Retired professional baseball player and coach Wallace Johnson signed autographs at the “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” program at Dr. Bernard C. Watson Academy for Boys. | Photo by Anthony KaDarrell Thigpen~for Sun-Times Media
Dr. Bernard C. Watson Academy for Boys made it to the big leagues when retired White Sox coach Wallace Johnson stepped to the stage during the recent “Take Me Out to the Ball Game” program.
The event also served as a celebration for recent IRead improvement.
Fifth-grader Job Smith introduced the acclaimed hometown pinch-hitter.
Wallace was born in Gary on Dec. 25, 1956. After graduating from Indiana State University, he was drafted by the Montreal Expos and played part of the 1983 season with the San Francisco Giants.
“When you believe in yourself you can do anything,” Wallace said. “As a professional athlete, listening skills are most important.”
Wallace inspired an auditorium of nearly 200 students — boys hinging onto every word.
During the ninth inning of the program, school principal Leonard Brown quizzed the students on what they heard. Students earned $2 for correct answers. Brown uses incentives to motivate boys to learn.
Several cheering parents and grandparents participated.
“I support my grandkids because they get excited when they see us at their schools,” said grandfather Lamonie Allen. “It lets them know we care.”
Shavon Lyons says she has four boys, and they all went to Watson Academy for Boys.
“I called off work to be here,” Lyons said. “I love what this school is doing and the impact they’ve had on my sons.”
Watson Boys Academy improved its IRead passing scores from 45.2 percent to 61 percent, according to data coach Clara Thigpen.
She said the academy hopes for a final passing score of 75 percent or higher during the summer re-test.
Wallace threw the students a curve ball, re-directing their focus from sports to education.
“Academics is what takes you past your sporting career,” Wallace explained.
Debra Over, resident district manager for food services for Chartwells, said the company hosts various events to give back to the schools they serve.
“This allows us to set the food regulations aside and just have fun,” she said.
The menu included ballpark food including hot dogs, peanuts, chips, corn on the cob, watermelon and cookies.
The “Take Me Out to the Ball Game” program left Watson Boys Academy celebrating like a winning team.