Dr. Ricardo Valerdi is the Founder and Chief Scientist of Science of Sport. He developed the Science of Baseball, Science of Soccer, Science of Basketball, and Science of Football programs in collaboration with MLB, MLS, NBA, and NCAA teams, respectively.
Dr. 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 a Professor of Systems and Industrial Engineering at the University of Arizona where he is also the Pac-12 Faculty Athletics Representative and the Director of the Sports Management Program at the Eller College of Management. In 2018 he was a Visiting Professor at the United States Military Academy at West Point.
In addition to his academic endeavors, Dr. Valerdi has been a consultant to the Department of Defense, SpaceX, and the NCAA.
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.
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. She then moved into Science of Sport as the Program Coordinator and has now taken on the role of Community Outreach Coordinator. Now as Community Outreach Manager, Meghan functions as the link between Science of Sport and the teachers and students it serves, oversees volunteer and internship opportunities, and plans and organizes the annual Science of Sport Charity Golf Tournament.
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 with a minor in Spanish.
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.
Allison is an Arizona native and is a graduate of Arizona State University with a Bachelor of Science in Marketing and a certificate in International Business from the W. P. Carey School of Business. Allison started working with Science of Sport as a Marketing and Outreach Intern in June 2018 and has now taken the role of Marketing and Outreach Coordinator.
Prior to Science of Sport, she worked as a Ticket Sales Associate for Sun Devil Athletics. Allison performs day-to-day marketing activities for all Science of Sport social media accounts, provides digital strategy for our website, creates new content, and assists in marketing efforts for the annual Science of Sport Charity Golf Tournament.
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 Midwest 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.
Dedicated to student success, Cindy Trejo is a pioneer in designing and creating policy for informal learning settings (afterschool / summer school), for the 21st Century Community Learning Centers (CCLC), where she served as State Director for the Arizona Department of Education for 14 years. Raising the bar high Cindy was instrumental in developing strong STEM programs in Arizona with key partnerships including the Arizona Science Center and the Arizona Diamondbacks Major League Baseball Team. Cindy initiated the strategic alignment between the Arizona Diamondbacks and the Science of Sport leading to innovative STEM programming and early access to STEM for Arizona students.
Ms. Trejo, now with the University of Arizona will continue her dedication to education in the Student Affairs, Enrollment Management, Academic Initiatives and Student Success Division. Cindy will be key in helping develop innovative programs as the University becomes a Hispanic Serving Institution.
A native of Tucson, Michael’s twenty-year professional career has primarily centered on political strategy, business development and advocacy, and organizational management.
Michael’s previous positions include: Executive Director of Metropolitan Pima Alliance; Chief-of-Staff to Tucson City Council Member Fred Ronstadt; Vice President for Governmental Affairs for the Tucson Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce; and political consultant to The Bridges, a 360-acre mixed-use, infill development.
At Sun Corridor Inc., Michael is responsible for a wide range of special projects, including the Sierra Vista Technical Assistance Program, business development and executive missions.
Michael holds a bachelor’s degree in Political Science from the University of Arizona.
On a personal note, Michael’s passion is baseball and was the Official Scorer for the Tucson Padres between 2011-2013 and has also instructed classes as part of the University of Arizona Science of Baseball.
Tracy Benson is President of the Waters Foundation, an internationally recognized leader in systems thinking capacity building. From the classroom to the boardroom, Tracy designs and leads programs that engage, motivate and inspire individuals and groups devoted to making positive differences in their schools, businesses, organizations and communities.
As a life-long educator, Tracy taught physical education and health at the elementary and secondary levels. She also served as a school principal and a professional developer and evaluator at the district level. In addition to her K-12 experience, Tracy was an adjunct professor in both undergraduate and graduate university programs for teachers and administrators at Capella University and Northern Arizona University.
She holds a Doctorate in Educational Leadership from the University of Arizona; an M.A. in Educational Administration from Northern Arizona University; and a B.S. in Psychology, Education, and Physical Education from St. Lawrence University. Tracy was also a Graduate Assistant for the Exercise and Sports Science Program at the University of Arizona.
Carly is a native of Chicago and graduated from Loyola University Chicago with a BBA in Sports Management in 2015. She loves sports and is passionate about many of them – tennis, basketball, football – however, she played and excels at soccer. Carly was the 2011 Chicago Tribune Girls High School Soccer Player of the Year her senior year of high school. She was an All American and played Division I college soccer at Loyola. She began coaching soccer teams after graduation and began her career in sports working for the WNBA Chicago Sky in community relations and game operations. Carly worked as an Internal Operations Coordinator for a Chicago based sports marketing agency, in addition to coaching two youth girls’ soccer teams.
Carly currently resides in the Los Angeles area and is a soccer coach with the LA Galaxy South Bay travel soccer program. She loves teaching the game of soccer to the next generation of youth athletes. She hopes to instill the spirit of teamwork, competition and sportsmanship so the players can experience some of the same challenges and joy soccer has brought to her life.
A 2018 graduate of Northern Arizona University with a B.A. in International Affairs, Alexis has a passion for serving her community. She has dedicated a majority of her time volunteering for different organizations. A native of the Phoenix area, she always looks for ways to help give back to the community. Alexis is inspired by her parents who are both educators and has spent time as a tutor throughout her academic career. She is also passionate about athletics as she was a softball player throughout her high school career and still enjoys watching all kinds of sports. Alexis is excited to help teachers and children use benefits of athletics as a way to effectively improve performance in STEM subjects.
Born in San Diego, California and raised in Goodyear, Arizona, Elias Najera has been living the best of both worlds. Elias graduated from Arizona Agribusiness and Equine Center High School in the West Valley of Phoenix in 2015. Afterwards he began simultaneously completing his bachelor’s in biology Emphasis in Pre-Med and Associates in Social Sciences at Grand Canyon University and Estrella Mountain Community College. His ultimate desire was to extend a helping hand to others and was at a passionate and determined disposition.
Elias became a certified Spanish Medical Interpreter through a technical program in February 2016. He initiated services at St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center, where he assisted neuro and cardio physicians and served cross-cultured patients. Elias was then introduced into the Lutheran Social Services of the Southwest team. He completed more than 150+ hours of cultural, law, and financial literacy classes by providing interpretation services. He also assisted and managed resettlement programs directed and dedicated to refugees from countries like Somali, Cuba, Iraq, Bosnia, and several more. Growing up Elias observed various hardships that low and middle-income families and communities would encounter. The experiences he was currently undergoing reinforced those economic and sociocultural barriers. He realized the importance of expressing a positive and inspirational impact to younger and future generations.
Elias has been involved with teaching instruments like the drums and bass to younger teens at his local church since 2015. He also organizes sports events, assists as an intercultural communication facilitator, religious Spanish interpreter, service and song director, and musician. Elias is a sport enthusiast and former indoor soccer player who enjoys baseball, football, basketball, walks in La Jolla Shores or Imperial Beach, kayaking, and hiking equally. As of May 2019, Elias is a Community Outreach Specialist for Science of Sport, AmeriCorps member, and Public Ally apprentice from the Public Allies Program of ASU Lodestar Center for Philanthropy and Nonprofit Innovation.