Thursday night at Rangers Ballpark, Arlingtonians vigorously applauded their visitor from New York. Luckily for him, Dan Yaccarino had not come to town looking to deny the Rangers their first World Series berth. He had more noble and, hopefully for the audience, more realistic aims.
"The goal of going out and speaking is to let kids know that they can do what they truly love when they become an adult," he said after an appearance earlier in the day at Arlington's Farrell Elementary.
Yaccarino didn't fly in from the Bronx to replace an injured Mark Teixeira on the Yankees' roster (Eduardo Nunez did that). He won't see action in middle relief against Texas hitters this weekend. Instead, as a noted children's author and illustrator, he teamed up with the Texas Rangers Baseball Foundation and other local groups to encourage Arlington children to read and create.
The foundation, Dallas bookstore The Story Book House, the Arlington Public Library Foundation and the Arlington Chamber of Commerce sponsor a monthly children's author series. The writer and/or illustrator travels to schools during the day and headlines an evening event benefiting the Arlington Library. Yaccarino became the new program's second speaker, with Bruce Coville having visited in September.
Yaccarino has written and illustrated multiple picture books, and recently had his work about marine explorer Jacques Cousteau nominated for a Texas Library Association Bluebonnet Award. He also creates television programs and designs toys. If his occupation sounds like fun to you, well, it does to him, too.
"I'm doing what I love and what I loved growing up," he explained.
He tries to get his audiences to realize it can work that way for them as well.
"When someone comes in -- a sports figure or author like myself or any professional -- they're presenting what they do for a living," Yaccarino said. "But they're an adult. It's difficult for children to connect the dots between where they are sitting in the audience to where the adult is. And the thrust of my presentation is to connect the dots for them -- to show them where I was when I was their age and the steps that it took to get me to where I am."
During the evening presentation, Yaccarino denied being a machine, having magic powers or hailing "from another planet, as far as they know." He said kids need to understand he doesn't "have special DNA" that they don't.
"I hope I make it clear to them that it is an attainable goal to do something when you're an adult that makes you happy, and hopefully, makes other people happy as well," he said.
The writer sees a chapter book series and a screenplay in his own future, though when asked for a prediction on Friday's game, he wisely declared, "I'm staying out of it," thereby ensuring a warm welcome at other Dallas/Fort Worth stops on his tour.
The Children's Author Series will continue Nov. 11 with artist and writer Stephen T. Johnson.
This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.