Tuesday night at the University of Massachusetts’s Campus Center Auditorium, the Isenberg School of Management put on “Covering the Bases: An Evening with Our GM’s,” a panel discussion featuring three Major League Baseball general managers, all alumni of UMass.
Ben Cherington of the Boston Red Sox, Chris Antonetti of the Cleveland Indians, and Neal Huntington of the Pittsburgh Pirates all gave their thoughts on their respective paths to the big leagues, as well as offering some advice as to how to become successful in the business world.
Current television personality and reporter for ESPN Boston, Mike Reiss, moderated the panel discussion.
While all three current GM’s have proved successful in the business world, each paid their respects to the Isenberg School of Management, in helping shape them for the real world.
“The small classrooms and small faculty created a unique learning environment,” said Cherington. “The healthy dialogue (that it created) helps you develop relationships with people from different backgrounds.”
It were those small, close-knit classrooms that developed the relationship between Cherington and Antonetti, both members of the class of 1997, and helped form the necessary networking opportunities that is so vital for success in today’s world.
When both Cherington and Antonetti were struggling to find work early on in their careers, it was Huntington, the elder statesmen of the three, out of the class of 1992, who proved helpful to the aspiring baseball minds.
“When we had an opening we reached out to our contacts, the people that we trusted,” said Huntington.
Cherington, who was hired by Huntington to do scouting for a minor league baseball team, admitted although it wasn’t what he had in mind, it was still an opportunity to put his “foot in the door.”
“(Your) first job description isn’t going to be the perfect one,” said Cherington. You’ve got to make some sacrifices to get around the right people.”
“Getting yourself around the right people,” is something that all three GM’s stressed throughout the night, suggesting that taking advantage of certain networking opportunities will help broaden the way one thinks, forcing one to think outside of the box, which will ultimately prepare oneself for the real world.
“Being able to tackle intellectual challenges and engage in intellectual conversations,” is something that Cherington noted as being a vital skill that he learned in the classrooms at Isenberg.
Cherington, Antonetti, and Huntington are all great baseball minds, but have been forced to change the way they think with advent of new ways to statistically score the game, called sabermetrics. Sabermetrics, a term coined by Bill James, was the basis behind the famous novel and movie, “Moneyball.”
While many people have criticized James’s metrics, Antonetti thinks of it as a positive for baseball.
“It has made highly intelligent, diverse individuals interested in baseball.”
Cherington also touched upon the idea that personality traits, a section from “Moneyball,” can be useful for those GM’s particularly in big markets.
“We know there are certain personality traits that would be helpful in Boston,” said Cherington. “It’s still hard to figure out how to identify the qualities in those players.”
While the three UMass alumni are currently in three different cities, managing three different baseball clubs, and constantly battling with one another, there is one thing that the three GM’s can all agree upon for now.
“Finding you passion and working exceptionally hard to exceed expectations.”
If the 750 people in attendance can remember the words of these three intelligent individuals, who knows, maybe a few will end up as GM’s, just like Cherington, Antonetti, and Huntington have.