Father Gabriel Costa, a priest of the Archdiocese of Newark, N.J., developed a sabermetrics course while he was a mathematics professor at Seton Hall University.Father Gabriel Costa, a priest of the Archdiocese of Newark, N.J., developed a sabermetrics course while he was a mathematics professor at Seton Hall University.
...Father Gabriel Costa, a priest of the Archdiocese of Newark, N.J., developed a sabermetrics course while he was a mathematics professor at Seton Hall University, run by the Newark Archdiocese.
"As far as we know, it was the first course offered" of its kind, he
said. While on a sabbatical from Seton Hall, he paid a visit to West Point -- which he had first visited at age 7 as a Cub Scout -- and academy officials asked him to join their faculty. After obtaining permission to go on academic leave from Seton Hall, Father Costa joined the mathematics department at West Point.
By the way, he's
still on leave from Seton Hall
."My archbishop (John J. Myers) has been very good to me," Father Costa
told Catholic News Service in a telephone interview from West Point
The sabermetrics course, an elective, is offered every spring semester, just in time for baseball season.Lest one think the class is taken as a lark, Father Costa
said it is not as much about baseball as it is about the use of technology in compiling statistics.
Some of the 57-year-old priest's students managed to get some of their class research published eight years ago in the Baseball Research Journal
, an annual publication of the Society for American Baseball Research
.The students' research had to do with which batters had the highest percentage of extra-base hits -- doubles, triples and home runs -- throughout their career. Father Costa
is working on a couple of other sabermetric-related articles.One uses a mathematical formula called an equivalence coefficient to fill in some intriguing what-ifs in baseball -- such as what would Ted Williams' Hall of Fame career look like if he
hadn't lost three full seasons and most of two others to military service, or if Babe Ruth, the priest's favorite ballplayer, had played the outfield as soon as he
got to the major leagues late in 1914 rather than being limited to pitching into the 1919 season.
Another investigation by Father Costa
, along with one of his
fellow sabermetrics professors at West Point
and four of their students, examined the cumulative home-run power of each player with 500 career homers to his
credit, using each slugger's age.
"With three exceptions, each seems to level off in his
late 20s," Father Costa
said.The exceptions were latter-day swatters Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa, "which defies any known explanation," he
added. Father Costa
does not limit his
writing to baseball.He
wrote an essay published in the May 2005 issue of The Priest magazine that examined parallels
between seminarians on their way to becoming priests and West Point
cadets on their way to becoming Army officers.
"By the nature of their callings, both the officer and the priest are entrusted with a stewardship of service and are looked upon as leaders.As servant-leaders this call must be accepted humbly and unconditionally," he
talks with cadets, Father Costa
told CNS, "a number of cadets have seriously thought about priesthood.Many of them say that if mandatory celibacy were lifted, there would be a lot of priests coming from here.This is a hotbed for priestly vocations.I'm telling you what the cadets are telling me." Father Costa
, a "layman" by Army standards, said that because of his
"own uniform" -- his
priestly garb -- he
gets no less respect than that accorded military professors on the faculty.Some cadets, he
said, call him "Father" while others call him "Padre" or "Chaplain."
How do we know that Ruth, known as the Bambino, is Father Costa's favorite player?The priest recalled meeting Babe Ruth's sister as a kid."I proposed to her