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MELISSA BLOCK, host:

One member of our political team is not in Denver. NPR's David Greene is taking a road trip during both the Democratic and Republican conventions. He's working his way from Barack Obama's home base of Chicago to John McCain's home base of Phoenix. And David, you're at the front end of this trip. You've left Chicago in your rearview mirror. How far have you gotten?

DAVID GREENE: Well, we are in Alton, Illinois, Melissa. It's right along the Mississippi River.

BLOCK: So you've crossed the state. And tell us about this assignment, David. The whole idea here is get out of the convention center, get out into America.

GREENE: Yeah. And I'll tell you, the Holiday Inn in Alton feels a world away from all the crowds at the convention in Denver right now. So the trip, we're keeping it very flexible and seeing where it takes us, but our theme is leadership. We're calling it take me to your leader. And that seemed appropriate during these conventions about presidential leadership. But we're asking people, you know, who they admire, who they look up to in their own communities and seeing what we hear.

BLOCK: And who are we going to hear from today?

GREENE: Well, we're hanging out yesterday at this great little minor-league ballpark in Gary, Indiana. Gary is a city that's struggled economically. It's outside Chicago. But their team, the Railcats, just made the playoffs. And so there's been a bit of excitement about that, and their stadium is right near the railroad tracks; they really like to push the whole railroad theme.

BLOCK: Okay. Let's take a listen to what you heard.

(Soundbite of train whistle)

GREENE: So it cost me seven bucks to get into the stadium, and it was worth it. One of the first people I met was a food vendor who introduced herself as Miss Fantastic, and I just had to ask where that name came from.

Ms. DEBORA LEWIS(ph) (Food Vendor): Honey, you don't even have time to listen.

GREENE: I do have time to listen.

Ms. LEWIS: No, you don't. Trust me, you don't, because of so many reasons, so many variables.

GREENE: What's one of the reasons…

Ms. LEWIS: Oh, I'm a fantastic cook. I'm a fantastic listener.

GREENE: So who would you say you look up to in your life?

Ms. LEWIS: My mom. She has Alzheimer's right now, but my mom.

GREENE: Miss Fantastic, or Debora Lewis is her real name, said she takes her mom candy whenever she can.

Ms. LEWIS: I can tell that she's glad to see me, you know, her eye movement and stuff. And sometimes, you know, she can answer me when I talk to her - yes, no, uh-huh.

(Soundbite of "The Star-Spangled Banner")

(Soundbite of applause)

GREENE: Nearby, Laurie Blakely(ph) was handing out free foam baseballs to fans. Laurie works for the Railcats. She's 27 and has some major-league dreams.

Ms. LAURIE BLAKELY (Employee, Gary Railcats): Well, my dream job is to work for the Cubs and be their general manager.

GREENE: As for someone guiding her these days?

Ms. BLAKELY: As far as idol in the minor-league team, our general manager here, Bill Terlecky, he's a great boss and a great role model, somebody to look up to.

GREENE: So I asked a guy with a walkie-talkie if he could find Bill, and he delivered. It turns out Bill's been in baseball for three decades, but he faces a special challenge in Gary, since it's known as a tough town.

Mr. BILL TERLECKY (General Manager, Gary Railcats): Because of that aura that surrounds Gary a little bit, it does cause us to work a little harder to convince folks that it's okay to come up here, you know?

GREENE: What's it like to run a minor-league baseball team? It's something I wouldn't know.

Mr. TERLECKY: Well, it's a lot of fun. I mean, really, when you look at it, it's like - we have 48 home games. It's like going to 48 parties, you know? I mean, we invite you to come down to the ballpark. We get the place all cleaned up. We cook up some food.

You know, at the end of the day, we're not - I mean, we're not splitting the atom, we're not curing cancer. It's a minor-league baseball team. We try to keep it, you know, not too many hard days, you know, there really aren't.

GREENE: Bill Terlecky, one of the leaders we've met on our road trip. And if you have any suggestions for where else I should stop on this trip, e-mail me at meetyourleaders@npr.org. This is David Greene, NPR News.

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