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“Read with the Vikes”: Baseball players read children’s books on social media

When the baseball coaches and players realized that students would not be returning to the classroom this school year, they felt it was important to do something to connect with the community. Individuals on the team created videos of themselves wearing their Viking jerseys and reading their favorite children’s book aloud. “Read with the Vikes” became a regular post that many families looked forward to.

Many of the baseball team members participated and felt like their contribution during this time was an experience that changed their life.

“Getting to read to kids is rewarding because we can stay in touch and give to the younger kids during this tough time,” senior Logan Freeman said. “Reading to them helps connect us to the community and the team.”

The act of reading to the kids also helped bring the team together and brought them closer to the community.

“It’s nice to be recognized for the work the team does off the field too,” senior Hunter Zaragoza said. “The project has brought our team closer to the community and has gotten us more involved.”

The idea was introduced by coach Benito Gallego who saw it as a great opportunity for the boys on the team.

“I was trying to figure out creative ways for my Foundations’ classes to stay engaged,” Gallego said. “After a little thought, it occured to me this would be perfect for our baseball team.  The idea is to have our high school students help serve as role models to our younger Vikes.”

As a dad who is also teaching his own children at home, Gallego understands the struggles parents of younger kids are facing right now.

“Most everything I do these days brings out the dad in me,” Gallego said. “Call it getting soft and old, but the hard-nosed coach has taken a back seat to the father-like role model. I’d like for my own kids to have these types of opportunities. It’s all about relationships and being there for others – especially in times like these.” 

Although the idea was Gallego’s, he credits his players for the impact it has had within the community.

“The guys loved the idea and jumped right in,” Gallego said. “It wasn’t very difficult to organize – we have great young men on our team and they get the big picture. Our coaching staff is the absolute best when it comes to helping and putting projects like these together. It ran smoothly from the get go.”

The team never intended to do this for a reward or to look good to the community but instead to help out the elementary school kids.

“We didn’t do this project to get publicity from the community,” coach James Dillard said. “We did this so that elementary students would have someone to read to them during this time we are away from school.” 

Mother of two Stephanie Dillard has seen ‘Read with the Vikings’ have a direct impact on both of her children. For her older son, it has allowed him to see how to be a role model to younger kids and for her youngest son, it has allowed him a way to connect during this time of isolation.

“My five-year-old, Easton, loved sitting and listening to the boys like it was just the two of them,” Dillard said. “He would ask tons of questions about each one, and talk about the book they had read.” 

The boys’ selfless act has set a standard that incoming students can look to as an example of what the district champions within the Essential 8 to build character within each student. 

“They are using their platform of being a ‘cool’ baseball player to make a positive impact on so many people,” Dillard said. “This is exactly what we in Bryan ISD teach when we share the Essential 8 in the district and throughout the community.”

During this time when so many things can be perceived as negatives, the baseball team has reached out to the community to create a positive.

“These boys and coaches took a negative time and made an active effort to serve others by putting a positive spin on things and make it better for the people in our community and beyond,” Dillard said. “The program ‘Read with the Vikings’ helped restore some pride, some faith and some hope in all of us from Bryan High. I am proud to be a part of this program, a part of Bryan High, and to say that I’m from Bryan, TX.”

To view the videos created by the baseball team, please visit the teams Twitter or Facebook page (@_VikingBaseball and Bryan Viking Baseball).

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