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Remembering 2012: Profile of Kris Regas

In this week’s edition, we celebrate reliever Kris Regas re-signing with the Revolution by sharing this column about him that ran in edition number 8 of the York Revolutionary Times in case you missed it at the ballpark last season. 

A Learning Experience
Middle reliever or professor?  For Kris Regas, there have always been more similarities than differences

Regas, Kris 2

By Paul Braverman

“To be honest, math was never that thing that just always clicked for me, it was somewhat of a struggle.”

Don’t let that quote by Revolution bullpen lefty Kris Regas fool you – he is a good college math teacher.  At least that’s what his students said when Darrell Henry stalked him on RateMyProfessors.com when putting together his bio for the 2012 media guide.

An all-conference academic selection as an undergrad at Jacksonville University, Kris Regas may just be the smartest man in the York clubhouse. (Once the team gets a hold of this, we’re looking forward to that debate.)  And he’s taken an approach right from the baseball diamond to his off-season career of teaching math at Globe University in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.

You don’t see many Hall-Of-Famers grow old in coaching.  There are a few, but when you think about it, how exactly is one of the all-time greats of the game supposed to relate to and teach a current player, when it came so easy for him?  Regas applies that principal to classroom teaching as well.

“Most people have been in college and had that professor that was so smart, that he couldn’t teach, couldn’t relate to the students.  It’s kind of like ‘why don’t you get this?’  I feel that’s why I’m good at teaching math, because I understand why students are struggling, because I had the same struggles.”

Regas’ interests in academia allowed him to overcome those struggles, and eventually master a subject to the point he has one of the better answers to “what do you do in the offseason?”  Not to mention, a nice possible career path when baseball is over for the 32-year-old.  A double major in math and computer science as an undergrad, Regas also earned a graduate degree from Minnesota State University-Mankato in the same subjects.  He started as an instructor there, and also taught at Rasmussen College in Mankato prior to Globe U.

“At Minnesota State I was working as a T.A. but they basically said, here’s your classes, go teach.  It was all the same responsibilities I have as a professor, you just didn’t get paid for it,” Regas said.

Because Globe University is on the quarter system, Regas has been able to teach in two of their four quarters during the offseason, which fits nicely with the schedule of the baseball season.  10 years into his professional baseball career, he hasn’t quite decided yet if his post-playing days will be spent working in baseball, teaching or a combination of the two.  At one point, playing into his 30s was not on Regas’ mind.

“Becoming a faculty member, I didn’t decide to do that until I had almost graduated.  I thought my baseball career was going to be over and I’d just go out and get a job doing something else, using my degree.  I decided to keep playing and ended up in a real good situation where schools were willing to work with me and my baseball schedule, and it was one of those things where everything fell into place.”

Regas’ choice to stick it out in pro ball was essentially validated in 2009, when the Detroit Tigers purchased his contract from his adopted hometown club – the Sioux Falls Canaries of the American Association where he had been playing since 2007.  In 95 appearances with Sioux Falls over two and half seasons, Regas carried a sub 1.50 ERA at all times and had 46 saves as the Sioux Falls closer.  He appeared in 14 games with the Double-A Erie SeaWolves in 2009, and seven more with the Triple-A Toledo Mud Hens before the season’s close.

With the game’s decision makers gravitating to numbers more than ever to evaluate players, and advanced sabermetrics so prevalent that the Oakland Athletics have spent a decade and a half building teams around such things, you’d think a math-minded baseball player would be all-in for such methods.  It’s not so simple for Regas though, who is caught between two schools of thought.

“I loved the movie Moneyball, I thought it was amazing,” said Regas of the film about Oakland General Manager Billy Beane’s fame of putting competitive Major League teams together based on sabermetics – rosters that produced more wins than perhaps the names on the jerseys suggest they should’ve.

“I love the idea, the concept of looking at it a different way.  Data mining, saying ‘why are these teams, these people successful?’  And then looking at the numbers and trying to find that common theme between them.  I just don’t like the idea of making decisions strictly on the basis of numbers.”

As someone who understands numbers, but also understands the value of being evaluated in person and not just on a piece of paper, Regas isn’t one to subscribe to the notion that “the numbers never lie,” as the saying goes.

“I hate using the word never, and I hate using the word always.  I would say the numbers can lie. Sabermetrics don’t tell the whole story, that’s why scouts exist.  They can go to the eye test, see a player and know what he’s capable of, it’s a balance.  You can’t just rely on a radar gun to determine if a guy is a good pitcher.  You just can’t rely on a stop watch to determine if a guy is a good base-runner.  Sometimes numbers are just numbers, that’s all they are,” explained Regas.

So does the future hold algorithms or curveballs?  Regas isn’t quite sure yet.

“It’s a question I’ve thought about and I don’t know the answer yet, definitely I’ve thought of the teaching thing as something that could be my primary career,” he says.

However Regas, like most players, finds it difficult to simply put the game he loves aside.  Like so many Atlantic League players, he also teaches the game in offseason.  He finds time to wedge in being an instructor at “Squeeze Play Baseball,” a baseball complex in Sioux Falls.

Regas has kicked around the idea of keeping one foot in academia and the other on the field once his playing days conclude, possibly as a pitching coach.  The two worlds are not as far apart as one might think, especially when it comes to the student-teacher relationship.

“It’s a parallel, exactly the same really.  Whether you’re teaching math or the game, you can see when the light goes on in someone’s head, you can see the relief when a student or player finally understands something, and that’s rewarding.”

But if you ask Regas what feels better right at this moment – Etch taking the ball from him when he’s done his job as a reliever, or getting good feedback on RateMyProfessors.com, there’s no doubt where Regas is most passionate right now.

“I definitely work harder at baseball than I do anything else.  It’s good to get feedback as an educator.  I think a lot of that comes from me trying to relate to the student, and not be that professor that says ‘do it, and do it my way.’  I think they appreciate the fact I’m approachable as a teacher.”

“But baseball trumps everything, at least for now.”

Cover Photo (2)

This photo shoot for the cover of The York Revolutionary Times was natural for Regas, and apparently James Shanks as well.

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