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Retiring kindergarten teacher hits one out of the park

Sandy Crisp could think of no better way to celebrate his retirement party, after 35 years of teaching, than at the ballpark.

Sports, and particularly baseball, will do that to you.

Especially when you throw out the ceremonial first pitch with hundreds of school kids as a screaming backdrop.

Crisp brought more than 600 of his closest friends with him Thursday afternoon to Royal Athletic Park for the Victoria HarbourCats’ West Coast League game against the Gresham GreyWolves. They included 440 students from Oaklands Elementary School, where Crisp has taught the past 28 years.

The “K” in baseball denotes a strikeout. In the K-12 school system it means something else, and Crisp has worked his entire career as a rare male kindergarten teacher.

“It is very unusual,” Crisp said.

“Parents were wondering at the beginning. Then they became very trusting over the years. There was never a day I did not look forward to coming to school.”

It speaks volumes about Crisp’s career that nearly the entire population of Oaklands School was out for the game Thursday. The rest were parents and other students he taught over the years. In total, much of the crowd was out in honour of Crisp, a former baseball pitcher and Vic West soccer player.

An ardent sports fan who fostered in his young kindergartners a love of physical activity, Crisp would have it no other way for his retirement celebration.

When he made it clear he didn’t want something like a tea in the activities room as a farewell, parents of his students knew of his love of sport, and his involvement with school teams, and came up with the HarbourCats baseball idea. Crisp loved it.

Especially the 50/50 collection for the game, which will go to the Team For Hope. It was set up in honour of Rene Soto, one of Crisp’s former Oaklands students, who died last August at age nine of neuroblastoma. Crisp delivered the eulogy in a packed Oaklands gym.

Rene’s parents, Julia and Luis, were both at Crisp’s HarbourCats retirement game.

“That was really special,” Crisp said.

So was the teaching career celebrated Thursday afternoon by hundreds at the old ball yard on Caledonia.

cdheensaw@times colonist.com

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