Being a sports scientist for an MLB team, according to Amy Ogren (M.S., 18) who works for the San Francisco Giants, and Jesús Ramos (M.S., 18) who works for the Cincinnati Reds, is rewarding, exciting, and full of the unexpected.
“It’s such an incredible feeling when you just worked with a player and then that night he hits a homerun or he pitches really well,” Ramos said. “It makes everything worth it.”
Ogren and Ramos are two of six recent Point Loma Nazarene University Master of Science in Kinesiology (MS-KIN) graduates who landed jobs in the professional baseball industry working as baseball biomechanics.
“Point Loma did such a great job preparing me for this,” Ramos said. “Being able to take such a diverse course load helped me have a really holistic approach to the whole kinesiology field.”
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Arnel Aguinaldo, Ph.D., ATC, is a professor in both PLNU’s undergraduate and graduate kinesiology programs. He has been researching baseball biomechanics for over 13 years and works with students in PLNU’s fully-equipped biomechanics lab which has specialized cameras and motion-capture technology.
“We use physics to understand and quantify various human movements, in this case baseball pitching,” Aguinaldo said. “Students that come into the program who are interested in this line of research get full-on experience in the lab measuring the kinetics of baseball pitching and other movements.”
In the biomechanics lab, sports scientists put compressions and reflective markers all over the body of a player who then pitches repeatedly as cameras capture their pitching motions. Then that data is processed, and the software creates a skeleton for each pitcher, which is how sports scientists produce and generate reports, Ogren said. “We look at how we can enhance their performance, and we look at injury reduction.”
“We use physics to understand and quantify various human movements, in this case baseball pitching. Students that come into the program who are interested in this line of research get full-on experience in the lab measuring the kinetics of baseball pitching and other movements.”
As part of the learning and networking experience, Aguinaldo takes his grad students every year (with the exception of 2020 due to COVID-19) to MLB spring training in Arizona.
“Students work with the Padres, Reds, Rangers and more, applying [our work] at Point Loma for the teams,” he said. “So not only are we helping out the teams in terms of the research and the analysis of the baseball players, but the students are gaining one-on-one, hands-on experience with the teams themselves.” Aguinaldo said students also gain valuable professional experience presenting their research at conferences, such as the American College of Sports and Medicine conference, which multiple students have presented at.
Ogren is the first female sports scientist for the San Francisco Giants. She became interested in baseball biomechanics during her time in PLNU’s MS-KIN program, when she realized she didn’t want to do physical or occupational therapy, but was still interested in kinesiology. Spending time with and learning from Aguinaldo gave her an interest in baseball biomechanics.
“MLB teams started reaching out to me as a biomechanist recommendation from Dr. A and a couple other universities,” she said. “That is how I originally even started thinking of a job in baseball.” Ogren started her job with the Giants in January 2020.
Working as a career biomechanist, Aguinaldo said, is a “viable option for you as an alternative to physical therapy, athletic training, and occupational therapy. Hopefully I can open the doors for [students] to pursue biomechanics, and we have a number of PLNU alumni not just in baseball but in other fields related to biomechanics.”
Like Ogren, Ramos — who started working with the Cincinnati Reds in February 2019 — became interested in baseball biomechanics while at PLNU. His classes and working with Aguinaldo “really opened up my mind that this possibility existed and helped guide me into looking for those types of positions.”
The connections with MLB teams and biomechanics researchers, as well as the department’s fully-equipped lab, puts PLNU students in a unique position to successfully pursue career biomechanics.
Ramos’ official title with the Reds is sports scientist, but the day-to-day of his job is “so different and it’s why I really love it. I get to work with our players and coaching staff, anywhere from doing hitting assessments, using different tests on players, vision testing and training with players, using virtual reality with our players to help them improve, running biomechanics on our pitchers,” and more.
“It’s really awesome, just being able to interact with our players and get to know them on a personal level,” Ramos said.
One of Ogren’s favorite parts about her job is getting to work with like-mindedly competitive people and seeing the impact her work has on players.
“One of my first players who I did a biomechanics evaluation on, he was in the minor league system, and he ended up making it to the big leagues last year as a pitcher,” Ogren said. “It was really fun for me to see him make the big leagues, and to have a consistent relationship with him to talk about mechanics. I saw value in my work from that experience.”
The connections that Aguinaldo has with MLB teams and biomechanics researchers, as well as the department’s fully-equipped lab, puts PLNU students in a unique position to successfully pursue career biomechanics if that’s something they’re interested in. Baseball pitching is only one of the movements students can study in the lab, Aguinaldo said. One student is currently researching baseball hitting, and there are plenty of other athletic movements students can look at.
“[PLNU’s MS-KIN] program is a very broad umbrella program, so if you’re not quite sure what you want to do, you tap into a lot of different realms and you can see which thing you like the best,” Ogren said. “My biggest advice for people going into the master’s of kinesiology is you get out what you put in. You get hands-on experience that perhaps you wouldn’t be getting at a bigger grad school or program.”
The field of baseball biomechanics is only going to grow, said Aguinaldo. “With the technology evolving, the science is going to grow, and the opportunities will be more prevalent for students to pursue.”