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Heather Hits Her First Home Run: by Ted Plantos

Heather Hits Her First Home Run: by Ted Plantos

Published in March 1989 by Black Moss Press

Discussion Guidelines and Ten Questions

By Liz Eleftherakis


This story is about Heather who is playing on a tee ball team for the first time and isn't performing well.  Every time she hits the ball, someone in outfield catches it.  On one particular occasion, if she can hit a home run she can win the game for her team.  She is very nervous but when someone on the other team yells, "easy out" her nervousness turns into anger and she swings the bat as hard she can.  This time, no one has caught the ball.  As she's rounding the bases she realizes how much fun she is having.  Even though she gets out at home plate, three of her teammates were able to score and her team wins the game.  Heather learns about determination and team spirit.  This story teaches that you don't always need a "home run" to win.


Some philosophical issues in this story include, the origin of emotions, the different ways of winning, and the effectiveness of encouragement from others.


All of us sometimes have trouble understanding why we feel the way we do.  Sometimes we are sad but think we should be happy.  Sometimes we are happy but don't even realize it.  Questions 1, 2, and 3 deal with different issues surrounding feelings.  These questions are meant to make the students think about5 why they feel the way they do.  It makes them think about what sorts of things make them happy or sad and what sorts of things don't make them happy or sad.  Question two tries to connect feelings with actions.  Sometimes different emotions can effect the way we act, sometimes in a good way and sometimes not.  I use the examples of playing sports and washing dishes.  Both activities are very different and different emotions can effect how we perform them.  If I am angry I can guarantee that I will do a sloppy, careless job washing the dishes.  But, if I were angry while playing a sport, I would feel a surge of motivation and determination.  This question is meant to examine why that is.  Also, sometimes people feel a feeling opposite of what they think they should be feeling.  For example, sometimes children cry during their own birthday party.  Question three addresses this issue.  It also connects feelings with outer appearances.  Very often it is easy to tell the way someone is feeling by looking at the expression on his or her face, but sometimes it is difficult.


Question 4 deals with what it means to win and why we like to win.  What is it about winning that we like?  Is it the recognition we see, or the personal satisfaction?  There can be a difference between winning and feeling like a winner.  The former implies actually being recognized as the winner of something, for example winning a race.  The latter can have a much broader definition.  If I run a race and perform better than I ever have before I will feel as if I have won in a personal sense.  The feeling of winning the race is replaced with the feeling of personal success.  Question 4 is meant to consider the differences and similarities between these two notions of winning.  It is also meant to question whether being the winner is the best situation to be in.  For example, if you were playing a card game with your little cousin, does it ever feel better to let her win than to win yourself?


Questions 5 and 6 deal with parts of a whole and the importance of those parts.  Question 5 first addresses the fact that even though Heather didn't hit a homerun, her hit was necessary for her team to win.  In addition, it was necessary for three of her teammates to have been on the bases when she hit the ball.  Both Heather and her three teammates were necessary for the win and all were equally important.  Was there anyone else who was necessary for the win?  What about the pitcher?  What about the coach?  This question is meant to address the necessary and sufficient conditions needed for a baseball team (this can also be applied to other things that require a "team" effort).  Question 6 is using what was discussed in question 5 and applying it in a different form.  It also considers how things would be different without some of its parts (I use the example of a house).  This question can begin be asking what a house is.  If you were to take away one aspect of the definition would it still be a house?  What about if you take away 2 or 3?  Next, the class can be asked about certain objects they may have in their own houses.  Are all these objects necessary for a house to still be a house?  In some cases, not all parts of a whole are equally important, while in other cases, all the parts are equally and necessarily important.  Are all the parts of a car equally important (the radio or air conditioner)?  Are all the parts of a baseball team equally important?  Could you play without a pitcher or third baseman?


Questions 7 and 8 talks about phrases that do not mean what they literally imply.  The book's title implies that Heather hit a home run, but she didn't.  So, what does the author mean?  Ask the students to give a sentence using the term "hit a home run" in a sentence that does not involve baseball.  What sort of things can you do to "hit a home run"?  Why would acing a test be considered a home run?  What do winning a baseball game and acing a test have in common?  Heather's friend tells her to "sting the ball".  Does using a word like "sting" put more meaning into what he said?  This also addresses what it literally means to sting a ball.  How could an inanimate object get stung? 


Questions 9 and 10 consider the importance of encouragement from others.  This can also be connected to the questions that discuss feelings.  Sometimes it is possible to do things you thought you couldn't do when you have someone cheering for you.   The encouragement from others can draw out strength in you that you didn't know was there.  Why is that?  Is it the loud noise? Is it because of the people who are cheering?  Does it make a difference who is doing the cheering?  These two questions are meant to directly engage the class in analyzing why or why not being cheered for improves performance.


The Questions


1.  Throughout the story Heather feels nervous, sad, embarrassed, angry, and happy.

A.   Where do feelings come from?

B.    What sorts of things make you happy?  Sad?

C.    Heather says that she forgot to be angry when she started to have fun.  Have you ever forgotten to angry?  Have you ever forgotten to have any other type of feeling?  Why?  What made you forget?


2.  Heather gets angry with Stevey when he says that she's too weak to hit the ball.  When she is angry she hits the ball.

A. Have you ever done something better when you were angry (like playing a       sport)?   Have you ever done something worse when you were angry?

B. If you were washing the dishes, do you think you'd do a good, clean job if you did it while you were angry?  Do you think you'd do it better if you were happy?

C. What is a good feeling to have while playing a sport?  Do you think you'd do a good job if you were scared?  What about if you were feeling brave?


3.  When Heather was rounding the bases she realized that she was not sad anymore.  She realized that she was happy and having fun.

A.   Have you ever been happy and not know it?  Have you ever been sad and not know it?  For example, have you ever been sad to go to school, but once you got there you realized you were happy to be there?

B.    Have you ever thought you should be happy, but weren't?  For example, have you ever not been happy at a birthday party, or during a fun holiday?

C.    Have you ever looked at someone and thought they looked one way, but they actually felt another?  Can people cry when they're not sad?  When?  What are some of the ways of knowing how someone is feeling?


4.  Even though Heather got out at home plate she still felt like a winner.

A.   Why did Heather still feel like a winner?  Would you still feel like a winner?  Can you name different ways of winning?

B.    Have you ever not wanted to win?  Have you ever been happier to see someone else win instead of you?  Why did you feel that way?

C.    Can you feel like a winner even if you did not actually win in whatever you were doing?

D.   If you were on a baseball team would you rather score all the runs but still lose the game, or score no runs but win the game?  What feels better, scoring a run or winning the game?  Why?  Which do you think is more important?


5.  Heather hit a "four-bagger" and the other people on her team were able to score and so her team won the game.

A.   If Heather hadn't hit the "four-bagger" the other people on her team wouldn't have been able to score and they wouldn't have won the game, so who is more important, the runners or the batter (Heather)?  Are they equally as important?

B.    Are all the players on a baseball team equally as important?  Can you play the game without some of the players?  Can you play without of pitcher?  What about without a third baseman?


6.  (Continuation of question 5)

A.   Can you think of any situations where no part is more important than the others?  Can you think of something that wouldn't work without all of its parts?

B.    What are the parts of a house?  What if a house didn't have some of these parts (say a roof or walls), would it still be a house?  Why or why not?  What things do house have that they don't need?  Do they need televisions and DVD players?  Do they need beds?


7.  The book is called, Heather Hits Her First Home Run, but she doesn't hit a home run.

A.   Why is that the title?  Have eve heard people say, "You hit a home run", when they weren't talking about sports?  What were they talking about?

B.    How can you do something like hitting a homerun in baseball without playing baseball?

C.    Since Heather's coach considered her hit a home run, even when it wasn't, is that just as good as hitting a real one?  Is there a difference between feeling like you hit a home run and actually hitting one?  Which do you think is better?  Do you think Heather would have been happier if she hit a real home run?


8.  Heather's friend, Jeffrey, told her to "sting the ball".

A.   What did he mean?  How could she sting the ball?  She wasn't a bumblebee.

B.    Even if she were a bumblebee, could she sting the ball?  Can balls get stung if they don't feel the pain of getting stung?  What does it mean to get stung?


9.  When Heather was up to bat she got lots of cheering from people around her (Jeffrey, her mom, her coach, and the people in the stands).

A.   Do you think the people cheering for Heather helped her to hit the ball? 

B.    Does being cheered for ever help you do better at things?  Does it ever not help?  What is it about cheering that helps?  What about cheering doesn't help?

C.    If you were taking a test would you rather have cheering in the background or just have silence?  Why?  How is taking a test different from playing a baseball game?


10.  (Continuation of question 9)

A.   Why do friends and family cheer?  Do they do it because they have to or because they want to?  Why?

B.    Does it feel different to cheer for someone you don't know as opposed to cheering for a friend?

C.    How do you feel when you watch someone you know playing a sports game?  How do you feel when you watch your favorite team playing a sports game?  How are these feelings similar or different?