Kalani Simpson


By Kalani Simpson

Friday, April 6, 2001

No time for games
on the picket line

COACH JAMES SUNDAY walks in circles under the beating sun. A day earlier he had been with his Radford High baseball team, telling them to stay in shape, telling them that he'd see them when this was over. But not now. Now, he and his fellow teachers are on the line. Now he wears a sign and walks, around and around. The strike has happened. The strike has happened, and baseball is taking a break.

His Rams had started 1-2, with a close game, a bad game and finally a win. They had just started to grasp that elusive property known as momentum. They were just starting to get it. And then, boom. Strike. No more games. No more practices. No more team meetings. No more baseball.

"We put a lot of work into this, since October, for it just to stop all of a sudden. For the kids it's kind of disappointing," Sunday said. He paused. "And also for all of the coaches," he admitted.

But now here they are, marching, serenaded by the nonstop honking of passing cars, encouraged by waving passersby. The teachers' walk is interrupted every five minutes by parents and retired teachers and even administrators (sneaking in from behind picket lines) with goodies. They bring soda and juice and water and Otter Pops. Cases and cases upon cases of drinks, so that it looks like a KTA sidewalk sale. They are stocked and ready. But they will need it. The sun is hot. And walking the picket line is thirsty work.

"I was on the line in '73," a retired teacher explains, dropping off yet more drinks.

Sunday showed up at 5:45 in the morning. He was to be there until 4 p.m., stopping occasionally under a tarp for shade, moving to other entrances at the school for a change of scenery. All his plans for the season have been put on hold, all his work with the kids suspended, and he can only hope that it sticks. Maybe the break will even be good for a couple of them. He hopes.

Sunday doubts there will even be informal practices. Students are banned from using school fields or equipment. On the baseball diamond on the Radford campus, only a bird takes the pitcher's mound, as if daring someone to chase it off. Today, nobody will.

"We're trying to explain that to the kids. They still want to practice, they still want to meet. But I gotta be here 10 hours a day and support my colleagues."

Sunday walks while he talks. The sign he wears says simply, "Settle." There would be no baseball practice. Maybe his students can learn from this.

"I think it's a good experience for them also to get involved with something, to just have an idea of what can happen with a strike," he said. "People think it's something not so serious, but once everybody gets affected, even down to athletics, you know. A lot of them didn't realize that. They thought, 'Oh, no school!' But then, no baseball either. Then it kind of sets in they've got to sacrifice in the classroom and the athletic field also."

And so the march continued. The horns honked and the sodas were delivered. But there was still no baseball.

Kalani Simpson's column runs Sundays, Tuesdays and Fridays.
He can be reached at

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