Math Celebrity March 2018

positivity March 2018

How Math Improved My Game

of my glove. Somehow, physics found its way into baseball. What else could we do to defy gravity? I’d catch the ball, take my arm behind my ear, and throw, clocking in at 1.8 seconds. One day, I tried combining the two motions. I caught the ball, brought it behind my ear, and threw it, all in one swift motion. It shaved off a 10th of a second — I was at 1.7. That’s nothing, right? But when you think about how fast a runner can get from first base to second, that fraction of a second is the difference between getting an out and a free base for the other team. That millisecond can win or lose a game. You see where I’m going, of course. Inevitably, math finds its way into places we think it doesn’t belong. Baseball is seen as fun. Math — not so much. Kids dread their math homework like you dread your taxes. That’s why our math tutoring website exists. When you learn math and realize it can make you better at your favorite sport (or faster at your taxes), that’s pretty fun, isn’t it? These days, I play baseball in our local co-ed league with my wife. We’re not too worried about our batting averages or throwing speed. Still, there is a corner of my mind that remembers the drills we did in college, and as I wind up for a throw, I think, “How can I make this faster?” Baseball is all about efficiency and speed. You work for hours on drills just to shave off one millisecond.

I’ve played baseball since I was 7 years old. I did some football and wrestling as a kid, but I decided early on that

you want to keep improving at it. I loved the independence and focus of baseball — at the plate, it’s just you and the ball.

After high school, I got a baseball scholarship to the University of St. Francis, and it was there that I learned how to take my game to the next level. Timing is of the essence in baseball, and our coaches preached about small ways we could become faster, whether we were hitting, throwing, or running. As a catcher, maximizing my defensive position came down to milliseconds. I crouched behind home base, ready to grab the ball out of the air and send it to a new location before the runner could get there. In practices, our coaches timed us to see how long it took for us to make a throw. We were hyper-focused on how quickly we could get the ball from point A to point B. Our coaches would ask again and again, “From the moment the ball hits your glove to when it arrives at shortstop, how can

you reduce that time?” We knew the exact speed at which we could unload and get the ball to second base. One drill focused on reducing the amount of time and distance it took to get the ball out

– Don Sevcik

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