Penny propels playoff push
McDONALD — The Cleveland Indians’ success in the MajorLeague Baseball playoffs is rubbing off on the student body at Roosevelt Elementary School.
The school is in the national spotlight this week after Tribe shortstop Francisco Lindor told the media that his clutch hitting and spectacular fielding during the first two games of the American League Championship Series can be explained in part by a penny in his pocket.
That penny came courtesy of a Roosevelt second-grade teacher’s class assignment that has put the sports-crazed village on the national map and caused the school to go “Wahoo Wild.”
Teacher Ally Thompson, who was born, raised and still lives in the village, said she has a friend in Cleveland who is close to several of the players, including second baseman Jason Kipnis. Last week as the team was preparing for the series against Toronto, Thompson asked her class to write a letter to each Tribe player on the 25-man roster. Enclosed in each letter was a shiny penny.
“We were reading about superstitions and came across the part about a penny in your pocket representing good luck,” Thompson said Wednesday from her classroom as she detailed the events of the past week.
That friend hand-delivered the letters to the team Oct. 13, which was one day before the start of the ALCS, Thompson said. The next day, Lindor hit a two-run homer, representing the only runs of the game. The following day, Lindor knocked in the deciding run in a 2-1 win that propelled his team to the advantage it never relinquished.
In post-game interviews with the national media, Lindor brought up the letter he received from Roosevelt student Mia Starnes, age 7, and the penny inside. Lindor said he had been carrying the penny in the right pants pocket of his uniform.
Thompson told Tribune Chronicle news partner WKBN-TV she was shocked and excited to find out the player took Mia’s letter to heart.
“We’re just a little village in northeast Ohio, and… any kid could have written a letter and had him do that, but for it to be one of mine, it’s very humbling and special,” Thompson told WKBN.
Even though Mia drew Lindor’s name for the letter, she said she has liked the second-year shortstop since she saw him play in person at Progressive Field earlier this summer.
“I was happy to be there (at the Indians game) because it made my dad very excited,” Mia said.
Roosevelt Principal David Vecchione said his school has been bombarded with media requests for interviews with Mia and her teacher. Thompson said she was impressed that the Major League Baseball Network took up their saga.
“It is tough to teach with all the distractions, but it has been worth it,” Thompson said. “The kids are all excited. We just hope that they can win it all, and somehow a player can come to our class.”
Thompson said it was ironic that she selected Lindor’s name to head the sample she used to teach the class on the proper way to write a letter. That sample letter still remains on the easel board in the middle of her class.
The teacher regrets not making copies of each of her students’ letters.
“I didn’t think it would ever get to this,” she said.
Meanwhile, little Mia, while excited about the attention and the Tribe’s playoff run, said her 10-year-old brother is still the bigger Indians fan. She said she likes football, being a cheerleader for the Little Blue Devil squad.
“But our season is now over,” Mia said.
During Wednesday’s Game 5 pennant-clinching win, Lindor had another multi-hit game and scored the game’s first run.
Thompson said her own 5-year-old daughter, Camden, is a big Kipnis fan.
“She (Camden) said she wants to draw pictures to put on his refrigerator,” Thompson laughed.
Vecchione said now with the Tribe in the World Series, he will declare next week “Indians Week” at Roosevelt and the school dress code will be relaxed so staff and students will be able to sport their favorite Indians gear.
The principal may be looking for a few substitutes next week, because two teachers managed to secure World Series tickets on Wednesday, Vecchione said.
Thompson said, unfortunately, she wasn’t lucky enough to score any tickets, but she is hoping for a Tribe world championship to go along with that earlier Cleveland Cavaliers’ 2016 NBA title.
“We need that World Series title so I can check it off my bucket list,” she said.