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University of Michigan School of Information


Ryley Larson

Ryley Larson standing next to another person in an office.

For Ryley Larson (BSI ’24), the summer internship was a return home: to the sport he played for two years of junior college and to his hometown of Olympia, Washington. 

Larson received a grant from UMSI’s Ehrenberg Internship Fund that enabled him to work as an associate area scout for the St. Louis Cardinals. He traveled to games with area scout Donnie Marbut, acting as a second pair of eyes as they collected data on promising players in the Pacific Northwest.

As “Moneyball” viewers know, data analytics has transformed how baseball is played and how players are scouted. Instead of saying, “‘I heard him hit the ball really loud,’ now we can say that it’s going 110 miles an hour,” Larson explained. 

The son of a high school baseball coach, he is no stranger to baseball speak. But Larson’s internship allowed him to bring his studies in information analysis — including SI 311.030 Sports Analytics — onto the field, where he could interpret the data and then act as a translator.  

He gave the example of exit velocity and launch angle, key data points that are captured by the camera-based analytics system. These terms, while innocuous to the baseball outsider, inspire heated debate among some coaches. “A bunch of my dad’s friends hate it,” Larson joked. “Every time they see me, they get after me about it.” 

But old-school baseball coaches have always told their players to hit the ball on a straight line. “Now we can put a number to that and say, yes, in fact, the head-high line drive does get more hits than a pop-up,” Larson said. “We’re saying the exact same thing. We’re just being a little more precise in doing it with numbers instead of what we feel.” 

His favorite part of his internship was forming relationships with scouts and baseball executives. Larson was intimidated by their decades of experience, but he found that even the most seasoned scouts were eager to talk to him, too, once they heard what he was studying at U-M. 

“One of the biggest things I was able to learn through this whole experience was that I love being around the game in the physical sense,” Larson said. Instead of becoming a “back-office data scientist,” he now gravitates toward “a hybrid role where I’d get to do both: wrangle with data and also be at the field talking to players, coaches and scouts.”