Analytics at Wharton
Wharton Junior ‘Takes the Field’ to Uncover Baseball Magic and Chart a More Diverse Baseball Future
Emma Segerman is a junior at Wharton, studying economics. She is actively involved with the Wharton Sports Analytics and Business Initiative: she is a former teaching assistant for the Wharton Moneyball Academy and participates weekly in the Undergraduate Sports Analytics seminar. This summer, Emma will intern with the Milwaukee Brewers in their international scouting department.
If you spend time around baseball fans, you’ll find yourself circling back to this idea of “magic” – the feeling shared between father and child when they “have a catch,” Babe Ruth’s calling his own shot, the united gasp in a packed stadium as a homerun flies off the bat. Fans pray to the “baseball gods,” nicknamed Ozzie Smith “the Wizard” for his defense, and cherish a film about a field with the magical power to resurrect baseball’s early greats.
Ironically, it is this exact element of magic that keeps those in the baseball industry on their toes. All 30 Major League Baseball (MLB) organizations ask the same question: how can they quantify baseball’s “magic”?
This past December, I had the opportunity to explore this question at MLB’s Take the Field program, which was hosted in conjunction with MLB’s Winter Meetings, an event with its own mystique. Each December, Winter Meetings sets up in a warm-weather hotel for a week of industry updates, contract discussions, offseason trade talks, and chatter over cocktails at the hotel bar. While the event is technically open to the public — job seekers are known to bird-dog the lobby for executives to hear their elevator pitch — the closed-door meetings are where the magic of the event lies. The Take the Field program began in 2018 in an effort to empower women looking to enter the industry.
Segerman, below, attended the 2022 Take the Field program, a two-day event specifically designed for women interested in front office and on-field careers within professional baseball.
At the time there had yet to be a woman in charge of an MLB baseball operations department, on an MLB coaching staff, or as a manager for a Minor League team. Since then, women have taken on each of these roles, and more.
Perhaps best-known is Kim Ng, General Manager (GM) of the Marlins. With her hiring as the first female general manager in Major League Baseball in November 2020, young women across the country saw a future for themselves in the industry. I, myself, found my phone buzzing with messages from friends and family excited to tell me that a path had been forged. Coming full circle, Kim Ng opened the 2022 Take the Field event as a keynote speaker, telling us that the industry was ready to accept more women into the fold, we just had to dive in.
The weekend was constructed from a series of speaker panels, breakout groups, resume review sessions, and mock interviews, all with the goal of preparing us to enter the industry. With representatives from all 30 clubs and the League office, there was opportunity to discuss anything and everything. Speakers walked us through the baseball calendar for a baseball operations team (from Spring Training, to offseason trades, to Opening Day), outlined the unconventional paths people take into the industry, and gave us a peek into the mind of a manager when facilitating team chemistry (an element of baseball magic notoriously difficult to quantify). The biggest messages of the weekend included: learn to code, create a body of work (both to develop skills and to have a concrete product to introduce in job applications), and build genuine connections — the industry is small.
“To be surrounded by more than 100 young women with a shared passion for a male-dominated industry was empowering.”
The baseball-specific knowledge passed along at this program was phenomenal — a breakout table of team scouts taught me more about player evaluation than any book or article could. The element of connection building, however, was by far the most powerful aspect of the weekend. To be surrounded by more than 100 young women with a shared passion for a male-dominated industry was empowering. New friends shared their experiences handling difficult coaches, pursuing research, and creating bonds on long road trips in summer baseball leagues.
I think my learnings from this program can be split into two parts. First, the concrete, analytical side of the industry is something actionable to prepare for: complete research, learn code, stay up to date with the latest news. Pursue these areas and you’re three-fourths of the way there. It is the last one-fourth that is harder to quantify: building connections, carrying a passion, and hustling to get in position for success.
That last part is the magic, as essential in front offices as it is on the diamond.