A three-time World Series champion stopped by the baseball field at Nicholl Park in Richmond to meet the young talent on Monday, and he was certainly impressed.
“This is a little different from what I did as a kid,” former San Francisco Giants pitcher Jeremy Affeldt said.
More than play ball, Affeldt joined the Jr. Giants in conducting science experiments as part of an education partnership with Chevron.
This summer, Chevron and the Giants Community Fund teamed up to bring a STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) component to Junior Giants participants that aims to teach basic STEM principles through the game of baseball.
On Monday, Affeldt joined Jacob Ansley, the Designs Engineer Manager at the Richmond Refinery, in leading youth in baseball-related activities, such as dropping two objects from the same height to learn about mass, and using a giant slingshot as part of a lesson on trajectory and angle.
Affeldt said the science program was yet another important life skill offered by the Jr. Giants that he never received in his youth. Affeldt also lauded the program’s focus on teamwork ahead of competition.
Science is becoming an important factor in baseball.
“You’re starting to see launch angle,” Affeldt said. “The game is talking about spin rate and all these different things.”
Affeldt isn’t surprised one bit – the pitcher described how science has disadvantaged batters from the start.
“The laws of physics will tell you a round object hitting a round object, it’s impossible to square up,” he said. “But that’s how you hit a baseball. You square up a baseball.”
That mission to defy physics, Affeldt said, is why a 30 percent success rate can make you a hall of fame batter.
“You have a 30 percent rate elsewhere, you’re probably getting fired,” he said.
That kind of scientific understanding can further help young players dust off a strikeout and understand that “this is not an easy game,” and to accept and embrace failure, Affeldt added.
“A lot of our kids enjoy these sports but don’t fully realize how much math and science are incorporated,” said Brandon Davis, co-commissioner of the Jr. Giants and program coordinator for the Richmond Police Activities League (RPAL). “Once we start exposing them to that, they will realize they’re as much thinkers as they are athletes.”
What better way to bring that message home than with a star pitcher and science experiments involving slingshots?
“This is a fun opportunity to engage kids in STEM,” said Lily Rahnema, community engagement manager for Chevron Richmond. “They can see that STEM doesn’t just come out of textbooks, but it can be found in anything, including sports like baseball. And everyone has a good time learning about it, even their parents.”
Chevron has partnered with multiple professional sports teams nationally on STEM education initiatives, including the Oakland A’s and San Francisco 49ers. For more information on the company’s variety of STEM education initiatives, visit here.