By Kathy Chouteau
About 150 youth players from Richmond’s Junior Giants baseball, T-ball and softball teams gathered at Nicholl Park Tuesday afternoon for a STEM Zone event to learn how math plays a pivotal role in their favorite sport.
The event, a collaboration between Chevron, the Giants Community Fund and the Richmond Police Activities League (RPAL), which coordinates the league, took place on the park’s baseball diamond with some very special guests: San Francisco Giants’ alumni Randy Winn and Mike “Tiny” Felder, who is also a Richmond native.
“It’s an opportunity to connect with young people in the community, and show them how different aspects of STEM fit into, in this case, baseball,” said Chevron Richmond Community Engagement Manager Lily Rahnema about the event, adding, “Chevron’s investments in education are long-term and far-reaching, and our support for STEM positions the next generation of problem solvers to tackle the most complex challenges of the future.”
Chevron Corporate Affairs Representative Juliet Don, who serves on the Giants Community Fund Board of Directors, kicked things off with brief intros and then Chevron Richmond engineer Nicole Peacock went to bat drawing parallels between baseball and math for the players.
“If you hit [the ball] at a certain angle with a certain velocity, that ball’s gonna go over the fence,” said Peacock. She further explained that velocity is “how fast your ball is gonna fly through the air,” that trajectory is the “angle that [the] ball comes off into the crowd and goes through the air” and how these components relate to both throwing and hitting the baseball.
The players broke into groups and put Peacock’s lesson to the test with squishy balls in large, rubber band-style launchers typically used for water balloons. While Winn, Felder and other adults held each side of multiple launchers, youths pulled the middle of the band back at their preferred angle and launched the squishy balls into the field. By their second try, many players had learned to angle the launcher slightly upward and pull it back far enough to reach the outfield.
Meanwhile, several Junior Giants lent an assist by throwing the squishy balls back into the infield for relaunching.
For former San Francisco Giant Felder, the event was a homecoming. “I grew up right here on the south side right off 17th and Cutting,” said the Richmond native, noting that it brought back the days when he played baseball as a youth on the same field. “Maybe one or two of [these kids] might have aspirations of trying to make it to the pros one day.”
Fellow former San Francisco Giant Winn echoed Felder’s sentiments about participating in the event, saying that “it’s not necessarily about me, but the idea that a kid that used to play Little League Baseball was able to make the big leagues.” He added that he and Felder represent the dream. “That you’re playing on this field or in front of your house with your brother or neighbors and that can translate into becoming a Major League player.”
Richmond’s Junior Giants didn’t just walk away from the baseball diamond with some new STEM knowledge that day—they also took home some sweet swag bags courtesy of Chevron. The bright blue packs included STEM Zone baseball hats, a Willie McCovey #44 jersey pin, sunglasses that change color in the sunlight, a ruler and more goodies.
RPAL Operations Manager and Junior Giants Commissioner Jerry Anderson said the STEM Zone helped top off the players’ last game of the season and that the league is “really about building character and teaching the kids how to play this game of baseball,” underscoring key things like social skills, goal setting and sportsmanship.
Sue Petersen, executive director of Giants Community Fund, which oversees the Junior Giants program, said that Richmond and Richmond PAL stand as an example to other communities for the excellent work they do running one of the oldest Junior Giants Leagues. She also underscored that “joining together with Chevron is something that we are very grateful for” and that without their partners, they couldn’t do the work that they do.
“When we can bring corporate and community folks together, and then join with them with the Giants Community Fund in our Junior Giants program, it makes magic happens. So today is a great day,” said Petersen.