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D 49 Sports

Baseball: more than a game

Although we canít bring you up-to-date coverage of D 49 athletic events and programs, we can bring you in-depth and personal information about players and coaches and their game-day achievements. NFH sports columnist Steve Wood is a special education teacher and head baseball coach at Calhan High School.Back in the summers of the 1960s, my mom loved baseball ñ the great American pastime ñ mainly because baseball got my brothers and me out of the house and down to the park for entire days. Mom packed a brown paper bag full of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, lots of fig newtons, the old camping canteen full of water (no plastic water bottles in those days); and, after grabbing our cracked wooden bat, gloves and a half-stitched baseball, we were off on our banana-seat bikes until dark. After hours of sliding in the dirt, diving to make amazing catches (that would surely have made the ESPN top ten plays-of-the-day if there was an ESPN back then), arguing and fighting over close plays, hitting each other in the head with wild pitches and eating those PB&J sandwiches after a few were dropped in the dirt; we were exhausted. But we still had just enough energy to ride over to Duckwallís on our way home to buy a pack of Toppís baseball cards for a nickel. The thick, hard, pink slab of bubble gum was the best reward for stolen bases and monstrous homers. We would rifle through the dozen or so cards to see if we had any doubles. The doubles would go into the trash can (making them worth millions today) or onto the bike spokes to create the great ìmotorî sound. Or, if my buddy didnít have the Sandy Koufax card, we would trade. I traded one of my duplicates for any of his cards I didnít have, even Paul Casanova. (How could I know the Koufax card would be worth hundreds someday ñ and the Casanova only a dime?) Although today baseball has become more organized and structured, it is still an important summer pastime, in more ways than one.Now that I am a high school teacher, I am finding that for boys, especially, baseball can be valuable during the summer in another way. Teachers for some time have noticed the scholastic drop off that occurs from the first of June to the last of August, especially in math skills, because of the summer break. Baseball has always been the sport of statistics, from a switch-hitterís batting average from both sides of the plate against lefties in night games to a pitcherís ERA (earned run average) in every ballpark. Baseball is a statisticianís ìnirvanaî and could be the key to summer math practice for every young ballplayer. Every hitter wants to know his batting average. Tell your young shortstop to divide his ìhitsî by his ìat-bats.î Troy Tulowitzki, shortstop for the Colorado Rockies, has 45 hits in 134 at-bats for a .336 batting average. All of the references to stats on Rockies players are totals as of May 20.Your rookie outfielder will want to know his ìslugging percentage.î He divides his total bases (homers count as four bases, triples three, doubles two, singles one) by his at-bats. Rockies Carlos Gonzalez also has 10 homers, one triple and 11 doubles. His total hits are 49, meaning he has 27 singles, if you subtract these extra-base hits. Thatís 92 total bases. Divide 92 by his 159 at-bats, and ìCargoî has a .579 slugging percentage. If your southpaw pitching ace wants to know his ERA, you take his earned runs allowed, divide it by his innings pitched and multiply that by nine. Rockies Jorge De La Rosa has allowed 20 earned runs in 50 innings pitched. Thatís 20 divided by 50, which is 0.40; and, when multiplied by nine, gives the Rockies ace an ERA of 3.60. Another pitching statistic that is more accurate in measuring a pitcherís effectiveness is called the ìWHIP,î which stands for ìwalks and hits per innings pitched.î John Garland of the Rockies has given up 55 hits and 14 walks in his 46 innings pitched so far this season. Thatís a WHIP of 1.50 when you divide 69 by 46. (The very best pitchers in baseball have a WHIP of around 1.00).To keep your all-starís math skills sharp this summer, here are some free resources I recommend as a high school baseball coach and teacher that bring baseball and math together. On the official Colorado Rockies website there is a section called ìcommunity.î Go to the educational outreach section under community, then to the educational packet and download the educational packet. This educational packet contains baseball math problems for fourth graders through high school students.KOA Radio sponsors the ìIBM-KOA and Rockies Math Challenge,î which includes baseball math problems submitted every week from various schools in the area. Go to to get the baseball math problems. The contact for the IBM Mentor Place Program is Bill Prater and he can be reached at good website for baseball math is http://; click on the ìsports mathî section.By August, you will not only have a better pitcher and hitter, you will also have a more skilled mathematician, who is more than ever prepared for the next school year.

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