have transferred multiple times. I need a new challenge every few years.

      B. All the good teachers live by that rule.

      C. The attendance manager passed away recently, but the secretary knows the story. The next time I run into her, I will have to ask.

  2. The thought of someone scrambling to try and produce mementos, and the stories that are supposedly behind them, to win a bet, is very funny. I would imagine that it was even funnier in person. Do you still ask students to sign baseballs?

    1. Yes, every year. I should post one and research what all the kids are doing. One of my classes had an MLS player and the UNLV football team's defensive coordinator.


Around The Card Room, Take 13

The end of the school year can be hard on elementary school students. There are plenty of happy children on the final day of school who are ...