Innings with Dr. Greg Manco
By Phil Stanton
Dr. Greg Manco doesn’t have one full-time job, he has two.
Manco is in his fifth season as an assistant coach at Saint
Joseph’s. And he is
also a full-time professor in Saint Joseph’s department of
Mathematics and Computer Science.
After spending two seasons on the JV baseball team, Manco
pitched for the varsity team at Rutgers in 1991. He earned a
bachelor’s degree in 1992 and stayed at Rutgers to earn a
master’s and doctorate in statistics.
Manco coached and taught for six seasons at the University of
the Sciences in Philadelphia before moving across town to Saint
After concluding the early signing period with four new Hawks,
Manco took some time from his busy schedule to answer a few of
First Inning – Which came first for you, love of numbers or
love of baseball?
Baseball came first. As a five-year-old, I went to all of my
brother’s Little League games – my father was his coach – and I
learned how to keep the scorebook. I would score every game I
could – I’d do it for Phillies games, both at the Vet or while
watching on television, and I’d even make up my own games for
fun. And like many kids, I was collecting baseball cards. In
addition to flipping and trading them, I was fascinated by all
the information (i.e. career stats) on the backs of the cards.
It wasn’t long after that my brother started to teach me algebra
and I became good at math.
Second Inning – What connected the two for you?
Some older kids in the neighborhood were into Strat-O-Matic
Baseball, and they eventually let me pick a team and play with
them. We’re talking early 80’s here – aside from Atari Baseball
it was the best game out there. (It probably still is.) I wanted
to know how the game worked – how the dice translated into
players’ varying talents. This is how I first learned about
But it wasn’t until I was an early teen when the two really came
together. My parents bought me a new copy of Bill James’ 1984
Baseball Abstract. I devoured every word on every page. I hadn’t
even started my high school playing career yet and I already
aspired to be a major league General Manager, so that I could
incorporate all the neat stuff I was learning. For the years
that followed, I’d wait for new editions of the Abstract with
the same anxiety that people now have for new releases of Madden
Third Inning – How was your playing career at Rutgers?
Well, I wish I could say that my ERA was in the vicinity of my
GPA but it wasn’t even close. I could throw really hard and that
enabled me to walk-on as a pitcher. Unfortunately, I couldn’t
get the ball over the plate if my life depended on it. This was
at a time when Rutgers (and some other schools, like Seton Hall
and Princeton) played an additional junior-varsity schedule,
with games against each other and the in-state community
colleges, to develop the younger guys who weren’t ready. I
pitched in a ton of those JV games, and a couple for the
varsity, occasionally mixing in a strike or two.
But despite my lack of playing success, I benefited greatly from
this experience. For one, with all the heartache that my
baseball struggles were causing me, I felt no pressure regarding
my schoolwork. I was pulling great grades with little effort or
stress. But it was the opportunity to play for and learn from
Fred Hill that meant the most to me. I learned a lot about the
game from him and also how a coach should treat his players. I
can proudly say that I got to play for one of the best coaches
in the history of college baseball.
Fourth Inning – Did you enter college with the plan that you
would get your master’s and doctorate?
No, this just sort of evolved naturally. I originally thought
I’d use my bachelor’s degree in math to pursue an actuarial
career. It wasn’t until one of my professors suggested that I
consider attending graduate school. I looked into it, applied,
and was fortunate to receive a fellowship that allowed me to
pursue my doctorate fulltime, for five years.
Fifth Inning – Were you involved with baseball during
No. Didn’t play it, didn’t coach it, and barely watched it. In
such a rigorous graduate program – Rutgers has one of the
biggest and best Statistics departments in the country – pretty
much everything outside my studies and specifically, outside the
writing of my dissertation, got put on hold. Whereas I was once
able to recite intricate details about, say, the career of Oscar
Gamble, I could barely tell you which teams were in the
It wasn’t until my first faculty appointment ten years ago, at a
small, then-NAIA school with a baseball program on life-support
that I got into coaching, simply to help out the head coach who
had no assistant. This is when I re-discovered my love for the
game and found my second career.
Sixth Inning – How do you balance life as a professor and
life as a baseball coach?
I have a lot of help from the university, and especially from my
bosses. They have been great. The chair of the Math department,
Dr. David Hecker, allows me to bunch my classes in the morning
to minimize conflict. I have also been fortunate to work for two
head coaches – Shawn Pender and now Fritz Hamburg – who not only
understand but appreciate my faculty responsibilities. Without
their help it would be much more difficult. I have some very
long days during the season but there’s nothing else I’d rather
Seventh Inning – Do you miss much class time during the
I don’t miss any time. I’m a full-time professor so that has to
come first, as it should. Just like our players, I, too, have to
keep my priorities straight. Sometimes I’ll miss part of
pre-game for midweek games, and maybe miss the first game of a
distant road trip because of Friday morning classes. My
administrators are kind enough to arrange for me to bus or fly
in a day later. If the high school season is underway, then I
might stay back altogether and recruit.
Eighth Inning – What courses are you teaching this semester?
I’m teaching four stat classes – two for social science majors,
and two for biology majors. The latter involves more probability
and, generally speaking, more theory. Of course, I always find a
way to work in some baseball examples – the one I like to use is
a study of the relationship between major league teams’ payrolls
and their winning percentages. This past season, the Tampa Bay
Rays provided further discussion on how outliers (i.e. unusual
data values) affect such a study.
Ninth Inning – What is your favorite baseball statistic?
This can be answered in two ways. My favorite statistical
category is on-base percentage, if only because it was the one
thing that resonated most when I got into Bill James’ books. At
the time it was something you barely heard about or read in the
newspapers. Now the ability to reach base is widely understood
to be a hitter’s most important asset. OBP and its current
wide-scale acceptance signify how far baseball research has come
over the years.
My favorite statistics compiled by a player has to be Dave
Kingman’s totals from his 1982 season with the Mets. I can
honestly recite them from memory: 35 homers, 99 RBI … and a .204
batting average. He topped it off with a grand total of nine
doubles and one triple. For some strange reason which I can’t
quite explain, I find that to be almost beautiful. (I guess it’s
like the weird kid in American Beauty who videotaped the napkin
blowing around in the wind.)
Extra Innings (or Extra Credit) – If the St. Joe’s bus leaves
Philadelphia at 10 a.m. traveling south at 55 mph and the
Florida Atlantic bus leaves Boca Raton at 11 a.m. heading north
at 65 mph, what time and where would the Hawks and Owls meet for
Well, let’s see … by the time FAU leaves its campus, we’ll be
in Elkton, MD about 1,114 miles apart. We’ll both be on the road
for another 1114/(55+65) = 9.28 hours, meeting up (9.28 x 65) =
603.2 miles from their campus. So with a two-hour pre-game,
we’re looking at a 12:17 a.m. starting time the next day, in
Timmonsville, S.C., hopefully under lights somewhere.
Now that’s the mathematician’s answer – computed under ideal,
overly-simplified conditions. The realistic answer has us
meeting north of Washington, D.C. where we’d still be stuck in
(Photos courtesy of Saint Joseph's Media