- Faith and Fear in Flushing - https://www.faithandfearinflushing.com -

The 56th Annual Queens County Science Fair

“All right, now we move on to the entries from Mr. Callaway’s class. Mr. Callaway’s class always has such interesting ideas and unorthodox ways of displaying them. Our first student is Peter Alonso. Peter, tell us about your project.”
“Pete. Just Pete.”
“You’re registered as Peter.”
“I know, but I like to be called Pete now.”
“Very well, Pete. What is this?”
“I call it Study of Launch Angle and Stuff. I smashed a home run as soon as I could to see how far and how fast it would leave the ballpark.”
“Uh-huh. And what were your findings?”
“See, I got this pitch from Michael Wacha in Mr. Shildt’s class and crushed the shit out of it…”
“Language, Pete.”
“Sorry, I get excited. I crushed it a lot and it flew a lot more.”
“Can you quantify?”
“Um, I have the data here: 458 feet; 111 miles per hour; launch angle of 29 degrees.”
“That sounds impressive, Pete, though I’m not sure everybody here understands. Can you break that down in layman’s terms?”
“I asked Dr. Rose in the audio lab for help. He said it can be interpreted like this: ‘Swing and a drive, deep to left, this baby is LONG gone, oh my goodness!!!! That went into the upper deck!!! It tumbles down as it hit either something or someone around the front row of the upper deck, one of the longest home runs in the history of Citi Field!! Pete ALONSO with an absolute MOONshot has given the Mets a three-to-one first-inning lead — WOW!’
“I must say, Pete, that’s very impressive. You might want to think about varying your area of research, as this seems a little redundant, given that you’ve submitted projects like these 22 times already this semester, but it does seem thorough.”
“I have an opposite-field single in my locker I can go get.”

“No, Pete, this will be fine. The home run is excellent. Next…do we have a Brooks Pounders [1] here? A Brooks Pounders? Or maybe it’s a Pounders Brooks. I don’t want to seem culturally insensitive. The name was just scribbled on my attendance list. Uh, you? Yes, you have a question?”
“I’m Brooks Pounders, sir.”
“Oh, OK. Do you have a project?”
“My family just moved here from Cleveland, so I didn’t know there was a science fair today.”
“I see. Vice Principal Van Wagenen should have oriented you to our schedule.”
“I don’t know who that is. My family moves around a lot.”
“So you’re not prepared, Pounders?”
“Brooks. My first name is Brooks. My last name is Pounders.”
“Sorry, young man.”
“I’m not that young, really.”
“Brooks, we expect all our students at Citi Middle School to be prepared.”
“I can show you my bus pass. They just gave it to me today. Oh, wait, that’s the one from Cleveland…no, hold on, that’s Denver…”
“Brooks, just take a seat.”
“Which one?”

“Just use Hector Santiago’s for now. Or Tim Peterson’s. Or Tyler Bashlor’s. It doesn’t really matter. All right, who is prepared? I see a hand. J.D. Davis?”
“I’m prepared, sir. I’m always prepared.”
“I can see that, J.D. Why don’t you explain to the judges what you have here.”
“This is my Wonderful World of Base Hits. I cultivated four of them and this is how they grew.”
“Very interesting, J.D. Can you describe them in some detail?”
“Well, I have this single from the first inning, this home run from the second inning, this double from the fourth inning and another single from the sixth inning.”
“That’s very nice, J.D., but I think it would have been even more interesting with a triple. Did you consider trying to grow one of those?”
“I tried, here in the eighth, but it became a groundout, so I had to settle for the four hits.”
“It’s ‘A’ work, J.D. I’d really like to see you try for the ‘A+’ next time, understand?”
“You mean I get to try again? Mr. Callaway usually doesn’t let me participate in every fair.”

“You have a good attitude J.D. Speaking of attitude, is Noah Syndergaard ready?”
“Yo, right here.”
“We don’t have anybody named ‘Yo’ here, Noah.”
“We used to.”
“That’s enough sass for today, but it is nice to see you finally got a haircut.”
“Got ’em all cut.”
“Very funny, young man. What do you have for us today.”
“I worked on this six-inning start, and it was going OK, and I tried to make it a seven-inning start, and it didn’t work out so good.”
“So ‘well,’ Noah. Grammar matters”
“Tell us what we’re looking at.”
“It’s a magnetic resonance image of my right hamstring.”
“Did you do this MRI yourself?”
“I had to go the nurse’s office.”
“Can you tell us what it means?”
“Damned if I know.”
“Language, young man!”
“Darned if I know. It’s strained, I think. Can I go now?”

“It looks like you’ll have to. Be sure to ask one of your friends to bring you your homework. I see our next project is a group affair. Robert Gsellman, Seth Lugo, Edwin Diaz, am I to understand you teamed up?”
“That’s right, sir.”
“Seth, are you the group spokesman here?”
“That’s right. Robert’s not really up to talking and Edwin’s kind of shy, which is one of the side effects of our experiment.”
“Explain it, please.”
“What we did was take relief pitching and apply psychological principles of stress management to it. We wanted to see how many pitches we could throw, how many runners we could put on base, how many deep counts we could run…”
“And what did you find?”
“We hooked up a random group of spectators to a machine measuring their blood pressure, their pulse, their heart rate and other vital signs.”
“What do these abrupt spikes indicate?”
“It’s what everybody watching us experiences every time we throw a pitch.”
“This seems dangerous, Seth. Did you have any supervision?”
“Mr. Eiland told us to try to keep the ball down and off the plate.”
“I’m not sure how that helps. You each seem to have bruises. Are those related to your project?”
“More a manifestation of our own psychological stress. I think that’s why Edwin doesn’t want to talk anymore.”
“I see. It’s certainly a very ambitious project, boys, but I’d advise taking it down a notch in the future. Given your methods, I don’t know that you can get many more volunteers to sit still for it.”
“To be honest, we wouldn’t mind getting a day off from school now and then.”

“We’ll see about that. All right, we have one more project to review. Jeff McNeil [2]? What do you have to show us?”
“Oh, this is really neat.”
“The judges will be the judge of that.”
“No, really, it’s cool. Check it out. There’s this ball here, OK? And it falls between me and Scooter.”
“Scooter…Michael Conforto. My friend Scooter. We all call him that.”
“Why do you call your friend Scooter?”
“Look at him, man. Anyways, the ball bloops in between us, OK? And Scooter kind of falls down and I kind of run past it, and did I mention the baserunner on first?”
“There’s a baserunner?”
“Oh, totally. It’s the ninth inning and there’s always a baserunner.”
“Slow down, Jeff. You’re acting very squirrelly”
“I can’t. Too much adrenaline. There’s a baserunner. The really cool part is it’s a pitcher.”
“You used a pitcher as the baserunner?”
“I didn’t, he was just there that way. He was pinch-running, I guess. Anyway, the ball falls between me and Scooter and the pitcher is running real hard, except he doesn’t really know how to do that, like a guinea pig on a hamster wheel, so I pick up the ball and I see Buffalo…”
“Buffalo? There’s a guinea pig, a hamster and a buffalo?”
“No, man, Buffalo is Wilson Ramos. My friend Buffalo. We all call him that.”
“Why do you call your friend Buffalo?”
“Look at him, man. Anyways, I get Buffalo’s attention. He’s behind the plate. I throw him a seed.”
“You used seeds in your experiment?”
“Sorry, I like to call my throws seeds. My throw was a seed. Anyway, I throw the ball and it gets to Buffalo and Buffalo catches it, and get this — the pinch-running pitcher is out! It’s so cool! The game is over. Even Eddie Diaz looks happy for a change!”
“I’m confused, Jeff. Do you have an audio interpretation that perhaps the judges and I could follow more clearly?”
“Oh, totally. I got Dr. Cohen to record one for me. It’s so cool: ‘He gets one in the air, shallow right, out goes McNeil…in comes Conforto…McNeil can’t get it! It lands! Flaherty around third! The throw to the plate…one hop…Ramos with the tag…he’s out! AND THE METS WIN IT!!’ Cool, right?”
“Very nice, Jeff. What are the applications?”
“Does your project have any kind of real-world use that could ever be replicated again?”
“Are you kidding? It won us a game! We beat the Cardinals, 8-7 [3]
“Like I said, Jeff, it’s very nice. But the idea of science is to move us forward. This is very showy, but it lacks logical underpinnings and, frankly, I don’t see how anybody else could be expected to execute such an experiment under similar conditions and gain the same kind of positive outcome.”
“But it got Noah a win and Eddie a save and Mr. Callaway gets to keep being our teacher at least until the beginning of summer school.”
“Again, it’s very nice, Jeff. As science, however, I’m not sure you could ever hope to re-create this exact set of circumstances and not have it literally blow up in all of our faces.”
“Do I still pass?”
“Yes, you pass, Jeff. You all pass, except for Brooks Pounders, who gets an incomplete. I’m going to have to have a word with Mr. Callaway, though. I think I’m going to suggest he redirect you kids into the drama club. Your skill sets seem more suited to fiction than reality.”