Q&A: MLB's Grant Dayton '11 improves pitching with engineering knowledge

Published: Mar 27, 2017 4:00:00 PM
Media Contact: Chris Anthony, chris.anthony@auburn.edu, 334.844.3447

Reprinted with permission from the January 2017 issue of ISE, ©2017 Institute of Industrial and Systems Engineers

Grant Dayton ’11 is a pitcher for the Los Angeles Dodgers who earned his industrial and systems engineering degree from Auburn University. Initially drafted by the Florida Marlins in 2010, Dayton was traded to the Dodgers in 2015. In 2016, he struck out 39 batters in 26 1/3 innings. After baseball, Dayton hopes to pursue a career in Florida agriculture. 

What led you to choose industrial engineering as your major?

I have always had an interest in math and physics, so I think engineering was always my first choice. I chose to pursue industrial engineering because it seemed to be a little more hands on [than other types of engineering]. It wasn't until my third or fourth year of study that I realized that industrial engineering would be a perfect fit for me. I really enjoyed the challenges of unconventional problem- solving that I learned at Auburn. I didn't realize until after I graduated that industrial engineering can, and should be, applied to pretty much everything that I do.

Grant Dayton pitching with the Los Angeles Dodgers.
 Dayton made his Major League Baseball debut in 2016.  

What led you to pursue a career in the major leagues?

I have played baseball since I was 4 years old, and it has been an incredible blessing in my life. Instead of joining the military like I always figured I would do, baseball allowed me to go to college. That's when I realized that I was never going to just give it up, and I would always give it my all and see where it could take me. After getting drafted, it was a long road to the major leagues.

I was playing my seventh season in the minor leagues when I got the call that the Dodgers wanted me. It would have been impossible to do without the support I had along the way. Not just from my family, but also my friends, coaches and professors at Auburn. There were many times that ball games or practice would conflict with classes and tests, but I never had a problem working with my coaches and professors to make time for both.

How has your IE background helped your baseball career, and do you apply it to your pitching process?

My engineering background has definitely helped me as a pitcher. In my second season, I decided to take a different approach to pitching. I applied my knowledge of physics to throwing a baseball. My only intentions were to increase pitching velocity, and it worked. I gained about 5 mph on my average fastball. I looked at my body as a system of levers and watched video of myself to see where I was inefficient. My arm path had been taking a pretty inefficient route, so I changed my mechanics. I don't think I would've been able to become as efficient if it wasn't for my understanding of physics that I learned at Auburn.

How do you want to use your IE expertise in the future?

I have been thinking a lot about what I want to do when baseball is over. I live in Central Florida where oranges are grown. I really like the idea of going into agriculture and growing oranges.

What advice do you have for other IE majors who want to pursue their passion?

I would imagine that industrial engineering has to be the most practical engineering degree there is. It teaches you how to think through any problem. It teaches you to be efficient. It gives you the tools to do just about anything, which would include whatever you are passionate about. I think that if industrial engineering can make me a better baseball player, it can make you better at whatever you do. Don't be scared to go out and pursue your dreams because with this degree you will be ready.

– Interview by Cassandra Johnson