Wednesday, August 01, 2012

Keeping your eye on the ball: keys to Yavapai Humane Society success

Baseball great Tony La Russa has taught Ed Boks well!
Congratulations to the Yavapai Humane Society's Furious Furballs for becoming the 2012 City of Prescott Summer Softball Wednesday Co-Rec E Champions!

Watching the Furballs this year reminded me how baseball is useful metaphor for life. Consider the expression "keep your eye on the ball." According to the Cambridge International Dictionary of Idioms, it means, "to give your complete attention to what you are doing or want to achieve." Sounds simple enough, but how easy is that?

Well, the Journal of Recreational Mathematics claims that keeping your eye on a pitched baseball is next to impossible. The human eye cannot track a pitch thrown in excess of 90 miles per hour. To do so the body has to respond at a rate in excess of 1,000 degrees per second. Studies show the human limit is on the order of 90 degrees per second. Consequently, batters lose track of the ball as it nears the plate and must subconsciously extrapolate its trajectory in order to hit it. Amateur batters lose sight of the ball about 9 feet away while professionals lose sight at about 5.5 feet.

Applying this metaphor to our
goal to end the killing of animals to control pet overpopulation, we could ask if we will lose sight of it the closer it gets.  In my last blog I reported western Yavapai County in Arizona is among the top three communities in the U.S. with the lowest and fastest declining pet euthanasia rate. So the question I am asking today is can we keep our eye on the ball as it comes barreling towards us?

How well a team keeps its eye on the ball is demonstrated by statistics. Statistics play an important role in summarizing baseball performance - just as they do in evaluating animal shelter performance. In both arenas, we look for statistical significance to determine whether results reflect a pattern or mere chance.

For instance, we see a pattern emerge in the Furious Furballs' win/loss record over the past three years. In 2010, the team won one game and lost nine. Last year they won four and lost six. This year they won 10 in a row and became the division champions. This is a statistically significant pattern.

We find a similar pattern when we analyze three YHS statistics over the past three years (ending July 31). The live release rate (which refers to the number of animals getting out of the shelter alive) climbed from 71 percent in 2010 to 87 percent in 2011 to 94 percent in 2012. That may seem unimpressive until you realize this number represents four more lives adopted into loving homes every day of the year, for an additional 1,460 lives saved!

When we examine the number of animals killed annually we find this number declined 68 percent in 2010, followed by a 60 percent reduction in 2011, which translates into an 87 percent reduction over the past two years. This means only animals who are irremediably suffering or dangerously aggressive are being euthanized - the very definition of "no-kill."

Then there is the statistic that put YHS in the Hall of Fame - the number of animals killed per 1,000 human residents. This number fell steadily from 17.25 in 2009 to 1.3 in 2012, which is the third lowest rate in the nation. While sharing these statistics may sound like boasting, remember what another Hall of Famer, Dizzy Dean, said, "It ain't bragging if you can do it."

Both YHS teams have demonstrated they can do it! Congratulations, Furballs and YHS employees, volunteers, partners and supporters for knocking it out of the park! Michael Jordan said it best, "Talent wins games, but teamwork and intelligence wins championships."

Ed Boks is the executive director of the Yavapai Humane Society. He can be reached at or by calling 445-2666, ext. 21.