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‘Rocket man’ shows local kids what pitching rockets, baseballs is all about

EDWARDS AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. (AFMCNS) -- Whoever said rocket scientists and athletics don’t mix, doesn’t know Capt. Jason Szuminski.

Captain Szuminski had a goal of pitching for a Major League Baseball team and earning a degree from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in aerospace engineering.

He reached his goal playing MLB and is currently working as a U.S. Air Force Reservist for the Air Force Research Laboratory here during the off season.

After graduating from MIT, Captain Szuminski said he went on to debut with the San Diego Padres during the 2004 season only to be traded back to the Des Moines, Iowa Cubs AAA team.

“I was originally drafted by the Chicago Cubs in the 27th round of the 2000 draft,” Captain Szuminski said. “I was then traded to the Padres in 2003. After that, I ended up being traded back to the Cubs where I wound up getting hurt and am currently going through rehabilitation, but I am on track to return sometime around April or May.”

Before arriving to Edwards, Captain Szuminski said he made the option to enter the U.S. Air Force Reserves as a second lieutenant after graduating from MIT in 2000. While at Edwards, Captain Szuminski has been visiting schools as a guest speaker talking to kids about the importance of obtaining an education.

“We mostly talk to students to get them interested about their education and let them know what educational opportunities are out there,” he said.

The AFRL athlete has since spoken with more than a dozen schools throughout the remainder of his time here.

“Once [AFRL] introduced Jason to the Edwards community and surrounding communities, he’d start off his program by asking kids if they’d want to talk about baseball or rockets and invariably the majority of the hands rose for the rocket portion of his presentation,” said Ranney Adams, AFRL Public Affairs representative. “That was kind of neat and inspiring, because it shows that kids are thinking about their future. Jason’s presentations have allowed them to see you can have more than one passion by keeping your options and educational tools open.”

For the moment, Captain Szuminski has been working to regain peak performance, but said he would continue to speak to local schools.

“I’ve been balancing the Air Force career and playing baseball for a few years now and have worked really hard to keep it where I could continue to do both, but I know that it won’t last forever,” Captain Szuminski said. “That’s why I end up telling kids who enjoy playing sports and want to make it a career that they have to know that it’s always good to have something to fall back on. Even if you play a full career you still have plenty of time to do something else. For me, that’s been the Air Force and my engineering career where I’ve never felt like I’ve had to just pick one.”