Students learn rules to success from an international sports star

By: Sara Kandel | Roseville - Eastpointe Eastsider | Published October 12, 2011

 Kindergarten students at Dort Elementary in Roseville pose with baseball player Brian Sikorski after an all-grade assembly on Sept. 30.

Kindergarten students at Dort Elementary in Roseville pose with baseball player Brian Sikorski after an all-grade assembly on Sept. 30.

Photo by Sara Kandel

ROSEVILLE — He was only there for an hour and the assembly ran just half of that time, but it didn’t take Brian Sikorski long to make an impact on the children at Dort Elementary.

He told them the same things their parents and teachers are constantly telling them — to stay in school and work hard — but hearing it from a professional baseball player had an almost mystical impact on the kids who sat starry-eyed on the gym floor.

“I tried to stress hard work and respect,” Brian Sikorski said after the assembly. “I told them how important school is and that you need to respect your teachers and work hard.”

Sikorski is a professional relief pitcher with Roseville roots. He’s played for the Houston Astros, the Texas Rangers, the San Diego Padres and the Cleveland Indians, as well as in Japan, where he now plays for the Yomiuri Giants. He’s also played for the Chiba Lotte Marines, the Yakult Swallows and the Seibu Lions.

His brother works at the Roseville elementary school and suggested he come in to speak. Sikorski didn’t mind. He grew up and went to school in the city, graduating from Roseville High School in 1992.

“Without school, I wouldn’t have been able to go as far as I did or be where I am at today,” he said during the Sept. 30 assembly. “You have to be responsible to get your homework done and to make the right choices.”

Sikorski spoke to the students during one of the on-going career assemblies the school hosts throughout the year.

“Every month, we try to bring somebody from a different career in to talk to the kids to build on what we teach them about needing to practice hard, work hard, do all their work, learn in school,” said Principal Charles Felker.

They’ve had policemen and dentists, veterans and veterinarians. They reach out to parents and people in the community through fliers and word of mouth, and schedule interested speakers throughout the year.

“We’ve had, in the past, people from all over the place,” Felker said. “It’s not that we have certain ones that come in every year. We try to mix it up.”

Felker said the kids seem to enjoy all the speakers, but they really get into the public service speakers — the policemen and firefighters. But the chance to meet a professional sports star was a real treat.

The younger students took right to him, asking questions and running up with high-fives and hugs after the assembly ended. It took the older kids a little longer, but eventually they came around and were asking just as many questions as their younger schoolmates.

Teresa Tomala booked Sikorski. She teaches the deaf and hard of hearing students at Dort. Earlier in the week, she had two speakers come in and talk to the school about being deaf. She plans a lot of the assemblies at the school. She enjoys them all, but of Sikorski’s she said, “It was wonderful.”

And it really was, because much like the public service professionals who come in and speak, Sikorski offered a message the kids understood and embodied a goal many of them hope for.

“Never give up,” he told them. “We’re gonna fail in life, but you keep trying — keep trying and turn it into a positive.”

Sikorski only talked to the students for a half-hour, but in that time he seemed to become a hero in their eyes.