The Science of Baseball: Buck Leonard Association Encourages STEM Education

stem education rocky mount nc

A curveball is not an optical illusion: It’s a precise mix of athleticism and science.

A curveball breaks downward thanks to a spin the pitcher places on it. This rotation creates a whirlpool of air, and as a result, the pressure is lower on one side than the other. This difference pushes the ball sideways—sometimes as much as 17 inches. However, to get this optimum curve, the ball must be pitched slowly—no more than 68 miles per hour, according to information in the Washington Post.

Why the science lesson? It’s in honor of the Buck Leonard Association, which is encouraging students to engage in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) education. We think the baseball hall of famer would be pleased.

Who was Buck Leonard?

Buck Leonard, a Rocky Mount native, was one of the greatest baseball players of all time. He played for the Homestead Grays in the Negro Baseball League, where he was known as the "Black Lou Gehrig."

Growing up in Rocky Mount, Leonard was the oldest of six children. His father died during the 1919 flu epidemic. As a result, Leonard –then 12 years old--- had to start working to help support his family. By the time he was 16, he was working for a railroad company, putting brake cylinders on boxcars, according to information from the official website of Major League Baseball.

How did he develop his love of baseball? There was a ballpark near his home, and the local minor league team played there.  That was enough to instill a passion in him that would continue throughout his lifetime.

Throughout his career, he played for the:

  • Portsmouth Fire Fighters

  • Baltimore Stars

  • Brooklyn Royal Giants

  • Homestead Grays

The Buck Leonard Association

The association, which was founded in 1999, strives to bring a variety of programs to low-wealth and inner city communities of Nash, Edgecombe and Halifax counties. In 2010, it became a part of the Major League Baseball initiative Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities (RBI).

The baseball program of the Buck Leonard Association is about much more than scoring home runs; it uses baseball to promote academic readiness through field trips and excursions, improving rocky mount education, according to information from the Rocky Mount Telegram

Some of these field trips include:

  • The local Children’s Museum at the Imperial Centre
  • Imagination Station in Wilson
  • North Carolina A&T State University
  • Duke University

The purpose? To place children in situations where they can learn about and understand the importance of STEM subjects and STEM-related jobs. 

Rocky Mount: a city celebrating its past and looking forward to the future

There are a lot of exciting things happening in Rocky Mount, from the opening of the event center to the ongoing programs at the children’s museum, there’s something for everyone. The dedication of the volunteers of the Buck Leonard Association demonstrate the generosity of spirit and love of community demonstrated by so many Rocky Mount citizens. Providing support and opportunities to area youth are the perfect way to honor the legacy of one of Rocky Mount’s most famous residents.


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