A California University of Pennsylvania educator is helping the National Baseball Hall of Fame take kids to the ballgame — wherever it may be, or may have been — with a geographic information system.
Thomas Mueller, an assistant professor of earth science at Cal U, is one of 14 educators from across the country who serve on an education advisory council for the baseball museum, located in Cooperstown, N.Y.
He is using his expertise in taking a geography program the museum offers to visiting middle school students and incorporating it into a GIS system to give it a more visual aspect.
Jeff Arnett, the director of education for the National Baseball Hall of Fame, said the geography program uses information on the location of major league teams dating back to before 1900. By overlapping additional information of teams from the Negro League and the All American Girls Baseball League, it shows how baseball was being played and where it was being played, he said.
It also illustrates the movement in the nation’s population to the West and South following World War II, according to Arnett. He noted that the only major league team west of the Mississippi prior to 1950 was St. Louis. It was also the team farthest South.
The moves of the Athletics from Philadelphia to Kansas City to Oakland and the Braves from Boston to Milwaukee to Atlanta show the migration trends of teams and fans alike, he noted.
The geography program also covers such topics as railroads and challanges students to figure distances between ballparks.
Geographic Information System software takes demographic and map data and displays it in a visual form. “GIS enables us to capture the movements,” Arnett said.
Arnett also pointed out that it works well in children’s education programs because “students are so accustomed to technology.”
Mueller had both a professional and personal interest in the geography of baseball. “My grandfather was a huge baseball fan,” he said, indicating that the interest passed on down.
The Cal U educator has been active with the Society for American Baseball Research. In addition, he did a survey with his earth science department colleague, Thomas Wickham, and undergraduate student Arthur Earl for the inaugural 2002 season of the Washington (Pa.) Wild Things baseball team.
Mueller also emphasized he is eager to apply his talents, “anytime I can help geographic education out.”
Arnett said Mueller has acquainted the teachers at the museum with the GIS program. Mueller said he hopes to have it fully integrated with the geography lesson by next summer.
Right now, the Baseball Hall of Fame is teaching its geography lesson to school groups visiting the museum and through teleconferences. “It is touching thousands of students,” Arnett said.
In addition to the geography lesson, the museum offers a number of other courses tied in with baseball, including “Batter Up!,” which teaches mathematics and “Going, Going, Gone!” a dramatic communications arts course.
Mueller can testify to the value of mixing baseball and education.
“When I was in school I got through a statistics course knowing baseball,” he said. “I became more comfortable in the course because the professor had used baseball examples.”
Arnett said the Baseball Hall of Fame is also considering moving its geography program onto the Web. “In the spring, we’re going to talk about it,” he said.