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Ballard Smith

Executive Director

Smith received his Juris Doctor from the University of Minnesota law school in 1971 and served as District Attorney in Crawford Coounty, PA. Smith then served as the President/CEO of the San Diego Padres from 1979-1987, a tenure that included a National League championship pennant. Smith also worked on the Board of Directors of the McDonalds Corporation from 1983-1997.

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Ricardo Valerdi

Chief Scientist

Valerdi received his Ph.D. from the University of Southern California in 2005 and was on the faculty at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology from 2005-2011. Since 2011, he has been an Associate Professor of Systems and Industrial Engineering at the University of Arizona. He developed the Science of Baseball curriculum and is currently developing the Science of Soccer and Science of Football programs in collaboration with MLS and NFL teams, respectively.

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Daren Heaton

Vice President Business Development

Daren previously worked for the Arizona Diamondbacks and has been in the sports industry for 7+ years. During his time with the D-backs he was the Manager of Education Initiatives, which managed all education programs in the community through the Sales Department and help start the D-backs Science of Baseball program. Heaton also worked for the Los Angeles Galaxy from 2009 to 2011 where he was a Group Sales Account Executive. He got his start in sports by completing the Inside Sales program with the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2008. Daren was born and raised in Mesa, Arizona and graduated from Texas A and M – Corpus Christi where he played college baseball.

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Gary Bennett

Board of Directors

Bennett is a former MLB catcher who was drafted by the Philadelphia Phillies in the 11th round of the 1990 MLB draft. Bennett played in the Majors for 13 seasons with eight different teams including the Phillies, New York Mets, Colorado Rockies, San Diego Padres, Milwaukee Brewers, Washington Nationals, St Louis Cardinals, and Los Angeles Dodgers. Additionally, Bennett was a member of the 2006 World Series Champion St Louis Cardinals. Bennett is heavily involved in the child development realm. He is currently the principal owner at Slammers Baseball and Softball Academy in Lake Forrest,IL, a board member at the Oak Grove School Educational Foundation, and board member at the Libertyville Little League and Libertyville Youth Baseball organizations. Bennett also currently serves as FOX Sports Midewest game analyst for the St Louis Cardinals. Other ventures Bennett is involved in include TAB-Group LLC, a residential real estate company, and GDB Enterprises Ltd, a medical device Corporation.

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Scott Burns

Board of Directors

Scott F. Burns is a practicing Arizona attorney with the 5.0 AV rated law firm of BURNS AND BURNS PC. Additionally, Scott is an associate broker with the real estate firm J.S. Burns Real Estate. Scott has extensive experience representing business entities and multi-generational families in connection with the acquisition, financing, management and sale of real property including corporate governance compliance. In addition to his real estate practice, Scott assist families, professional athletes and business professionals with their asset protection and estate and tax planning needs including the formation and governance of 501(c)(3) tax exempt entities.

Scott was born and raised in Phoenix, Arizona and attended the University of Arizona. While at the University of Arizona, Scott served as co-captain of the University of Arizona baseball team which competed in the 2004 College World Series. Additionally, Scott was also the recipient of numerous academic and athletic awards including: the Pacific-10 Conference Pitcher of the Week Award; the Pacific-10 Conference Post Graduate Scholarship Award; was named to the Pacific-10 Conference Academic Honorable Mention Team; and was a four time recipient of the Mary Roby Academic Award.

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Julia Strange

Board of Directors

Julia Strange is vice president of Community Benefit for TMC HealthCare with responsibility for government relations, community outreach, advertising and marketing, and strategic communication. She serves on numerous community boards including Mobile Meals of Tucson, the Girl Scouts of Southern Arizona and the Arizona Bioscience Roadmap Steering Committee. Prior to joining TMC HealthCare in 1996, Julia was a reporter/writer for University of Southern California, Inside Tucson Business and the Indianapolis Business Journal. She is a 1988 graduate of the Indiana University School of Journalism.

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Linda Wojtowicz

Board Member

Linda Wojtowicz has long been involved with non-profits and has a passion for helping those in need, especially children. Previously she was the Chief executive Officer of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Tucson and the former Chief Operating Officer at Tucson Medical Center. She has been active on several boards including AZ Board of Nurse Executives, American Heart Association, the YWCA, Pima Council on Aging and several advisory boards. She is a member of Rotary International and the Foster Care Review Board and enjoys volunteer work, having also served as medical missionary in South America. Linda hails from Chicago and came to Tucson some 12 years ago. She is a nurse by background.

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Aron Rooze

Project Assistant

Aron is a proud husband & father and a graduate of James Madison University. After a career in sales & management, he chose to readjust priorities by earning a Masters of Educational Studies and entered the field of education. After developing SportSTEAM, a nonprofit that provides a combination of sports & education to HeadStart programs in Georgia, Aron joined Science of Sport as the Southeast Regional Director and is excited to work with underprivileged kids in Georgia and across the Southeast.

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Meghan Marriott

Project Coordinator

Meghan began working with Science of Sport as a Youth Ambassador for the Arizona Diamondbacks Science of Baseball in 2014, helping run camps and visit school programs. Her passion for athletics and education started as a swim instructor and coach in her teens, which turned into an assistant coaching position for high school swim and dive. Meghan is a graduate of the University of Arizona’s College of Medicine with a Bachelor of Science in Health Science in Physiology.