Smailes attends baseball analytics conference on competitive scholarship

Luke Smailes
Luke Smailes ’21

Luke Smailes ’21, an economics major and Yoseloff Scholarship winner, represented Coe College with distinction at the 2020 Society for American Baseball Research (SABR) Analytics Conference in Phoenix, Arizona, last March.

SABR works to advance the understanding and knowledge of data analysis in baseball. The Anthony A. Yoseloff Foundation funds the Yoseloff Scholarship, which SABR awards to only four high school and college students annually to subsidize conference attendance. The conference features guest speakers, panel discussions, research presentations and a data analytics case study competition open to attending students.

“Getting the Yoseloff Scholarship was really special to me,” Luke said, “because I was recognized by SABR as one of the top students with aspirations in this field. Being able to experience the latest research breakthroughs within the industry first-hand was a unique opportunity. The weekend was filled with many ‘light bulb’ moments for me, listening to the pioneers of baseball analytics present their own work. A lot of what I heard has inspired thoughts on what I can potentially study in the future.”

Associate Professor of Stead Department of Business Administration and Economics Ryan Baranowski encouraged Luke to apply for the scholarship and to attend the conference. Ryan drew on his own SABR Analytics Conference experiences when advising Luke on his scholarship application essay and when writing a recommendation letter that highlighted Luke’s achievements as a Kohawk.

“It’s an excellent experience for Luke to see what’s being done on the cutting edge of analytics research and network with the best minds in the country,” Ryan said.

Luke summed up the focus of the conference as learning “how individuals can continuously gain a competitive advantage within this century-old game.” Benefits for students attending the conference include a one-year SABR membership, networking opportunities with other SABR members and access to baseball-related job postings.

“After learning a lot about how analytical practices are implemented by major league teams, the coolest thing has been taking those methods and applying some versions of them to our team here at Coe,” Luke said. “We have seen considerable improvements in players’ performances.”

Data collection for the Kohawk baseball data analytics program began in 2018, and in 2019 the college installed radar equipment like that used in Major League Baseball. Coaches use data analytics to drive in-game decisions and create strategies that play to strengths and improve weaknesses.

“We’re creating something actionable that coaches can use,” Ryan said. “Our baseball team uses analytics more than a lot of DI schools do. It helps that Luke is a member of the baseball team. It helped with player buy-in.”

Luke hopes to land a job in baseball operations with a major league team.

Ryan said, in addition to baseball, the nonprofit, private and government sectors all use data analytics. Highly valued in the labor market, data analytics skills transfer to any industry. He invites all Coe students to get involved.

Luke chose Coe College because, “I really liked the baseball program that Coach [Steve] Cook ran combined with the academic reputation that the college carries. After doing some more research and ultimately meeting Dr. Baranowski, I knew Coe was a good fit.”

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