Obama speaks to 200,000

Barack Obama is seen Thursday after speaking at the Victory Column in Berlin.

Sports news of any sort sails way over my head. A recent and remarkable exception is the University of South Carolina baseball team's second straight win in the College World Series.

Both the winning and the stories that accompanied it were riveting. And, hopefully, inspiring.

My favorite quote came from Christian Walker who played even after he broke his wrist.

"We worked hard enough. It was just getting to the grind and just doing it."

Those words could be useful for all of us, but maybe most helpful for young players.

I grew up with the Baltimore Orioles and thought Brooks Robinson was the greatest guy in town. Our children cheered for the Chicago Cubs because their grandmother took them to games in Chicago.

Charleston's own RiverDogs energize and encourage the baseball spirit for our grandchildren (and the rest of our fair city).

Take a child out to the ball game!

And read to that child before and after the game.

For the tiniest fans, "Little Baseball: Lots of Fun With Rhyming Riddles" by Brad Herzog is (as advertised) lots of fun. A sample rhyme:

Round and white and full of stitches,

This is what the pitcher pitches.

For the correct answer, you'll have to mull over the clues and read the book.

"I Spy With My Little Eye Baseball," also by Brad Herzog, is a picture book of photographic puzzles of all things baseball for all ages. In each pair of photos, readers are challenged to find the differences. This book includes a wealth of information about the game of baseball, as well as its history and players.

And for little pitchers, "B is for Baseball" by Doug Keith is a set of alphabet flash cards. Each letter conveys an aspect of the game in the convoluted shape of a player.

"Take Me Out to the Ball Game" by Jack Norworth is a lively, colorful picture book that includes a CD of Carly Simon singing the song of the same name. In an afterword, Simon writes the little-known story of how Jackie Robinson's family lived with hers in the early 1950s. Simon's parents worked hard to get segregation laws changed so that the Robinsons could buy land and build a house in Stamford, Conn.

"Testing the Ice: A True Story About Jackie Robinson" is a picture book written by Jackie's daughter, Sharon Robinson. The property that Robinson eventually bought in Connecticut had a beautiful lake where family and friends went swimming and boating. Jackie never went near the water until the first winter, when he had to test the safety of the ice before the children could be allowed to skate. Risking a crack in the ice when he can't swim. Risking a career in major league baseball when he's the first black player. In both cases, nobody knew what would happen, and it took a courageous man to "test the waters" to find out.

"Lipman Pike: America's First Home Run King" by Richard Michelson is a picture book biography of a player whose name isn't exactly a household word. Although there are countless biographies of baseball players for young readers, this is one of my favorites because it reflects the history of the era and deals with the prejudice against Jewish people.

"Mudball," a picture book by Matt Tavares, is the triumphant story of Andy Oyler, who played for the Minneapolis Millers in 1903. As the shortest player in the league, he became a hero by hitting the shortest home run in baseball history. This short, delightful book packs a wallop of encouragement for any player who feels ready to give up.

Reach Fran Hawk at franbooks@yahoo.com.