So much of Sarah Langs’ career has been built on numbers.
There’s exit velocity and WAR, on-base percentage and OPS+, win probabilities and WHIP. But there’s nothing bloodless in what Langs does in her role of MLB researcher and analyst.
No, the numbers are often garnished by her infectious enthusiasm, and her nearly 95,000 Twitter followers (@SlangsOnSports) are familiar with what’s become her catchphrase: “Baseball is the best.”
It’s a phrase that makes you take notice — in a sports landscape too often dominated by cynicism, Langs’ unabashed joy makes her an outlier. Which is why, when Langs, 30, got different numbers — bad numbers — she took an approach not many would consider.
The Upper East Side native was 28 when she was diagnosed with ALS, the disease that ended Lou Gehrig’s life on June 2, 1941, and has a 100% mortality rate. The mean survival rate is two to five years, according to the ALS Association. It often affects people 55 and older, there is no cure and just 10% to 20% of people live more than a decade. While that happens, those with ALS progressively experience increased muscle weakness and paralysis.
Although Langs understands the fatality of her prognosis, she wanted to introduce ALS to a few numbers of her own: the hundreds of thousands of dollars she’s raised for ALS research, courtesy of the platform she created through statistical acumen and a love for baseball.
“It’s a very big number and it’s hard to comprehend,” Langs told Newsday. “You love baseball growing up, but you never go out and try to have baseball love you back . . . And even though I can’t believe all this, what I can believe is that the baseball community is so powerful and so warm. It’s very hard for me to see myself as the subject of all this. I’m not surprised baseball is rallying around someone for a good cause.”
Is it ever.
On Friday, on Lou Gehrig Day, it manifested in a $10,000 grant toward Project ALS from the Amazin’ Mets Foundation. She also was honored during an on-field ceremony at Citi Field. Langs’ boyfriend, Matt Williams, threw the first pitch.
The Yankees will honor Langs on July 4, with a $10,000 donation to an ALS organization as part of its HOPE week.
But really, these teams are building on a foundation that Langs built in the eight months since she publicized her diagnosis. She helped raise $100,000 when her friend, Guardians beat reporter Mandy Bell, ran a half- marathon to benefit Langs and ALS research, more than $60,000 so far via #fistbumps4als, a campaign she started on her birthday in May (the Diamondbacks donated $25,000 Friday; the campaign originally had a $30,000 goal).
RotoWear, a baseball T-shirt company, created “Baseball is the best” shirts in honor of Langs and donated $57,000 toward ALS research as of March, according to owner and designer Kenny Tevelowitz. RotoWear will donate even more when it tabulates sales from the last two months and beyond.
That wasn’t all of it: A player from each MLB team will sign a bat to be auctioned off, with the proceeds going to ALS research at MGH Neurology, and each broadcast booth across baseball will hang an illuminated star courtesy of Project ALS. “A Langs Star” is available for fans to purchase for $50, with proceeds going toward research.
The ever-growing number that will be part of Langs’ legacy is this: at least $250,000 raised for research into a disease that is desperately in need of funding. There’s proof, too, that contributions help: The Ice Bucket Challenge — the social media movement in 2014 that raised more than $115 million — led directly to the discovery of a third gene responsible for the disease, according to the ALS Foundation, and a trial for a potentially life-extending drug.
“She’s impacting the disease just as you think Sarah would,” said Mets manager Buck Showalter, who worked with Langs on ESPN’s Baseball Tonight. “She’s trying to make an impact every day that she’s with us, and she is. I’m really proud to know her.”
And in case there was any doubt, Langs is still working. When she was first diagnosed, no longer being around baseball “was a huge concern.”
“I think my first real worry was that people may not understand that I wanted to work,” she said. “I was worried, not of the idea that the disease would take it from me, but that people wouldn’t realize that it was still a possibility.”
In typical fashion, she spent some of the hours before her trip to Citi Field on Friday tweeting Juan Soto’s wRC+ and OPS.
“People had all these printouts [of stats], but she was the printout,” Showalter said of his experience on Baseball Tonight. “She was brilliant. Still is . . . She’s very humble, but she shouldn’t have been. She’s ahead of all of us.”
In short, Langs is baseball’s best.