Diamondbacks A Great Pitch For Education

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Learning to write meant a trip to an Arizona Diamondbacks game for a group of 93 elementary school pen pals from Payson and Gilbert.

The students, all fourth and fifth graders, were guests of the professional baseball team Aug. 30 at a game against the San Diego Padres played at Chase Field.

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Elementary school students from Payson and Gilbert watch the Arizona Diamondbacks take on the San Diego Padres at Chase field. The students were pen pals who had met one another for the first time at the game.

For 10-year old Frontier Elementary School student Justin Browning, being allowed to run the bases at the conclusion of the game highlighted the trip.

"That was so much fun, being on the field," he said.

Browning also enjoyed seeing the mammoth stadium for the first time and "watching all the players run onto the field."

Browning is a student in Pat Heizer's class at FES. Also along on the professional baseball jaunt were fourth/fifth graders from Payson Elementary School and students in Lyndsey Heizer's class at Gilbert Elementary School.

Lyndsey is Pat Heizer's daughter and a graduate of Payson High School.

The chance to take in the baseball game began months ago when the Payson students began a pen pal exchange with the Gilbert pupils.

"It was all part of a project to get them more interested in writing," Pat Heizer said.

After allowing the children to exchange letters over the course of more than a month, Pat Heizer thought it would be good if the pen pals could actually meet one another.

Partly because the Heizer family has Diamondback season tickets, the first thing to pop into her mind was they could meet at Chase field and watch a game.

But some students might not be able to afford the price of a ticket.

So, the teachers and the students penned letters asking if Diamondback officials would comp tickets to an upcoming game.

Soon after, the officials responded yes and quickly forwarded -- to all three schools -- ducats to the Padre game.

"By the time the bus arrived, they (the students) were really excited," Pat Heizer, said.

Upon arrival at Chase, the pupils stocked up on hot dogs, popcorn and soda pop then settled into their seats.

"For many of them it was the first time they had ever been in the stadium or watched a professional baseball game," Pat Heizer said.

Not only did the students see the hotly contested game, they finally met their pen pals face-to-face.

"I liked that,"Browning said.

Upon the pupils' return to school, they were asked to write in their journals about the experience.

But the writing project didn't end there.

"We are now in the process of writing thank you letters to the Diamondbacks," Heizer said.

In reflecting on the entire project, the veteran teacher calls it a tremendous learning experience in which the students were highly motivated.

The project also turned into a rewarding one for Pat Heizer.

"I knew it was very worthwhile when one of the students said, ‘Mrs. Heizer, this was the best day of my life,'" she said.

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