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Batter Up

He’s a baseball coach who finds inspiration in photographs of Albert Einstein and J. Robert Oppenheimer. That’s because 44-year-old Steve DeCaro is also a physics teacher at Mattituck High School on Long Island. For four years, in fact, he’s fused physics and America’s pastime in a way that’s raised achievement levels both in the classroom and on the field. It took a while. For years, the ex-jock who fell in love with physics as a high-schooler (and subsequently earned a master’s degree in the subject) lived two lives, unable to interest his students in the science of baseball or his ballplayers in the practical applications of physics. Then, after joining the Mattituck staff, he demanded that all players take physics and encouraged non-jocks to join the team. Enrollment in physics classes at Mattituck has gone from 17 to 70 since 2002, and the once-ignored AP Physics B exam now has 20 annual takers. The team ain’t too shabby either: 43 wins and 16 losses over three seasons. The ways in which DeCaro combines physics and baseball are best exemplified by Keith Connell. As a junior last year, he joined the team and sat bench mostly because he had a terrible swing. DeCaro soon taught him, however, that one must anchor the back foot, then step forward at just the right time, so as to maximize the energy moving through the bat and into the ball. Keith’s a good student: He’s team captain this year, and batting .337.

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