9-year-old Cleveland girl landed the top prize in a Major League
Baseball essay contest, earning her the chance to spend the day with
Jackie Robinson's daughter and throw out the first pitch at the
Milwaukee Brewers' game on Tuesday night. Natalie Meiselwitz, a
fourth-grader at Cleveland Elementary, won top honors in the 13th
annual "Breaking the Barriers" essay contest.
To view a PDF of Natalie's award-winning essay, click HERE.
8,000 fourth- through eighth-graders from the U.S., Canada and Puerto
Rico sent in essays earlier this year describing the challenges they
have faced in life and how they overcame them.
- whose prize package also includes a laptop computer, a personal visit
with Commissioner of Baseball Bud Selig and a trip to the All-Star game
in St. Louis this summer - wrote a three-page essay called "Open Heart
She detailed the sudden discovery of a
heart defect, how she underwent open-heart surgery in December and how
she found courage and strength in her family.
story is hard to believe, and I write it with tears coming down my face
because I am here to tell you the story of me," she wrote. "I am a
9-year-old girl who had her broken heart fixed."
Jackie Breaks The Barrier
Sharon Robinson - who visited Cleveland for an all-school assembly on
Tuesday morning - created the essay contest in honor of her father,
Jackie Robinson, the first black man to play in the modern era of Major
debuted with the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1947, ending nearly 64 years of
segregation. Baseball players celebrated the 62nd anniversary of his
breakthrough earlier this month by hitting the field wearing jerseys
bearing Robinson's uniform number 42.
Robinson, 59, compared Natalie to her father, and called it especially
impressive that Natalie kept her sights on her love of her family and
her dreams of becoming a doctor.
who fought his own heart troubles and died in 1972 after a heart attack
at the age of 53, would have appreciated seeing Natalie overcome a
short-term obstacle to reach her long-term goals, Sharon Robinson said.
fact that these kids are learning about him, learning about his
character, but then translating it to their own lives, I think he would
be very, very proud," she said. "He would have adored Natalie."
'A Bonus At The End'
On April 1, Sharon Robinson called Natalie to tell her she won the
international contest. Natalie handed the phone to a teacher before
"I was really happy, and tears of joy were coming down my face,"
Natalie said. "It's kind of nerve-racking, but yet so cool at the same
her appearance at the school - which also included cameos from the
Klement's Famous Racing Sausages mascots - Sharon Robinson spoke about
her father's breakthrough, asked the students questions about
overcoming their own barriers and read Natalie's essay aloud.
the Barriers" uses baseball as a metaphor for life and has reached more
than 14 million students. Judges grade essays on how well the students
described their barrier and whether the student responded with values
like courage, determination, integrity and teamwork.
Meiselwitz, Natalie's mother, wiped tears from her and called the last
few months overwhelming. She said she encouraged her daughter to write
the essay to vent her feelings after leaving the hospital.
never in my wildest dreams - this is just kind of a bonus at the end,"
Donna Meiselwitz said. "I remember reading it at my desk, and I was
crying and I was happy that she put that on paper. She poured her heart
into that essay."
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