RICHMOND -- One of the most promisingyoung pitchers in baseball dropped in Friday at Stege Elementary School in one of the city's struggling neighborhoods with a presentation about the importance of science education for career success.
A class of fifth graders looked on attentively as Oakland A's starting pitcher Sonny Gray went through an array of exercises with them using logic and word identification to answer questions about baseball.
In one exercise, the students successfully identified words matching the components of a baseball, including the cover, stitching, cotton, wool, red rubber, black rubber and the cork center.
In the process, Gray explained that the most baseballs ever used in a game was 78 and that there is enough yarn in a baseball to circle the bases on a major league diamond 2½ times.
The whole class received A's caps and tickets to the July 3 home game, and Gray presented autographed balls to the students who answered questions correctly.
The presentation, in alliance with Chevron Corp., is designed to highlight the importance of so-called STEM education, in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.
Gray, 24, told the students that his favorite subject was science, and that he is a good example, in a different way, of the benefits of staying in school.
Gray was taken in the 27th round of the Major League Baseball draft by the Chicago Cubs in 2008 but chose to accept an athletic scholarship to Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tenn., instead. He led Vanderbilt to its first-ever appearance in the College World Series in 2011.
The A's rewarded his college prowess that year, drafting him as the 18th pick in the first round, and so far he has impressed, with a 5-1 record and a 2.31 earned run average so far this season.
Although he left college after three years, Gray said he is on course to complete his degree in business administration this coming winter.
After his presentation, Gray took a few questions from the class, one of which concerned the whereabouts of Stomper, the team's mascot.
Jaylyn Gordon, a member of the fifth-grade class of teacher David Coons, said she is already a big A's fan and had tickets to Friday night's game against the Angels, a gift from her aunt.
"He's a pretty cool guy," Gordon said of Gray. "I'd like to go to more games and see him pitch."
Classmate Nate Yancey, of El Sobrante, said he shares Gray's interest in science and is looking forward to taking chemistry when he gets to high school.
An A's appearance may become a tradition at Stege; A's Community Relations Manager Detra Paige is a Stege graduate and lives in the neighborhood.
Last year's event was a larger assembly in the school's multipurpose room, where infielder Eric Sogard represented the team.
The A's and Chevron are distributing workbooks to Bay Area schools "that apply science formulas to questions about baseball" and are available online at www.athletics.com/science.
Students who complete the workbooks and submit their answer sheets to the A's will receive two ticket vouchers for an A's home game.