Learning Channel takes electronic field trip to the world of baseball

May 20, 1992|By Steve McKerrow | Steve McKerrow,Staff Writer

Love baseball? You don't have to play to make a living at the game, but you do have to be committed to education and willing to follow your own abilities, counsels a new cable television program with strong Baltimore ties.

"So You Want To Be in Baseball?" premieres tonight at 7 o'clock on The Learning Channel, with former Oriole Jim Palmer as co-host and Birds broadcaster Jon Miller as narrator. Also among the featured subjects are Orioles assistant general manager Frank Robinson, shortstop Cal Ripken Jr. and new stadium architect Joe Spear.

Baltimore lawyer and sports agent Ron Shapiro is among the studio guests, and ESPN announcer John Saunders offers yet another familiar face as co-host, for he is a former WMAR (Channel 2) sportscaster. Behind the cameras, the producer is Mary Ellen Iwata, former "Evening Magazine" producer for WJZ (Channel 13).

The show is the first of a series of "So You Want To Be in . . ." careers programs produced by the Bethesda-based basic cable network in association with Washington's WETA (Channel 26). (The Learning Channel can be seen in this area on United Artists cable systems in Baltimore City and Anne Arundel County, and Mid-Atlantic Cable in Howard County. WETA will rebroadcast the show at 9 p.m. June 3.)

Targeted at junior and senior high school students, the series is intended as "a classroom without walls, a kind of electronic field

trip," says John Ford, senior vice president for programming of The Learning Channel.

Portions of the premiere installment were previewed at a Monday night reception in the Orioles office complex, and the sellout crowd at Orioles Park at Camden Yards saw the segment on Ripken screened on the scoreboard video before Monday's game with the Oakland A's.

Young viewers may learn the field of athletics is a lot wider than just the playing turf.

The Ripken sequence, for example, dutifully highlights his on-field prowess and disciplined work habits. But it also pays attention to his establishment of the Ripken Learning Center to teach literacy to disadvantaged adults.

Super football/baseball star Bo Jackson appears in the show, but the stronger focus is on Dr. James Andrews, the sports physician who treated the rare injury that ended Jackson's football playing days.

"I think his job is a little harder than mine," says Jackson, and Dr. Andrews, a one-time pole vaulter, says his interest in sports medicine grew from a desire to stay involved in athletics.

Similarly, Sports Illustrated photographer Walter Iooss talks of taking his first published pictures as a teen-age sandlot player, when he learned he was best with a camera. (This sequence even includes some byplay with former Oriole Eddie Murray, now a New York Met.)

"You need to have fun doing it," says architect Spear of a good career choice, as cameras show him scanning the blueprints for Baltimore's new stadium.

Even a big-league team owner appears in a short profile: the Cincinnati Reds' Marge Schott, who jokes, "I'm the only owner who can hug the players."

And St. Louis Cardinal pitcher Bob Tewksbury delivers the most succinct message, saying "Baseball will be four or five years. My education is going to carry me through a lifetime."

Future shows in the "So You Want To Be in . . ." series will give attention to entertainment fields and space exploration.



* A long list of down home stars will perform on tonight's "Country Music Hall of Fame 25" anniversary special at 8 o'clock on CBS (Channel 11).

Taped last month at the Grand Ole Opry House in Nashville, the show celebrates the roots of country music with performers including Chet Atkins, Clint Black, Clarence "Gatemouth" Brown, Kenny Rogers, Hank Williams Jr., Tanya Tucker, Barbara Mandrell, Kathy Mattea and Ricky Van Shelton.

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