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By Peter Della Penna
The opening of the Swinging Away exhibit on Sunday at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum in Cooperstown, N.Y., provided an opportunity for many sports enthusiasts to see and learn about the history of the two sports side by side. For many visitors it was their first encounter with the sport of cricket. Hopefully, it will not be the last one though for several families who got more than they bargained for upon making their way up to the third floor for the exhibit.
“I’d love to go see a full game actually,” said 45-year-old Karen Knights of Raymond, Maine. Knights was with her husband Rodney and 13-year-old daughter Megan on a day out to discover baseball history when they came across the Swinging Away display. The entire family was quite intrigued by the differences between baseball and cricket.
“The size of the field is so strange,” said Karen. “It’s a circular field. I guess that’s a pretty big difference in my mind and where all the outfielders stand. They stand all around you it seems like. It seems really different.”
“It looks like it takes a lot of skill to play watching it on the screen,” said Rodney. Part of the exhibit features a television screen that plays about three minutes worth of diving stops, great fielding and home runs from baseball followed by an equal length loop of cricket highlights. The cricket portion begins with a pair of Paul Collingwood one-handed leaping grabs at backward point. The Angelo Mathews catch and flick back before going over the boundary is featured as well as Tillakaratne Dilshan scooping a six past fine leg.
The montage ends with Shane Warne’s theatrical dismissal of Andrew Strauss in the second Ashes Test at Edgbaston in 2005, when Strauss walked across his stumps and was bowled behind his legs. “I didn’t fully understand it until I saw it on the screen,” said Rodney. “Once I saw that, it looked like it takes a lot of skill to be able to hit it.”
“The biggest thing to me was that the batter is not as much up there to try to hit the ball as he is to protect the wicket and hitting the ball is just a byproduct of him protecting that wicket. That was the biggest thing I learned, he’s guarding that and he has to hit the ball out of the field and then when he does, okay now I can run and get some points.”
Image (right) - Rodney, Megan and Karen (l-r) Knights learn about cricket equipment from a hands on display at the opening of Swinging Away. [Courtesy: Peter Della Penna/DreamCricket]
“[It’s] more of a defensive game I think,” said Karen, before Rodney countered his wife’s argument by noting that “300 runs doesn’t sound like a defensive game.”
For the Prushan family of Bryn Mawr, Pa., they were familiar with the fact that cricket was in their neighborhood, but for different reasons.
“I’ve been to Merion Cricket Club, but to play tennis, not to play cricket,” said Alan Prushan. “When I went to school in D.C., you would see them playing, not on the mall, but on the fields adjacent to the monuments.”
One of Alan’s two teenage sons, 17-year-old Joel, said that he never felt like he has had to learn sports growing up in America. Instead, he feels that he has absorbed them over time, much different to the experience he had at the Baseball Hall of Fame while encountering cricket. He felt the Swinging Away exhibit taught him a lot in a short span without confusing him.
“With American sports, no one teaches you about the sport,” said Joel. “You kind of gradually pick it up from watching it with your family. You just kind of know over time. No one ever has to teach you a sport, but with this we really don’t know anything so we’re getting hit with all this information at once but once you pick it apart it’s actually really easy to understand and you actually know much more about the game than when you walked in.”
“I’m looking forward to going to Haverford and watching a match now because this has kind of intrigued me,” said Joel’s mom Carol. The family got to meet the Haverford College team, who were invited guests at the Hall of Fame for the ribbon cutting. Bryn Mawr is a short distance from Haverford and she wouldn’t mind getting behind a local team now that she knows they exist. “It’s kind of given me a taste and I wanna go see them actually play and what it really is about.”
The appeal of cricket was evident for younger families too. Lynn and Sean Flansburg of Rotterdam, N.Y., have an annual membership at the Baseball Hall of Fame and brought their six-year-old daughter Zoey and three-year-old son Alec to Cooperstown on Sunday specifically for the opening of Swinging Away.
“When we renewed our Hall of Fame membership, one of the things they do is send us magazines and it talked about this upcoming exhibit,” said Lynn Flansburg. “We were actually supposed to come yesterday but the exhibit didn’t open until today so we held out to come today so we could show our kids the difference, something new and exciting.”
Image (left) - Haverford College sophomore Matt Smith shows three-year-old Alec Flansburg how to hold a cricket bat inside the Learning Center at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum. [Courtesy: Peter Della Penna/DreamCricket]
The kids got to put bat on ball during the interactive session in the Hall of Fame Learning Center session with the Haverford team on opening day. Both parents were having a hard time getting the bat out of three-year-old Alec’s hands while Zoey was having a good time trying to be a wicketkeeper. Part of the Swinging Away exhibit displays a jersey worn by former England women’s captain Charlotte Edwards, something which appeared to inspire Zoey to get more involved as the day wore on.
“My daughter just asked, because we saw there’s a cricketer outfit for a girl that was in there, she’s like, ‘I see a girl in here so I know a girl can play it somewhere so you need to find out where.’ So I guess I would Google it and see if there’s anything in our area,” said Flansburg. “She saw that girls can play it so now she wants to know where we can go so that she can learn to play it.”
While the opportunity to meet, greet and play cricket with the Haverford team was limited to the opening day festivities, Flansburg says that the overall nature of the exhibit is one of the reasons she and her husband keep coming back to the Baseball Hall of Fame.
“We’ve had a great time. I think my kids have had fun,” said Flansburg. “Seeing that we’ve come here a number of times, it’s nice to see a new exhibit in the Hall of Fame. It’s not just one small room. There’s actually quite a bit of stuff.”
Swinging Away will be at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum until February 2012. For more info, visit www.baseballhall.org.