PITTSFIELD -- Instead of the classroom, fifth-grade students from Stearns Elementary School were studying physics at The Infield on Monday morning.
"There are three things to remember: balance, momentum and energy," Mike Massery told the 35 students before him.
The 2004 Taconic High School graduate is the coach and manager of The Infield, a 10,000-square-foot public baseball practice facility located at 10 Lyman St. in Pittsfield, formerly known as The Arena. It is also home to Berkshire Baseball Academy.
On Monday morning, Stearns teachers Andy Mickle and Susan Hollister took their students to meet Massery and pitchers Joe Bateman, who is still active as an independent player with the Atlantic League, and Rafael Lluberes, who most recently played for the Pittsfield Colonials.
The kids are currently participating in a yearlong program called "Sliding Baseball Across the Curriculum," written by athletic educator Larry Moore and coordinated at Stearns by Mickle. The program ties baseball into state curriculum standards, from history to mathematics and statistics to science.
"A lot of people don't think about it, but everyday life is physics and science," said Bateman.
"The stronger you get, you create more energy. You can make yourself as good as you want to be, whether it's your body and baseball or your brain for studying," he told the students.
With that in mind, Massery assigned students to work in small groups in three areas: batting
Wearing a No. 14 Curtis Granderson New York Yankees jersey, 10-year-old Ryan Robbins donned a helmet, choked up on a bat and took a wild swing at a machine pitch in the batting cages.
"Balance," a class chaperone reminded the boy.
Robbins adjusted his feet, squared his stance and took a more focused whack at the next pitch, earning him a "Nice swing, buddy!" from Massery.
Robbins said visiting The Infield was a more personal experience because his grandfather, Buddy Pellerin, used to own the previous incarnation of the building, The Arena.
"It's nice to have the batting cages here," he said.
The boy's mother, Renee Robbins, said she's happy to see the tie-in with The Infield and the school program.
"It's always exciting to have a place up and running around here and to have a place for kids to go. My son loves this year of school because of the curriculum. He loves baseball," she said.
Other Stearns students said they like the baseball curriculum, along with the guest speakers and field trips.
"It's fun because you get to see major and minor league baseball players who teach us stuff and tell us what they do when they're playing," said Haywood Eurquhart, 10, referring to the fact that pitcher Brian Sweeney of the Seattle Mariners came to visit their class during the school year.
Serenity Gagliardi, 10, said she liked working on a research project through which each student wrote a paper on a National Baseball Hall of Fame inductee. The classes will visit the hall in Cooperstown, N.Y., in June.
Massery said he's happy to combine a business with a lifelong passion.
"My father [Phil Massery] owns the building. I basically grew up in this building," he said. "Pittsfield is such a baseball town. I'm happy to share the game that I love by giving this place back to the community."
To learn more about The Infield, visit www.bba-infield.com or call (413) 281-2410.