A Love of Baseball Leads SEAS Student Halfway Around the World

Matt Karo '18 (left) spent six weeks in China as  a youth coach for Major League Baseball. Here he is in Changzhou with Asher Lee-Tyson, a fellow coach and senior at Princeton.
—Photo courtesy of Matt Karo '18

A catcher on the Columbia Lions baseball team, chemical and biomedical engineer Matt Karo ’18 figured he’d spend this past summer playing the game—he just never expected it would be in China, working for Major League Baseball (MLB) as a coach, sharing America’s pastime with youth in six different cities.

Karo spent six weeks in China, from June through August, with an MLB program that fosters baseball culture in places where the sport is unfamiliar. It was Karo’s own coaches, Brett Boretti and Dan Tischler, who brought the idea to their player, after taking note of his coaching experience and passion for the game. It’s a passion he loves to share.

“These kids had never played baseball before,” said Karo, who took advantage of the trip to also walk the Great Wall and visit the world’s largest Confucian temple. “The first few days they couldn’t really catch the ball or execute the fundamentals, but by the end of our time we were playing games and they were getting hits and accomplishing things that were hard to believe after how we started.”

For Karo, who grew up in Pacific Palisades, California, the game is a microcosm of life; the lessons learned have proved applicable elsewhere, including in the lab confronting tough engineering challenges.

“Baseball has given me the best lesson a sport can give someone: the ability to cope with failure, to work harder and rebound and not let it discourage me,” Karo said. “And also the priceless ability to work with a team to communicate, delegate tasks, and be open about disagreements.”

Karo is once again putting these lessons into practice on and off the field. Back in New York City, he is training for his last season with the Lions and working with a team in his senior design class to devise a power cogeneration plant paired with a water desalination unit to help provide both potable water and electric power to a projected site in the Middle East. Previously, he worked with Biomedical Engineering Professor Elizabeth Hillman on creating a heated foam roller for athletes, and took his prototype to the semifinals of the Columbia Venture Competition.

Looking ahead, Karo plans to pursue a career in finance specializing in the life sciences.

“The projects I’ve taken on have shown me the impact that capital can have on design ideas,” Karo said. “I feel that I can make the biggest impact with my career by helping develop and foster a multitude of ideas through investment.”

by Jesse Adams

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