Author says ‘Follow your dream’
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s message was, “I have a dream.”
Dr. Paul Mullen’s message to Graettinger-Terril Middle School and Elementary youth Wednesday was, “Follow your dream.” Mullen is the author of “The Day I Hit a Home Run At Principal Park.”
G-T middle language and reading teacher Barb Larson helped bring Mullen to Terril.
“The most requested books are books are about sports,” she told the assembly of third- through eighth-graders. “I want you to continue to be excited about books.”
Mullen said his dream as a kid was to hit a home run in “The Great American Ball Park,” home of the Cincinnati Reds.
While he has spoken to students across the country, Mullen said in Iowa alone, he has been to 200 schools and talked to over 100,000 students.
One of the reasons I like to write sports is because no one is perfect,” he said. “Wouldn’t you be bored if Derek Jeter always hit or scored the winning run.”
Mullen told the story of his daughter, Erin, who wanted to play baseball when she was 8 years old.
When dad heard she was trying out for the local little league team, he went to the park to watch from a distance. He saw the coach pitch several balls to Erin and she didn’t connect with a single one.
He then sent her into the infield where she took a position at shortstop while a teammate, Jacob, went to bat. After he hit several balls and the coach gave him an “atta boy,” he went into the infield where he told Erin to go to the outfield.
“You’re the worst player out here and that’s why we always lose,” Jacob said.
Erin stood her ground and then Jacob “punched her in the stomach.”
Meanwhile, dad waited until after practice to first find out why his daughter wanted to play baseball so badly.
She said because of her dad’s interest in baseball.
“But I need your help daddy,” she said.
So dad became an assistant coach and every day after practice, he’d spend extra time hitting 150 fly balls. During the other seasons, football and basketball, Erin continued to work at hitting and throwing.
“By age 12, she was throwing the baseball 70 miles per hour,” Mullen said.
That led her to be the first girl to be invited to the Little League All-Star Camp.
“And you know who the first batter she faced was? Jacob,” Mullen said.
After striking him out, Jacob later came up to her and said she was the “best player” he’d every played with.
Mullen said his daughter continued to work at her game, but “couldn’t’ get her speed above the high 70s.”
By her sophomore year in high school, she switched to softball. When a college coach saw her throw from home plate over the centerfield fence, she was recruited.
When Team USA formed its first women’s national baseball team, Erin was on it.
“She pitched a perfect game in Japan and gave up no runs in Australia,” Mullen said.
His daughter is now in the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, Ohio.
“The reason I’ve had so much success is that everyone has a dream,” he said of his speaking to students around the country.
While he said all the younger children still have dreams, he noted the older students often stop talking about their dreams.
“They’re in the do-over phase,” he said. “Now is the time for them to set new dreams if they didn’t complete their first dream.”