Sunday, April 29, 2012

The 50th Anniversary of the Mets

My good friend, Elizabeth Strom from the University of
South Florida.  Liz is an avid baseball fan and the Director
of USF's Office of Community Engagement.
 Over the last few days, I attended the 50th Anniversary of the New York Mets Conference at Hofstra where I gave a paper on sustainability in baseball with my good friend, Liz Strom, from the University of South Florida.

The conference was interesting and a great deal of fun.  I've learned that while I thought I was a baseball fan, nothing compares with the fans I saw at the conference.  There were whole sessions on individual games and people spoke at great length about single plays from the 1960's.  Plus, there were several players from the 1960's and 70's in attendance, particularly Rusty Staub, Ed Charles, Ed Kranepool, Art Shamsky, and Bud Harrelson.

I saw several interesting presentations.  One panel focused on the use of statistics in making decisions in baseball and included an applied mathematician who works for the Mets, and other statisticians who work for ESPN, Bloomberg, and the Society for American Baseball Research.  The takeaway message I got from that panel is that while there are 9 players and various managers and coaches on a team, one of the most important members of a modern baseball organization is a mathematician who loves baseball.  It was all very Moneyball.

Me and Mr. Met.
I also went to see a session with Ed Charles.  He was on the famous Mets 1969 team and retired at the end of that season.  He is considered the poet laureate of baseball.  He read some of his poetry and discussed what it was like as a young African American growing up in the south in the 1940's.  He lived near the spring training facility in Daytona Beach where Jackie Robinson first broke the color barrier in the minor leagues in the U.S.  Charles remembered being inspired by Robinson and recalled his family praying for Robinson's safety in Daytona.  He discussed meeting him later in life after they were both retired from the game.

Another interesting session I attended was on the use of music in the Mets organization.  If you are not familiar with the song, Meet the Mets, you should be.  It has been used for home Mets games since 1962 and there are a variety of different versions of it.  I didn't even realize I heard the song here in New York or elsewhere until I attended the presentation.  It is one of those catchy songs one hears that becomes part of the background.  If you do a youtube search, you'll find a number of different versions.  The one below is the original.

Our paper presentation went well.  We reviewed the sustainability practices of all 30 major league baseball teams as expressed in the press releases and Websites.  What we found is that there are some teams doing great things (Boston and Minnesota in particular).  We also found that some teams are rather innovative.    When we publish the paper, I'll post a link here.  My friend Paul Pettersen stopped by and it was really nice of him to come by and see me.

We received some interesting feedback from the attendees.  One person asked us why he should care about greening efforts in baseball.  I really bobbled the question and one audience member who liked our paper said afterward that I should have answered something to the effect of, "Do you want baseball around for your grandchildren?"

I think the most positive reaction we got was from a historian with the Baseball Hall of Fame who wanted to get more information from us so they could feature green efforts in ball parks at their facility. 

All in all, the conference was a great success and the organizers should be pleased with it.

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