By Kathy Chouteau
The Willie Mays Field at Nicholl Park was alight with the smiling faces of Junior Giants players Tues., Oct. 25, when the team gathered for a Chevron Richmond STEM event that drove home how math relates to baseball.
Approximately 30 kids from the Junior Giants team and their families came out for the enrichment event—a cooperative effort among Chevron, the Giants Community Fund and local league coordinator, the Richmond Police Activities League (RPAL), that featured Randy Winn, a onetime San Francisco Giant.
Sue Petersen, executive director of the Giants Community Fund, welcomed players in the baseball diamond’s outfield and shared how the Giants Community Fund helps run the Junior Giants program and that Richmond was one of its first teams. “Today is gonna be fun. It’s about you guys, it’s about education…you’re gonna learn what STEM is,” she said to cheers.
Petersen also gave special props to the Fund’s partners and friends at RPAL and Chevron Richmond, which she said has been “supporting the Giants Community Fund for 30 years.” Juliet Don, corporate affairs representative at Chevron who is also co-chair of the Fund’s Board of Directors, followed Petersen by introducing her colleagues lending help that day—Lily Rahnema, Dustin Greene and Derek Sheldon—and by sharing that “Chevron is pleased to partner with organizations in our communities and we’re pleased to be here.”
Winn got the STEM activity underway by first explaining to the players how math plays a role in baseball—such as in determining batting averages—and how velocity and launch angle are essential to understand when hitting the ball. Greene, a shift supervisor in Chevron’s Richmond Technology Center, coupled Winn’s comments by underscoring how, to hit a home run, the players need to hit the ball at an upward angle and that they would demonstrate that by using a balloon launcher to send squishy balls into the outfield.
The players divided up into groups and tested the STEM lessons by placing the squishy balls into large, rubber band-style launchers typically used for water balloons. While Winn, Greene and other helpers held both sides of the launchers, players pulled the middle of the band back at their preferred angle and launched the squishy balls into the field.
Players quickly learned that, to reach the outfield’s outer limits, they needed to angle the launcher upward and pull the band back far enough to really send the ball soaring.
The Junior Giants got some additional exercise by then retrieving their squishy balls from the far reaches of the outfield and bringing them back in for relaunching.
In all, the fun-in-the-sun STEM activities Tuesday made for some very happy youth out on Willie Mays Field, named for the Giants’ Hall of Famer earlier this year, and also lessons that will likely resonate far beyond the baseball diamond.
“I think the Junior Giants are important because of the lessons you learn off the field. It’s great to learn how to catch and throw, but learning about education, how to treat other people, teamwork, hard work—all of those things are equally as important as getting out there,” Winn, who also serves on the Fund’s Board of Directors, told the players that day.