When Alex Detwiler turned in a bonus assignment for his eighth-grade English class, he never imagined it would lead to anything more than a few extra credit points.
He was wrong: Alex will now be recognized for his work at PNC Park in front of thousands of people.
A 13-year-old student at Indiana Area Junior High School, Alex won the Jackie Robinson Essay Contest sponsored by the Pittsburgh Pirates and will be honored at Friday night’s game against the Milwaukee Brewers. The contest challenged students in Grades 3 through 8 in the greater Pittsburgh area to write an essay about the struggles that Jackie Robinson faced when he broke the color barrier in major league baseball on April 15, 1947.
“I was surprised,” Alex said. “My teacher had hinted at something at school that day, and it made me curious, and I found out when I got home. They sent me a letter in the mail telling me I won.”
Students in Robyn Bailey-Orchard’s class were encouraged to write an essay for extra credit, which she then sent in to be entered in the contest. Alex, the son of Christy and Jared Detwiler, of Indiana, took first place in the seventh- and eighth-grade essay division. There were also contests for art and poetry.
“It was a bonus opportunity in class, and she also said we could use them as an extra writing in our journals,” Alex said.
“There have been probably two other things we’ve done like this. She sends them in for contests, but I never thought I’d actually win. I still got bonus points, too.”
The essays had a 200-word limit and a March 21 deadline. There were about 3,200 total entries, and first- and second-place winners were chosen in each division. The students will take the field before Friday’s game, which is the Pirates’ first home game following Tuesday’s Jackie Robinson Day in the major leagues.
“We had to write about the things (Robinson) faced during his career in baseball and in his life,” said Alex. “My favorite sport is probably baseball. I try to keep up with the Pirates’ scores and news.”
In addition to being honored in a pre-game ceremony, the winners of the art, essay and poem contests will be honored at a banquet, receive autographed items from the Pirates and take part in a meet-and-greet session. Each student was also given six tickets to the game.
“I’m excited, for sure,” Alex said. “I’m ready to go. I got a new jersey to wear to the game, and it will be a lot of fun.”
When asked if he was nervous to take the field in front of that many people, though, he said: “Let’s just not talk about that.”