Students at Lehighton Area Middle School recently got to meet a distinguished visitor who was a part of this country's national pasttime during the World War 2 era.
The visitor was Sarah Jane Sands Ferguson, or "Salty," a former player of the All American Girls Professional Baseball League. She shared her love of the game with students and also offered advice on how to achieve success in life.
"My father took me to a baseball game and I fell in love with baseball," she said in explaining how what inspired her to become a professional baseball player.
The town "tomboy" never lost sight of her dream. At the time, she wasn't aware there was a girls' baseball league. Meanwhile, she honed her athletic skills playing other sports like soccer and football with the boys.
When she became a bat girl for the local men's team, it put her on course to being a baseball player herself. It got to the point that whenever the local boys struck up a game, they invited Salty to play.
An opportunity came when a sales representative recommended her to try out for the Rockford Peaches. She became an outfielder and catcher, playing from 1953 through 1954. She was know as Salty Sands, one of 600 women that played during the 12 years of the team's history. The league was founded in 1943 by Philip K. Wrigley, who wanted to create a women's league as a promotional sideline to maintain history in baseball.
"The league was formed at a time when the men were going off to war," said Salty.
Playing baseball was the highlight in Salty's life, leading to her being in the movie "A League of Their Own," which starred Madonna, Geena Davis, Lori Petty and Rosie O'Donnell. The movie brought a rejuvenated interest in the women's baseball league and brought Salty out of retirement and into the world of speaking engagements to youths.
"If my being here encourages one student to live their dream than it is worth it," said Salty.
Salty has visited nursing homes for the past 25 years and has been a school bus driver for 43 years.
Tim Sharrow, a teacher at the school, said that the students took an interest in the history of the national pasttime after several teachers incorporated baseball activities into the lesson plan. They learned which cities had major league baseball stadiums, how far apart they were located, and they learned how to calculate the cost of a vacation to visit the stadiums, which paired math and geography lessons into the project.
Salty encouraged the students to see the movie "A League of Their Own" and to visit the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y.