Vanderbilt Baseball Players Set Good Example For Nashville Elementary School Students

When students at Eakin Elementary School kept arriving late, Vanderbilt baseball players started showing up early.

Vanderbilt Baseball

Eric Hartfelder

Nashville’s Eakin Elementary School sits in the shadow of Vanderbilt University. 

“You can literally see the athletic facilities from our library window,” executive principal Eric Hartfelder tells Southern Living. “When there are football games we have parking at our school. They’re our neighbors.”

But the school’s prime location has its downfalls. Chief among them: traffic.  

Recently, Hartfelder noticed that gridlocks were causing more and more students to show up late for school. So, with the help of their neighbors at Vanderbilt Athletics, he came up with a way to get families out the door earlier. 

Eakin Elementary School’s new early morning arrival alleviates traffic and gets kids up early and excited to come to school. How? By enticing them with the opportunity to spend time with members of Vanderbilt’s famous Commodores baseball team before the first bell rings. 

Most mornings, a handful of baseball players volunteer to make the two-minute walk to the elementary. There, for 15 to 20 minutes before the start of the school day, they play basketball, give high-fives, and socialize with students. 

“Our mission is to go around the school and give these kids something to smile about,” Patrick Reilly, a pitcher on the Commodores, told MSMV.

Vanderbilt Baseball

Eric Hartfelder

Hartfelder says that the presence of the baseball players has “transformed” mornings at the school. 

“Kids are helping push their parents out the door,” he explains. “The day starts with a fun interaction that makes them feel important. We provide more than an education, we provide a childhood. That all starts with getting kids into school early, excited, and ready to learn.” 

But it’s not just about getting kids in the door, it’s exposing them to more male role models and showing them that they can do great things too. 

“The guys that are coming are team leaders. They’re veterans, upperclassmen… guys that are going to be drafted, but even more than that, they’re top role models,” Hartfelder says. “They are the best college kids you can find. This is who you want your children to grow up to be. People who know that kindness is cool.” 

Vanderbilt Baseball

Eric Hartfelder

Eakin Elementary School’s relationship with Vanderbilt Athletics isn’t just limited to the baseball team. They also have strong partnerships with the women’s basketball and football teams.  Cheerleaders have even stopped by to teach baton twirling during PE class, Hartfelder says. 

“I want our kids to see great people doing great things so they know they can too,” he continues. “What’s the harm in thinking you’ll play in the major leagues or go to Vanderbilt one day? Vandy is the major league of colleges. If you shoot for Vandy and you don’t make it, you’ll still be incredibly successful. Children should be empowered to know they can do whatever path they choose for themselves.” 

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