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January/February 2009

Chris Hahin supervising installation of strain gauges on rebar on a bridge near Springfield, Ill.

Bridges and Baseballs

ASTM Member Christopher Hahin Finds Inspiration in Both

In his professional career and in his hobbies, ASTM International member Christopher Hahin enjoys following ideas to their logical conclusions. In the course of Hahin’s life, these conclusions have often involved bridges and baseballs.

Hahin, an ASTM International member for more than a decade, is the engineer of structural materials and bridge investigations for the Illinois State Department of Transportation in Springfield. A primary function of his work is responsibility for movable bridges (rolling lift, trunnion style and vertical lift types) in Illinois. Among the projects he’s working on are breakaway couplings that will permit light pole bases to collapse after they’ve been hit without injuring driver and passengers, and work on developing high performance bridge and tube steels.

According to Hahin, the central aspect of his position is to look at the relationship between materials and structures. “You can’t really separate the structure from the material. Your structure is no better than the properties of the material that it is built of. You can’t expect a structure to sustain stresses that are beyond the capability of the material.”

Dealing with issues of material and structure naturally led Hahin to ASTM International Committee A01 on Steel, Stainless Steel and Related Alloys. While he belongs to several subcommittees, his work has been primarily focused on the activities of Subcommittees A01.02 on Structural Steel for Bridges, Buildings, Rolling Stock and Ships, A01.05 on Steel Reinforcement and A01.06 on Steel Forgings and Billets.

Known for reading and often commenting on every A01 ballot action, Hahin is enthusiastic about ASTM and its processes. “I’ve made some good friendships with others who are committed to improvement and to good standards,” Hahin says. “I hope that the commentary I provide in my ballots is helpful.”

Hahin applies the same logical mindset he uses in his work to his love for sports, which dates back to his childhood.

“I was thinking about ways to predict the performance of baseball players,” says Hahin. “I began to classify players in different ways, such as home run hitters, power hitters and straight average hitters, and then I investigated correlations between batting average and the number of home runs hit by players.” Hahin ultimately published the results of his work in a book, The Science of Baseball. Researching the book led to encounters with associates of legendary ballplayers like Ted Williams and Bob Feller, which gave Hahin further insights into both the players and the game itself.

While the original version of The Science of Baseball focused on the decades from the 1920s to the 1970s, Hahin is updating the book to concentrate more on the personalities of players and the extent to which players are the products of their times.

“I’m interested in how players have related to society in general, which seems to have been far more frequent in the earlier days of baseball than it is now,” says Hahin, who cites Babe Ruth as an early superstar of the game who had a unique bond with fans. Hahin would also like to write a similar book about football, although he feels that assessing individual statistics for certain positions in football would be much more difficult than it is with baseball.

No matter where his writing takes him, Christopher Hahin plans to continue his ASTM work. “ASTM gives members the ability to focus their thinking to make sure that what they’re writing is accurate, well-defined, specific and addresses the issue,” says Hahin. “It also gives members the self-discipline to work with others who may not have the same opinion as you.”