Tom Harlan and the grade school children from who hovered around him seemed to have very little in common.

Tom is 25 and from California. The children are all under 12 and from suburban Pennsylvania.

At 6’ 6, the pitcher for the minor league baseball team, the Altoona Curve, was an odd figure in Baker Elementary School where drinking fountains, lockers and desks are built for those who don’t even reach his shoulders.

Yet Tom and his elementary school fans found common ground, not just in baseball, but in books, and one in particular, The Giver by Lois Lowry.

Tom and the students talked about the world that Lowry created in the novel and some of the themes that emerged in it, including self-expression and individuality.

In late Spring 2015, Tom and a handful of his teammates from the minor league team that is affiliated with the Pittsburgh Pirates, visited Baker Elementary and other schools in the Altoona area as part of a program launched by Covelli Enterprises and The Curve, a AA minor league baseball team.

Tom and the other players were part of “Panera Run With Reading Program” and they visited schools where students had read the most books and had lunch with them.

Players for the Minor League Baseball Team, The Curve of Altoona, Pa. partnered with Covelli Enterprises to encourage elementary children to read as part of the Panera Run with Reading Program. The players then visited schools in Spring 2015 to have lunch with those who had read the most books. Featured here are Jacob Stallings, a catcher for the Curve, and Tom Harlan, a pitcher for the team, right.

Players for the Minor League Baseball Team, The Curve of Altoona, Pa. partnered with Covelli Enterprises to encourage elementary children to read as part of the Panera Run with Reading Program. The players then visited schools in Spring 2015 to have lunch with those who had read the most books. Featured here are Jacob Stallings, a catcher for the Curve, and Tom Harlan, a pitcher for the team, right.

For Tom, the trip to the schools and the project were both rewarding. “I really like talking with the students and fans in a setting like this.  It allows us to get to know them better,” he said.

Adam Erikson, sponsorship sales executive for the Curve, who went to lunch with Tom at Baker Elementary School, said the reading campaign was powerful.

“When someone in the third grade read the same book as someone who plays baseball for a living that was a really cool thing,” Erikson said.

Erikson said the Panera Run with Reading Program is one of several projects that the Curve works on with Covelli Enterprises.

Curve players routinely come to area Panera bread cafes to speak to and interact with customers.

Erikson said the Curve, like Covelli, embraces its obligation to serve the community and recognizes that people identify with baseball players.

“Baseball,” Erikson said. “It’s America’s pastime. It runs so deep. It’s been around so long.”

He had different theories for why Americans love baseball so much.

“Part of it is that it’s Spring and everything is new again,” he said. “Part of it is that it’s a family activity.”

Yet, Erikson said, the Curve could not make an impact without sponsors.

“Our sponsors are such a big part of what we do,” he said.

Altoona Curve Baseball

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