This summer, five young professionals in the sports and fitness industry were selected as the 2013 SFIA Future Industry Leader Scholarship recipients. All five of these recipients will be present at SFIA’s inaugural Industry Leaders Summit this coming September 25th-26th in Baltimore, MD.
Each of our scholarship recipients is incredibly talented and display an incredible amount of promise as they rise to the top of their field. In the next few weeks, SFIAinsider, in collaboration with SFIA Weekly, will be posting exclusive interviews with each of our five winners, in order of participant’s response. We are honored to have the opportunity to put them in the spotlight before the event.
This week, meet Keenan Long, a former player on quite possibly the smartest baseball team around, gymnastics fan and R&D Engineer at Easton-Bell. Continue reading to see the full interview.
SFIAinsider: Why did you apply to the Future Industry Leaders Scholarship Program?
Keenan Long: I originally went on the SFIA website to learn about the State of the Industry and get a better perspective on sports and fitness as a whole. Engineers often get so narrowly focused that it helps us to “zoom out” sometimes and remember how everything fits together. It was during this exercise that I came across the Future Leaders opportunity and my athletic competitive tendencies kicked in. The essay questions really prompted me to think about my goals and expound on them. I am both humbled and excited to get to meet the leaders of our industry and will most definitely be in sponge mode for the whole experience.
SFIAinsider: What was it like playing baseball in a college program full of engineers?
Keenan Long: It was baseball geek heaven. My experience as a professional ballplayer helped me realize how truly special and rare my college experience was. At Rose-Hulman, we would debate about hitting mechanics using engineering and physics terms. In pro ball, you can get beat up if you mention things like the kinetic chain or rotational acceleration in the dugout. Now at Easton, we deal with that type of stuff all day long! My college team was not the biggest or the fastest, but we made up for that with baseball know-how and the discipline that comes with being a student athlete at the number one undergrad engineering program in the nation. We were on a mission to prove ourselves, and we did, earning three NCAA tournament appearances in a row. Even off the field, we were all baseball all the time. A few of us got together for a senior project where we designed, built, and tested a fully autonomous bat speed analyzer that would measure swing speed and calculate how far you hit a variety of theoretical pitches.
SFIAinsider: What exactly do you do in your current position at Easton?
Keenan Long: I have the great honor of working in the R&D department where we design, test, and develop the sporting goods of the future. I live and breathe the science of hitting as an R&D Engineer. I am focused on exploring both the bat-ball collision and also what the human body experiences during the swinging of a bat. By independently dissecting each of the small parts of this big picture, I am constantly finding new opportunities to improve the experience for the user and the performance of our industry leading products. This position has given me the opportunity to spend a significant amount of time in China developing new products and process controls. I also attended the Little League World Series this year. All of these great opportunities inspire me to keep dreaming big.
SFIAinsider: What do you find the most enjoyable part of your work at Easton?
Keenan Long: Every single aspect of my work is enjoyable and thoroughly fulfilling. Easton R&D, AKA the BatLab, is the coolest place on the planet. If I had to boil it down to one thing, it would be that I have the chance to pay my debt to the world of sports. Baseball has offered me so many opportunities and brought so many great people into my life. I approach this position not with a sense of entitlement after years of sacrifice, but with a sense of indebtedness for all of the great life experiences that have enabled me to do what I am passionate about. Gratitude is nice, but indebtedness incites action. If my work can impact the lives of young athletes by improving their experience, my vocation will be fulfilled. Sports have taught me so much. If I can make products that keep kids around sports, maybe they will get more exposure to those valuable life lessons.
SFIAinsider: What are you most looking forward to at this year’s inaugural Industry Leaders Summit?
Keenan Long: I look forward to meeting the industry leaders and getting the big picture perspective. Engineers often get stuck looking at one leaf on one tree. I am excited to get the view of the whole forest from the people who know it well. Then, I can take that perspective back to Easton and have a better idea of where my team fits in the industry.
SFIAinsider: Other than baseball, is there a sport or hobby you enjoy (say European soccer)?
Keenan Long: The more I test things in the lab and research athleticism from an engineering perspective, the more I am learning how athletes are finely tuned machines far more capable than any complex mechanical system. I have a profound respect for athletes of all sports. Getting to work with Easton’s Hockey R&D team has spurred a brand new interest in the sport. I have learned about the science behind shooting a puck, and now I am hooked on gaining an understanding of all the mechanics and hopefully unlocking something new.
SFIAinsider: What’s your favorite Olympic sport and why?
Keenan Long: Gymnastics. These athletes get one or two chances to perform a move in the spotlight which they have performed thousands of times. These young people know nothing else but their vocation as gymnasts and their success often hinges on one moment which they seize with confidence and pride despite the overwhelming pressure. Combining that suspense with the fact that gymnasts are constantly pushing the boundaries of human capabilities keeps me on the edge of my seat.
SFIAinsider: What is your favorite sports memory from your lifetime?
Keenan Long: Getting a hit in my professional debut. I didn’t know anybody on the team and the game was far far away from home, yet I felt the full support of my family and friends. They knew that this was a challenge that I would not back down from and they supported me through dozens of rejections. Having been cut numerous times, that first hit signified that the struggle to break in was over. From that point on, everything else was a bonus.
SFIAinsider: Do you have a favorite sports movie?
Keenan Long: A League of Their Own There is no crying in baseball, but it is difficult to hold back tears when I hear the song at the end. My second favorite sports memory is getting to play on Bosse Field where they shot this movie.
Visit www.sfia.org/ilsscholarshipprogram to find out more about the SFIA’s Future Industry Leaders Summit Scholarship Program.