2021 Student Essay Contest: Grand Prize Winner

Mathematical Homeruns

by Joy Wilde (Washington Connections Academy)

Interviewee:  Emily Curtis (Seattle Mariners)

“This is the 240-pound catcher Jeremy Brown and as you know he is scared to run to second base. This guy is going to start him off with a fastball and Jeremy is going to take it to deep center. Here is what is really interesting, Jeremy is going to go for it. He is going to round first and he is going to go for it.” (Jeremy trips and dives back to first base) “These are all of Jeremy’s nightmares coming to life.” – Pete
“Aw, they’re laughing at him.” – Billy
“Yes, and Jeremy’s about to find out why. Jeremy’s about to realize, the ball went 60 feet over the fence. He hit a home run and didn’t even realize it.” – Pete
This quote from the film “Moneyball” is similar to the life of Emily Curtis. Just like Pete from Moneyball, Mrs. Curtis works as a Baseball Analyst for the Seattle Mariners. She loves math, knitting, and baseball. Mrs. Curtis has always loved math, but she hadn’t realized her true potential until a certain math teacher showed her.
Mr. Foor, pronounced four, was Mrs. Curtis’s high school calculus teacher. She loved Mr. Foor because she knew that he was dedicated to making sure that she was the best possible student. Mrs. Curtis said she really liked his class because it was planned and structured. She knew that in his class she would never be thrown a curveball. Even though Mrs. Curtis has always loved math, before this she was “scared to run to second base.” After taking his class, Mrs. Curtis said, “Mr. Foor made me feel like I was good enough to be able to pursue math as a career.”
With Mr. Foor’s support, Mrs. Curtis went to college wanting to pursue math. At first, she wanted to be an engineer. Later in the year, she decided she didn’t really want to do that anymore. After she graduated from the University of Washington with her master’s degree in applied math, she found a job interview for a Data Scientist, and she thought that was what she wanted to do. A Data Scientist uses data to help companies figure out how much money is going in and out. Mrs. Curtis thought that this job would satisfy most of her mathematical interests. However, she was forgetting about one thing…baseball!
When Mrs. Curtis went in for her job interview, the person asked her about some of the projects that she had been working on for fun. ALL of these involved baseball. Mrs. Curtis talked about these projects with so much passion and interest because she truly loved baseball. However, when the interviewer asked her why she wanted to work as a Data Scientist for that company, she had the hardest time answering. She thought she should work there, but there was a little voice in the back of her head saying, “Baseball. Baseball is what you really love.”
That night Mrs. Curtis remembers talking to her now-husband and saying that she really thought she should try and get a job as a baseball data analyst. Although thousands of thoughts were going through her head about all the reasons why she couldn’t do it, she remembered the way Mr. Foor used to make her feel. Then she decided it was time to “round first and go for it.”
Mrs. Curtis applied for a job as a Data Analyst for the Seattle Mariners. A little while later she got an email from the guy who was going to interview her. The email said that they had already filled the position and they didn’t need to interview her. He left the door open and told her to reach out if she had any questions about her application or if she wanted any feedback.
Emily Curtis had tripped over the base. All of the negative things she had been saying came back. She was heartbroken that she hadn’t gotten the job, and she started to give up. But Mrs. Curtis just shook them away and remembered her love for the game. She loved baseball and she knew it was worth fighting for.
A few days later she emailed the guy back asking for some feedback on her work. He replied by saying they had just lost another person and that he would love to interview her for the job. Mrs. Curtis excitedly went in for the interview a little while later. Afterward, she nervously waited to see if she got the job. When she found out she had, she was beyond herself with joy. Emily Curtis was officially a Data Analyst for the Seattle Mariners!
A few weeks into the job Mrs. Curtis was still hesitant and nervous about making a mistake or ruining her chances in her career. She had “hit a home run and didn’t even realize it.” Mrs. Curtis is one of the only women in her field at the Seattle Mariners. She had no idea that she had just paved a path for other women to pursue a mathematics career. Looking back, Mrs. Curtis says she wishes she would have had more confidence in herself.
Now Mrs. Curtis loves her job and thinks about how she can make the sport better every day. However, there is still one thing she wishes she could change. Mrs. Curtis says, “If there was one thing I could change, it would definitely be to have a more diverse community. I wish that I saw more women, people of color, transgender, and nonbinary people in my field.” Mrs. Curtis knows that things aren’t as bad as they used to be, but she also knows that we are far from perfect.
Mrs. Curtis’s word of advice for women who are thinking about entering the mathematical field is to be confident in themselves. Mrs. Curtis wants everyone to know that when you hit a ball, don’t be afraid to watch where it goes because maybe next time, you’ll be the one with the home run.