Community Partnership at its Best

This summer, for the first time we expanded our 15+ year partnership with the Tampa Bay Rays to include a unique STEM program. The Rays developed a five-day course on the Science of Baseball especially for our three Academy Prep schools: Tampa, St. Petersburg, and Lakeland. During our June session, a variety of members of the Rays’ operations staff visited our three campuses daily for a week to lead this STEM enrichment with our seventh grade students. Lessons included the Geometry of Baseball, Baseball Statistics and Fielding Percentage, Stretching and Injury Prevention, and Baseball in Action.

“I learned everything,” Aunesti said. “Nutrition, hydration, and how they actually play the game, and the background of baseball.”

Our students learned the dimensions of a baseball field including the distance between bases, perimeter, and area of the basepaths; what types of stretches exercise what muscles and what the muscles are used for in baseball; the aerodynamics of different types of pitches; and more.

“One of my favorite lessons was when we talked about launch angles, and how certain angles were to end up a home run,” said Jenna Dufficy, Assistant Head of School. The students participated in hands-on lessons that included running, throwing a ball, and hitting. “Our students learned about algebra, geometry, and other skills they may not have thought about while hitting a wiffle ball.”

The course culminated with a field trip to Tropicana Field for a Rays Career Day and baseball game. At the start of the Career Day panel, our students were asked ‘who wants to be a professional athlete when they grow up?’ Many students raised their hands. Unfortunately, becoming a professional athlete is not always a realistic opportunity. The Rays brought in several staff from HR, logistics, scouting, reporting, engineering, DE & I, and communications, allowing our students to learn about a wide variety of career choices within a professional sports franchise other than being an athlete.

After the panel, students toured the Trop, enjoying the stingray touch tank, a ballpark frank, and were treated to excellent seats during the game. Our students caught a few foul balls, participated in stadium chants, and by the end of the night they were the Rays’ biggest and loudest fans!

Over the last 15 years, the Rays have given over $2 million to the three Academy Prep schools. They currently support a scholarship on each campus, as well as support our fundraising events, and now with this successful first programmatic partnership, they have found an impactful way to deepen their involvement. This is community partnership at its best!

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