SPHS teacher Arentz represents Orioles at All-Star Game
Wednesday, 23 July 2014 13:01

Sparrows Point High Latin and English teacher Thomas Arentz leaves the field after he and 29 other teachers were honored in a pre-game ceremony before last week’s Major League Baseball All-Star Game in Minneapolis.

 by Bill Gates

    It was not the sort of treatment to which schoolteachers are accustomed.
    A fancy reception. Pre-game honors. Watching a ballgame from a skybox suite.
    Hanging out with Cal Ripken Jr. and finding out you have something in common.
    “We got the full red-carpet treatment, which teachers normally don’t get,” said Sparrows Point High Latin teacher Thomas Arentz.
    He and 29 other teachers representing all 30 Major League Baseball teams were guests of honor at last week’s All-Star Game in Minneapolis.
    “It was phenomenal,” Arentz said. “Definitely ‘once in a lifetime experience’ applies here.”
    During his second day in Minneapolis, July 14, Arentz found himself being interviewed on CNN along with former Baltimore Oriole and Hall of Famer Ripken.
    Before and after the interview, “we talked about teachers, riding bikes and normal stuff,” Arentz said. “One thing he and I have in common: we both love [eating at] Costa’s Inn.”
    Arentz earned the trip to Minnesota and the chance to hang with Ripken after winning a contest sponsored by MLB, People Magazine and Target to represent the Orioles at the All-Star Game.
    The All-Star Teachers contest asked for teachers to be nominated. The field of nominees was narrowed down to three for each team by a panel of judges.
    Arentz made the cut down to the final three, then received the most votes during a three-week election “campaign” from June 5 to June 29.
    “I think Tom was a little bashful in soliciting votes,” Sparrows Point High principal Sam Wynkoop said. “But that didn’t stop us from voting and spreading the word to get him to Minnesota.
    “The entire faculty and staff were able to support Tom and cast their votes.”
    Voting was online at the Major League Baseball website, and people were encouraged to vote as often as possible.
    Final vote totals were unavailable.
    “The school put the voting information on its Edline page, and people in the community kept telling me, ‘I voted for you last night’,” Arentz said.
    “It’s very touching; I’m grateful for those who thought I was worthy enough. I would like to thank all of them.”
    Arentz was nominated by a former student, Cory Edwards, and was notified in late May that he was one of the three finalists.
    Among the reasons he was selected as a finalist, MLB and Target announced in a press release, was his accomplishments inside and outside the classroom.
    That included sponsoring the Future Educators of America and the Student Council at Sparrows Point High; teaching evening classes at CCBC; studying educational leadership at Towson University; serving as the council president at Prince of Peace Lutheran Church; coaching rec soccer and baseball teams; and teaching Sunday school and vacation Bible school.
    Arentz has been at Sparrows Point for 16 years and teaches English as well as Latin.
    He found out he would be going to Minnesota on July 1; the official announcement was made on July 8.
    Arriving in Minneapolis on July 13, two days ahead of the game, the All-Star teachers were honored at a reception hosted by the Target Commons.
    “It was very high-class,” Arentz said. “We met Bullseye the Dog [The Target mascot].”
    Each teacher was also assigned a locker bearing their names and the names of the teams they represented.
    They also each received a Tiffany Glass star on which was engraved their names and the Target All-Star Teachers logo.
    Cal Ripken Jr. also attended the reception.
    “He gave us a pep talk, spoke about the important teachers in his life, and thanked us,” Arentz said.
    Arentz got some more personal time with Ripken the next day, when they were interviewed together by CNN at the Target Center (home of the NBA’s Timberwolves).
    Target was sponsoring a project in which tens of thousands of backpacks were being stuffed with school supplies for needy students.
    “I think I spoke pretty articulately and clearly,” Arentz said of the interview, which lasted a few minutes.
    “We did our part to pack the backpacks in the afternoon.”
    They were helped by another Hall of Fame shortstop: Ozzie Smith.
    “He showed up to talk to us and help pack,” Arentz said. “He is a very inspiring man.
    “It felt neat to hobnob with baseball players.”
    And, since the teachers were staying at the same hotel as the members of the All-Star teams, that included constantly encountering ballplayers in the lobby and hallways.
    The teachers were given personalized team jerseys and were seated in the front row at the press conference during which the starting lineups for the All-Star game were announced.
    For the game itself, Arentz and the others did more than share a hotel with the players; they briefly shared the playing field.
    All the teachers were honored during the pre-game ceremony, standing in front of the pitchers mound facing home plate while the teams were announced.
    “It was a very powerful moment for us,” Arentz said.
    Arentz and the other two Orioles finalists were likewise honored during an Orioles home game on June 27, on the field in front of the pitcher’s mound at Camden Yards.
    “It was thrilling, really intense,” he said. “I kept telling myself ‘don’t trip’ and don’t step on any of the chalk lines.”
    In Minnesota, the teachers watched both the Home Run Derby and the All-Star Game from luxury suites.
    “That floored me,” Arentz said. “It was definitely something else. I was just happy to see the game. Again this was treatment we don’t usually get, not every day.”
    Of course, the suites in Minneapolis do not feature crab cakes like the ones in Camden Yards.
    Instead, there were regional foods like cheese curds (Arentz’s wife, Melissa, tried them; he didn’t).
    The Sparrows Point community watched from back home, but missed an opportunity.
    “In retrospect, a viewing party like the one at Fan-Arena at St. Pauli’s stadium in Hamburg [where German fans watched the World Cup final] would have been appropriate,” Wynkoop said. “I’m not sure we could have packed 50,000-plus in First Mariner Field, but that would have been cool.
    “I’m very proud of Tom for bringing himself and Sparrows Point High to the national stage. I think they got the right guy; a great teacher and certainly a huge Orioles supporter.”