Sun. May 26th, 2024

Image: Sarah Langs, photo via MLB.com

As the 2024 Major League Baseball (MLB) season is underway, the air is thick with anticipation. Fans from coast to coast and across the globe are eager to witness the return of baseball royalty, including Bryce Harper, Mike Trout, Manny Machado, Aaron Judge and Shohei Ohtani, who was last season’s MVP and the new owner of the largest contract in sports history.

While these superstars captivate the majority of media and fans with their extraordinary physical abilities and larger-than-life personas, another equally compelling story is unfolding away from the diamond and the crowd’s roar. It is a story that we, as baseball fans and sports enthusiasts must not overlook.  

It is the story of Sarah Langs.

Although her name may be one you are not yet familiar with, she is baseball royalty in her domain — a talent deeply embedded within the fabric of “America’s favorite pastime.” At just 30 years old, Langs has emerged as a formidable figure in the sport, not by swinging bats or throwing pitches, but by utilizing her keen analytical mind and deep passion for the game to become an MVP in her own right, rivaling the achievements of any athlete. Her journey offers a captivating glimpse into the variety of ways baseball continues to inspire and evolve, celebrating not only the athletes who toe the rubber or step into the batter’s box but also the individuals who shape the sport’s narrative beyond the field.

Langs, originally from the Upper East Side of New York City, grew up as a passionate New York Mets fan, a love for baseball instilled in her by her parents during her early childhood. In 2011, her journey took her to the University of Chicago, marking the next chapter of her life. Upon her arrival on campus that fall, the New York native quickly realized which career path interested her the most.

Although she majored in comparative human development — a field that focuses on studying individuals throughout their lives by combining social, cultural, biological and psychological processes that influence development — it was a class called “Baseball in American History, 1840s to Present” that cemented her decision to embark on a career as a baseball reporter. As Langs shared with the University of Chicago News in 2023, “It was a history class, not a baseball class — it was about the cultural history in the United States and how it translated with baseball, and it was amazing. There I was, having just turned 19. I never imagined I could do something like that in college, and it was really cool to sit there and be like: ‘Yeah, I want to be a baseball reporter; this is why I’m here [at UChicago].’”

During her academic tenure, Langs completed internships at The New York Daily News, SportsNet New York (SNY) and CSN Chicago (now known as NBC Sports Chicago). Additionally, she worked as the Senior Sports Editor for The Chicago Maroon, an independent student newspaper on campus where she served for nearly four years.

After graduating from the University of Chicago in 2015, known for her mastery of baseball history and statistics, Langs was hired by ESPN. There she would work as a Sports Content Researcher and eventually as a Senior Sports Content Researcher for over three years. In 2019, Langs joined MLB.com where she has since served as a reporter, researcher, producer and columnist. In addition to her work behind the scenes, Langs has appeared over the years on prominent entertainment platforms including Buster Olney’s Baseball Tonight podcast, MLB Network, SportsNet New York (SNY) and Mid-Atlantic Sports Network (MASN).

In July 2021, she was selected to participate as an analyst in the first all-female on-air broadcast crew to ever call an MLB game — a testament to the respect she garners from others within the industry. A moment Langs described to the New York Post as “a dream come true.” She and her colleagues were eventually featured on the NBC TODAY Show in a segment titled, “Meet 5 Women Who Made Baseball History Calling A Major League Game.”

While Lang’s prominence within the industry continued to rise, a “nasty” curveball was about to be thrown her way.

In 2021, the same year Langs made history by becoming part of the sport’s first all-female broadcast crew, she received devastating news. She was diagnosed with ALS, Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, also known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease. ALS is a progressive neurodegenerative condition that progressively impairs nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord, as defined by ALS.org. This disease leads to the deterioration and eventual death of motor neurons, extending from the brain to the spinal cord and muscles across the body, crucial for voluntary movements and muscle control. Over time this degeneration results in the brain’s inability to initiate and control muscle movement. Consequently, individuals with ALS may eventually lose the ability to speak, eat, move and breathe. ALS is most frequently diagnosed in people aged between 40 and 70, with an average diagnosis age of 55. Despite ongoing research, no cure has been found for ALS, and the average life expectancy following diagnosis ranges from two to five years. Currently, an estimated 31,000 individuals are living with ALS in the United States, and there are about 5,000 new cases diagnosed each year.

Initially diagnosed in 2021, Langs chose to keep her ALS diagnosis private, sharing it with only a select few. In October 2022, she publicly revealed her condition on the social media platform Twitter, now called X, writing, “I have ALS. I am so grateful for an amazing support system: family, friends & my baseball community. So many have gone to unimaginable lengths to help me, leaving me speechless.” She wrapped up her post with a heartfelt acknowledgement: “Baseball is the best.”

Despite receiving such a devastating diagnosis and being reliant on a wheelchair for mobility for over a year, Langs remains undeterred in her commitment to the sport she loves and adores. As her passion for baseball remained undiminished by ALS, Langs covered the 2023 World Series, providing stats, offering predictions and appearing repeatedly on MLB Network, where her expertise is consistently appreciated by the audience. Throughout this past offseason — and continuing to this day — Langs has maintained her rigorous schedule. She actively writes columns for MLB.com, often producing multiple pieces each week. Additionally, she keeps a presence on national television, podcasts and YouTube platforms, while continuing to share insightful and frequently entertaining statistical analyses with her more than 122,000 followers on X.

Langs shared her perspective on living with ALS in a poignant statement to the University of Chicago News in 2023. She reflected, “One thing about ALS, it doesn’t affect your brain; it doesn’t affect your ability to think and be you in the same way you have always been. For me, one of the things I get strength from is baseball. It’s always been the thing I’ve loved, loved thinking about, and talking about, and writing about. For me, this is what I love doing, so quitting wasn’t ever really a consideration.”

In January 2023, Langs was honored with the prestigious Casey Stengel “You Could Look It Up” Award, presented by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America (BBWAA), for her investigative spirit in baseball statistics. During the award presentation, ESPN journalist Buster Olney remarked, “Nobody loves baseball more than Sarah Langs.” This past October, the Society for American Baseball Research (SABR) announced the creation of the Sarah Langs Women in Baseball Analytics Scholarship, a grant to be awarded annually to two individuals who identify as female and are pursuing careers in baseball analytics or data science. Additionally, the highly popular video game, “MLB The Show,” released its 2024 edition in March, featuring Langs as one of the commentators.

Despite Lang’s significant accomplishments in the media realm, it is her extraordinary courage and resilience beyond the baseball diamond that truly commands her utmost respect and admiration. Her battle against life’s more formidable adversaries — far removed from the straightforward challenges of fastballs or curveballs — resonates deeply with the true nature of heroism. It reminds us that genuine courage is not confined to public accolades but also thrives in the silent struggles of personal trials  – for it is the quiet battles waged away from the public eye that define the essence of heroism.

As the 2024 MLB season unfolds, amidst the excitement of cracking bats and cheering crowds, as we fill the ballparks and gather around screens to watch our favorite players, while we enjoy the pleasures of hot dogs, peanuts, soft pretzels and soft serve, let us also pause to draw inspiration from and pay homage to Sarah Langs. In her, we recognize the embodiment of true valor, not merely for her visible achievements within the sports domain but as a beacon of hope and resilience for everyone. Her legacy, a testament to both hope and inspiration, powerfully illustrates that heroes are not always the people taking the ball field. 

 


Barrett Snyder is a WCUPA graduate student pursuing a master’s degree in Exercise Science with a specialization in Sports Psychology. JS1030435@wcupa.edu

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