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05/30/07 10:00 AM ET

The Jake serves as classroom for a day

Indians host 12,000 students for educational field trip

CLEVELAND -- Temperatures had dropped into the low 50s, clouds turned away the sun and a biting wind sliced through the upper deck at Jacobs Field.

But on this Thursday afternoon, as the Indians hosted the year's second WKYC Weather Education Day, the unseasonably cool conditions were fitting.

"We get to watch baseball, learn about weather and freeze," said Cindy Urbic, a fourth-grade teacher at Euclid's Thomas Jefferson Elementary School. "It's the whole package. This reinforces everything about how the weather works, including cold fronts."

Yes, it was a day of learning for the 12,000 kids who embarked on a field trip to The Jake on May 17.

This included a lesson in baseball's whimsical nature as 23-year-old Fausto Carmona outpitched Twins ace Johan Santana for a second straight time. And, of course, a little "real" education as well.

An astounding 250 busloads of elementary and middle school students, from Ashland to Ashtabula, nearly filled the park's entire lower bowl before a Thursday matinee against Minnesota for a crash course review of "how weather works."

During the hour-long event, WKYC meteorologist Mark Nolan and a few other local weather gurus used a slideshow presentation on the scoreboard to illustrate everything from how forecasting is done to weather safety to why baseballs travel farther in warmer conditions.

The lessons were built with the state's curriculum in mind, designed as a fun review of information the students had already learned in school. After all, the schools' principals had to sign off on the trip.

"Everything here goes with state standards," said Regina Glendenning, a teacher at William C. Bryant Middle School in Cleveland. "And this day is also used as a reward for the students. We don't bring them if they don't have good grades."

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The idea for such a day was born two years ago and modeled after a similarly successful program run by the Kansas City Royals, said Renee Boerner, the club's group sales manager. The Indians agreed to partner with a local weather station, WKYC, and slap two Weather Education Days on its 2006 slate.

But how to sell it? How to convince schools on the educational value of professional baseball? That was the biggest question.

What it took was hitting the road, college recruitment-style. Dominic Polito, an Indians account executive, pitched the program to almost every area superintendent, visited with hundreds of elementary school principals and sent flyers out across the state.

"Teachers are really looking for places to go on field trips, but it has to have an educational aspect to it," Boerner said. "That's what we needed to convince them."

They did. Big time. For one of the two dates last season, almost 12,000 kids turned out. The same thing happened on May 17.

Many schools were return customers, and it was not hard to see why.

"Look at them, they're very excited," Urbic said, gazing down at her class from atop the upper deck in left field. "It's been fun."

David Briggs is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.