Saturday, July 4, 2009

NEA Hits Home Run in Friendship Night Event

If NEA President Dennis Van Roekel thought his first pitch at last night's Padres-Dodgers game would be a fairly anonymous soft toss, he was in for the pleasant surprise of his life.

Nearly 7,000 RA delegates took over PETCO Park yesterday for NEA Night at the Ballpark: Friendship Night 2009. The Padres-Dodgers matchup was the game of the year at PETCO, drawing a sellout crowd of more than 42,000 fans from throughout California, who came to watch the return of Dodgers slugger Manny Ramírez.

San Diego,CA NEA President Dennis Van Roekel throws out the first pitch at the San Diego Padres game Friday evening. ( Photo/ Scott Iskowitz/ RA TODAY)

Even cable news icon Larry King, a lifelong Dodgers fan, was at the event, sitting in front-row seats behind home plate.

But the star last night was Van Roekel, who drew thunderous applause from the NEA delegation when he stepped onto the mound and delivered a perfect pitch -- thanks, in part, to time he spent preparing for the event with his son.

What did the delegates think of our president's first pitch?

"I think they should sign him up," said Kate McAuliffe, a middle school reading teacher from Billings, MT.

As news outlets from throughout the country covered the game, signs of NEA's presence were everywhere. During the sixth inning, the sellout crowd was treated to a public service announcement from Van Roekel, Vice President Lily Eskelsen and Secretary-Treasurer Rebecca Pringle, promoting the importance of reading to children.

Fans throughout the stadium wore the stiped stovepipe Cat in the Hat hats that were provided by NEA and have become the symbol of NEA's Read Across America initiative.

To view photos of the event, visit the NEA FlickR account here.

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