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Encore: The Great Ball Game

Jun 27, 2023


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This episode was originally released on February 19, 2019.

"The Great Ball Game" is now an illustrated picture book! Buy it here.

Here’s a fun fact:

Did you know there are nearly 8 billion people in the world?

And get this: if you were to say “hello” to all of them, one person at a time, it would take you more than 200 years!

But the cool thing is, even with so many people on earth, no two of us are the same. We’re all different. And in this story, “different” is the name of the game!

Our story is called “The Great Ball Game.” Versions of this tale come from the Cherokee, Creek, Ojibwe and Menominee people of North America.

Voices in this episode include: Elle Borders, James Konicek, Maizy Scarpa and William Jackson Harper. William Jackson Harper starred in NBC’s hit comedy series “The Good Place,” opposite Kristen Bell and Ted Danson. He appeared opposite John Krasinski in the second season of Amazon’s “Jack Ryan,” and has starred in “Love Life,” “The Resort,” and “The Underground Railroad.”

This story was adapted for Circle Round by Rebecca Sheir. Original music and sound design by Eric Shimelonis. Our artist is Sabina Hahn.

ADULTS! PRINT THIS so everyone can color while listening. We’re also keeping an album so share your picture on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or Pinterest, and tag it with #CircleRound. We'd love to see it! To access all the coloring pages for past episodes click HERE. Our resident artist is Sabina Hahn and you can learn more about her HERE.

Things To Think About After Listening

What’s one thing that makes you different… and proud?

Maybe you don’t devour bugs like Bat does, but perhaps you know more than one language, or have an extra-special collection of seashells. Maybe you’re learning how to play the bagpipes!

Whatever it is, find someone you have fun with and tell them all about it. Then ask them to talk about something that makes them different and proud of it!

Musical Spotlight: Hammond Organ

Unlike last week’s Circle Round instrument — the wind-driven pipe organ — the Hammond organ (named for its inventor, Laurens Hammond) uses turning metal wheels and electricity to produce sound. The most common Hammond organ has two stacked keyboards called “manuals,” switches called “drawbars” (pull them to make the sound louder, push them to make it softer), a feature known as "percussion" (which allows you to add melodic clicks), and a knob you turn to make the notes sound more wobbly, or more full - all of which make for one very versatile and exciting instrument!

CRANE: You silly animals! Look at us birds! Our wings allow us to soar and swoop up to the clouds! Clearly, we are one-hundred percent superior to you awkward earth-bound beasts!

NARRATOR: Then the animals… led by burly, bulky Bear… would say something like this:

BEAR: Hey - not so fast! We ‘awkward earth-bound beasts’ can run, swim and slither! Plus, we have teeth! Obviously, we are far more exceptional than you flighty bird-brains!

NARRATOR: The bickering went on and on.

Then, one day, the two sides actually found something they agreed on: a way to end the squabbling, once and for all.

CRANE: We will hold… a ball game!

BEAR: Yes! And whoever scores the first goal, his or her team…

CRANE / BEAR: ...wins the debate!

NARRATOR: So… early one morning... all the creatures faced off on a spacious, grassy field, flanked by two goals.

On one side of the field... were the birds. There was Crane, of course, along with Hawk and Eagle, Owl and Duck, Turkey and Crow, Raven and Sparrow… plus all the other birds who soared and swooped through the air.

On the other side of the field were the animals. Led by Bear, there was Deer and Fox, Rabbit and Skunk, Turtle and Frog, Lizard and Snake... plus all the other animals who ran, swam and slithered on the earth.

But just as the game was about to begin, an unfamiliar voice pierced the air.

BAT: Hey, guys! What about… me?

NARRATOR: Everyone turned to see who was talking. Halfway between the two teams…smack-dab in the middle of the field... stood a tiny creature nobody had ever seen before.

The pint-sized fella was no larger than a field mouse… or a chickadee. But he didn’t seem to be an animal… or a bird. Because you see, although he was furry, with huge, brown, oval ears… he also had wings!

But his wings weren’t covered with feathers. They were covered with skin!

The tiny critter’s name was — any guesses…?

That’s right!


BAT: So, guys...? Which side should I be on?

NARRATOR: Bear scratched his shaggy head.

BEAR: Well, little one... clearly, you have wings, so you can’t be on our side!

NARRATOR: Crane blinked her beady orange eyes.

CRANE: But look at him! He has fur! And teeth! So he certainly can’t be on our side!

NARRATOR: Once again, the birds and animals actually agreed on something:

neither side wanted Bat to join its team.

But Bat refused to give up.

BAT: Look. I tell you what. What if I give you three good reasons why you should pick me to join your side?

NARRATOR: Bear and Crane narrowed their eyes.

BEAR: Three reasons...?

CRANE: Okay...

BAT: Alright. Reason number one: my hearing! My ears can pick up just about anything! In fact, Bear...? Right now, I can hear the sound of honey dripping off your right front paw.

NARRATOR: Bear blushed.

BEAR: Ohhh. I guess I missed that from breakfast...

BAT: As for reason number two... My wings! Hey, Crane! Tell me: how fast can you fly?

NARRATOR: Crane fluffed her glossy white feathers.

CRANE: On a good day, I can fly 35 miles an hour!

BAT: Not bad... On a good day, I can clock in at nearly 100 miles an hour! (beat) Not only that, but — reason number three — I can eat bugs like nobody’s business! Especially at night - that’s when I really shine. At dinnertime alone, I can gobble up more than a thousand pesky mosquitoes!

NARRATOR: Bat paused. He took a deep breath.

BAT: So... I ask you all again. Which side should I be on?

NARRATOR: Bat’s hopeful eyes darted from one end of the field to the other. Now that both teams knew more about what he could offer, surely they’d change their minds and beg him to join!Right...?

We’ll find out whether Bat is ‘on the ball’… after a quick break.

NARRATOR: I’m Rebecca Sheir. Welcome back to Circle Round. Today our story is called “The Great Ball Game.”

When we left off, the animals and birds were about to go head-to-head in a ball game. Whoever scored the first goal would win the long-running argument about who was better: the animals, or the birds.

As the two teams squared off on the field, who should show up... but Bat! With his furry body and stretchy wings, the little fella wanted to know which team he should join. After all, he had so much to offer! Excellent hearing… amazing flying skills… not to mention how many bugs he could devour in a single night. He figured both the animals and birds would beg him to be their teammate!

But... that’s not what happened.

Instead, the team leaders… Bear and Crane... exchanged an uneasy look.

BEAR: I don’t know what to say, Bat. You’re just not like us animals!

CRANE: And you’re not like us birds, either!

BEAR: You’re… different.

CRANE: You don’t belong!

NARRATOR: Bat frowned. Then he tucked in his wings and hung his fuzzy brown head.

BAT: Alright. I get it. Enjoy your game.

NARRATOR: And with that, Bat slumped off the field and disappeared into the forest.

Moments later, the game began.

Right from the start, both teams played hard. On the animals’ side, the first one to get a hold of the ball… was Deer.

DEER: A-ha! Got it!

NARRATOR: But as the graceful creature loped down the field toward the birds’ goal, she got… distracted.

DEER: Oh! Ow! Yikes! Eeee!

NARRATOR: You see, something had swooped down and started flipping and flapping all around her head: Raven!

DEER: Get away, bird! Go! Gah!

NARRATOR: Frustrated, Deer hurled the ball toward Fox.DEER: Ha-yah!

NARRATOR: But before Fox had a chance to catch it, Hawk zoomed over and stole it!

HAWK: Nah nah nah nah nah!

NARRATOR: Hawk passed the ball to Eagle, who began to dive toward the animals’ goal.

EAGLE: Make way! Eagle coming through!

NARRATOR: But as Eagle glided downward, who should hop up and tear the ball from the bird’s talons, but Rabbit!

RABBIT: Ha ha!

NARRATOR: This kind of thing went on all day. Just when it seemed like one team was about to score, the other side would make a surprise move and intercept the ball!

Before long, the sun was setting and both the animals and birds were exhausted. Bear and Crane called for a time out. They huddled together in the dimming light.

BEAR: Hey, Crane… Whuddya say we take a break and start the game again tomorrow? You and your birds seem awfully tuckered out.

CRANE: ‘Tuckered out’?!? Not at all! (beat) Though I was about to say, you and your animals look utterly drained…!

BEAR: Who, us?!? Naw. We’re spry as ever! In fact, we could keep playing all night if we had to!

CRANE: As could we!

BEAR: Then maybe we should!

CRANE: Maybe we should!

NARRATOR: Well, that settled it. The animals and birds kept playing.

Or trying to play, anyway.

Once the sun sank below the horizon and it got dark, most of the creatures couldn’t see a thing! Animals like Bear and Skunk had excellent night vision, as did birds like Owl. But everyone else stumbled this way and that.

To make matters worse, as the inky sky drained of light, the warm air filled… with bugs! Mosquitoes, mostly. The pesky insects weren’t playing on either team… but they drove both sides bonkers as they buzzed, hummed and bit!

Despite the growing chaos, Bear managed to seize the ball and lumber toward the birds’ goal. It seemed like he might actually score… and win the game for the animals!

But then…?

...the biggest mosquito you ever did see landed right on Bear’s nose… and bit down.


BEAR: Aaaaaaaaaagh!!!!

NARRATOR: As Bear grabbed his nose, the ball went flying from his paws. It sailed up, up, up… past the animals, past the birds. It whizzed up over the treetops… and disappeared.

The two teams fell silent. Without a ball, how could they play the game? And without playing the game, how could they decide, once and for all, which side was better?

Nobody knew what to do. Everyone just stared at the treetops.Then… all at once… they gasped.

BEAR / CRANE / DEER / HAWK / EAGLE: (ad-lib gasp)

NARRATOR: Because suddenly, something appeared in the sky above them. It was a tiny creature, darting this way and that before hovering right above everyone’s heads.

The creature was furry, with wings, and no larger than a field mouse… or a chickadee. Clutched tightly in its little claws… was the ball!

BAT: Hey, guys! Looking for something...?

NARRATOR: Bear and Crane were stunned.

BEAR / CRANE: Bat!!!

BEAR: How did you find that ball?!?

CRANE: And so quickly?!?

BEAR: It’s dark!!

CRANE: It’s buggy!!

BEAR: Not even my team of animals could…!?!!

CRANE: ...and not even my team of birds could…!?!!

NARRATOR: As Bear and Crane struggled for words, Bat shook his head.

BAT: Guys. It’s like I told you: I had three good reasons why you should pick me to join your side. (beat) My ears are so excellent, I could hear exactly where the ball landed! My flying’s so good, I could pick up that ball and bring it back in no time!

NARRATOR: Bear scratched his itchy nose.

BEAR: And… the bugs…?

NARRATOR: Bat smiled, stuck out his long pink tongue, then zipped around the field. Before the animals and birds knew it, every single mosquito… was gone!

BAT: It’s like I said! I can devour bugs like nobody’s business. Especially at night!

NARRATOR: Bat licked his lips, then lowered himself down to the grass.

BAT: So, Bear... Crane... you’re right! I am “different.” (beat) But you know what? So are all of you!

NARRATOR: Bat extended a stretchy wing toward the birds.

BAT: Crane, just look at the differences among your team alone! Owl over there flies and hunts at night… Turkey waddles and gobbles during the day… and Hummingbird is so tiny, she’s smaller than me!

CRANE: You do have a point!

BAT: Mm-hmm! And Bear…

NARRATOR: Bat gestured toward the animals.

BAT: Take a look at your team. Frog ribbits and hops... Snake slithers and hisses… and Turtle spends most of her time inside her shell!

BEAR: That’s true, isn’t it!?!

BAT: Guys! We’re all different! And “different” can be good. “Different” can be great! If we were all the same… think what a boring world this would be!

NARRATOR: The animals and birds all looked at Bat.Then, they all looked at each other.Then, they closed their eyes.Together, they tried picturing a place where everybody... was the same.Where everyone just had fur… or scales… or feathers.

Where everyone just walked… or swam… or flew.

Where everyone made the same sounds… ate the same foods… did the same things.

And… thanks to furry, flying Bat… both the animals and birds found yet another thing they agreed upon:

Nobody wanted to live in a world like that.

ADULTS!Things To Think About After ListeningMusical Spotlight: Hammond OrganStory Transcript