Have a Ball with Ball Play

Each day after work, Jeremy Saucier is greeted by his two-year-old son, Sam, and a game of catch. Jeremy played football throughout high school and in his first few years at Wesleyan University in Connecticut. Now he’s left tackles behind him and spends his time tossing a ball with his enthusiastic son. Time may have changed the way he plays, but it has not altered Jeremy’s appreciation for ball play.

Willie Mays 3000 hit baseball, on loan courtesy of the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum in Cooperstown, New YorkSaucier, The Strong’s Assistant Vice President for Interpretation, had a lead role in the development of the museum’s summer exhibit—Have a Ball. In addition to providing historical background and contributing to interactive designs, Saucier selected artifacts for the exhibit. One featured in the exhibit is Willie Mays’ 3000th hit ball on loan from the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum in Cooperstown. Saucier explained that when the theme of ball play was selected for this summer’s exhibit, he reached out to the Cooperstown museum and together concluded that Willie Mays’ ball would be the perfect draw. “In my opinion, Mays is the best all-around baseball player,” Saucier said. Saucier hopes the milestone artifact of the “Say Hey Kid” will attract people to the exhibit who hadn’t thought of visiting The Strong before.

Leather ball, ca. 1600s, The Strong, Rochester, New YorkAnother fascinating artifact on display in Have a Ball is the oldest ball in The Strong’s collection. This leather ball is believed to be from the 1600s. As story has it, the moss-filled ball was found washed up on the bank of the Thames River in London. It eventually became part of the collection at the Old Salem Toy Museum in North Carolina which closed its doors in 2010 and The Strong acquired it in 2011.

Have a Ball exhibit featuring Sphero Robot Park and arcade games, The Strong, Rochester, New YorkContrasting with these rare artifacts, the exhibit also includes high-tech interactives for guests to play. One of those technological devices is Sphero—the original app-enabled robotic ball. “Sphero has taken something sort of ancient and has innovated it,” Saucier said. In the Sphero Robot Park, guests can step up to an iPad and control their own Sphero. As the “cutting edge of ball play,” Saucier said he is impressed with all Spheros can do, and he is excited for them to be highlighted in the space.

Have a Ball exhibit artifact case, The Strong, Rochester, New YorkDespite the growth ball play has had over the centuries, Saucier still enjoys a basic game of catch the most. “There are so many sports, so many games. But now, just a game of catch is fun for me to do.” Whether your favorite game is bowling or soccer, baseball or pinball, billiards or bocce, you’re sure to find numerous activities to enjoy in this summer’s Have a Ball exhibit, on view through September 4.