A Different Medium

Digging through Nate’s room last week, I came across some of his 3-D graphics work he made in an 11th grade course. It was a class that, as the ballplayers say, was right in his wheelhouse, a fat pitch that fed into his computer strengths. Only it wasn’t. At least not at first. I was asked to come to school at 2:45, to discuss Nate’s lack of progress with his teacher and one on one aide.

Mr. Pikarsky, squinting behind his glasses, explained how Nate simply wasn’t grasping the tasks set forth, that he seemed disconnected. “This is an upper level course, perhaps it’s too much for him.”

I’d seen this scene play out many times before. Nate doesn’t do well at something, his teachers or counselors ready to throw in the towel and, then, Nate dramatically turns things around and soars.

“I wouldn’t give up on him so soon. He may never get it, but he may get it tomorrow. I’d rather wait and see then remove him from class.”

Mr. Pikarsky agreed and within one or two class periods, Nate became a star, spitting out beautiful lifelike images from the printer behind the teacher’s desk. Even when he wasn’t supposed to be creating a graphic, Nate would send a new work out. Often, Mr. Pikarsky would have to stop speaking as the whirring of the printer started and another Nate project emerged.

“Stop printing Nate!” he’d say sternly, though not angrily. He was won over by Nate and, as he saw his ability, suggested to us that Nate should pursue a college degree in graphic design at a state college in nearby Cobleskill. The rest is history.

It’s one of those moments that reaffirmed why we moved here. None of this would have happened had I not been available to run over to the high school, talk to the teacher, and advocate for Nate. None of it. Had I still been working, slogging away at the computer, working the phones for a trading opportunity, Nate’s life would have turned out differently, and not for the better. Back in Chicago, there was no way I would have left work early for a ten minute conversation at school. In Cooperstown, I could, and did.

These are the pictures. They are realistic and primitive, very simple in look. It’s the same style that marks his strip mall drawings. And it works. Don’t forget, Nate Katz is a professional artist.

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About Jeff Katz

Jeff Katz is Mayor of Cooperstown, the “Birthplace of Baseball” and home to the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum. His latest book, Split Season:1981 - Fernandomania, the Bronx Zoo, and the Strike that Saved Baseball, (Thomas Dunne Books, 2015), received national attention, with coverage appearing in The New York Times, Chicago Tribune, Sporting News and NPR’s Only a Game, among others. Katz appeared on ESPN’s Olbermann and The Sporting Life with Jeremy Schaap and MLB Network’s MLB Now, with Brian Kenny. Split Season: 1981 was a finalist for the 2016 Casey Award for Best Baseball Book of the Year.
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