By Jessica Camerato
CSNNE.com Follow @JCameratoNBA
Some would say the game of baseball isnt rocket science. Even if it was, Ryan Lavarnway would still be interested in it.
The Boston Red Sox catcher, who was recently recalled from Triple-A Pawtucket, developed a love for physics as a teenager at El Camino Real High School in California. Inspired by his science teacher, Lavarnway chose to study the subject when he enrolled at Yale University, where he also played baseball.
I went to school and I wanted to be a rocket scientist after Mr. C made me fall in love with physics, he said. What kid doesnt want to be an astronaut? I loved understanding how things worked. I loved the mechanics aspect of it -- projectiles in the air and cars. I love knowing how everything around me worked.
Lavarnway, 24, breezed through his first semester, but switched concentrations after encountering the obstacle that is advanced calculus. From physics to philosophy, he chose another academic focus that challenged him in a different way.
I aced my first class in math and physics, and then second semester I couldnt hack it with the math anymore. It was calculus 4 with linear algebra, he said. Then I kind of fell in love with philosophy. I loved the fact that philosophy was kind of an attempt to solve questions that didnt have any answers. There are no right or wrong answers as long as you could prove your point.
Rather than relying on his athletic achievements, Lavarnway grew up in a household where education took precedence over sports. When it came time to change majors, it was only natural for him to select an area that would be mentally stimulating. He may have been playing baseball at Yale, but he was still a college student.
My parents always installed in me that with student athletes, student came first, he said. I couldnt go to baseball practice until my homework was done, growing up. They never took baseball away as a penalty, but it was always there -- take care of your schoolwork first.
I was lucky enough to be a naturally good student. Then when the opportunity to go to an Ivy League school came and I was surrounded by all the history thats there and all the brilliant people, you learn almost more in the dining hall talking with your classmates than you do in the classrooms and the extra work with the professors outside of the class to make sure that youre keeping up with the material. Its just an environment of excellence.
While Lavarnway left Yale early to pursue a career in baseball (he was drafted by the Red Sox in the sixth round of the 2008 amateur draft), there are still times when he can view baseball with a scientific eye. Physics, he says, are part of the game.
I definitely dont sit at night and analyze my swing and efficiency with Netwons laws of physics, but if you were to take a step back you could definitely analyze how curveballs spin, what makes a knuckleball knuckle, and how outfielders read the ball, he said. Theres a lot of physics going around in baseball. We just kind of do it without thinking about it in our heads.
There is one lesson, though, that Lavarnway learned at Yale and has applied to his baseball career. After spending the past month splitting his time between the Red Sox and PawSox, the balanced approach he gained in college has helped him make it to Fenway Park.
The most important thing for me was separating different aspects of your life, he said. When I was at the baseball field, I focused on baseball with all of myself and all of my attention. When I was in the library or the classroom or studying, I went at that with all of myself and all of my attention. Then when I was hanging out with my friends, I had to learn how to let all of that go and just relax and have fun with all of your attention.
That relates to baseball. When youre hitting you cant be thinking about your defense. When Im catching, I cant be thinking about my hitting. Then when I go home, its a 162-game season, a lot of stuff goes on, ups and downs, youve got to be able to let it go.
Jessica Camerato is on Twitter at http:twitter.com!JCameratoNBA