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Wednesday, July 4, 2012

How Theo Epstein Changed My Life

 By Joel McAuliffe

At some point during my time as a wide-eyed, baseball loving middle school student at Bellamy Middle school in Chicopee, Massachusetts, I realized I would never become a Major League Baseball player. I was an average ball player, sure there were times when I felt like the "Big Papi" of the Chicopee Park and Rec League, but even the string of 7 consecutive games with a hit, and a walk-off double against the local Knights of Columbus would not be enough to secure the scholarship to Boston College to play first base or the draft bonus from the Red Sox to lure me away from said scholarship. 

I kind of look at it as a blessing that I was able to realize this at such a young age. My love for the game of baseball would never go away, no, quite the contrary. It continued to grow with each and every game I watched and every game I played. Baseball provided stability in my life. The game never changed, the object always the same. That's the way I like it. 

I fell in love with the 2003 Red Sox, and from there on out I have been fixated with the game of baseball. I'm also a student of history and with the narrative being written in 2004, I knew there was some one responsible for the dramatic change in the culture in Boston. The team was winning. I had remembered seeing a 28 year old man being interviewed by Katie Couric, as he stood in front of a snow covered Fenway Park in late November, 2002, being lauded as the youngest general manager in Major League Baseball history. I had no idea at the time, that less than a year later the great work of Red Sox General Manager Theo Epstein would come to light. A Brookline kid who never played baseball for his Brookline High School Warriors, but dreamed of working for the Red Sox, had turned this team around in 2003 and led it to a World Series Championship in 2004. Theo Epstein had become my hero, so right then and there I knew there was a way for me to stay in the game of baseball. 

I had dreams of becoming a general manager in baseball, and though today I have sort of committed to finding another way of staying in the game of baseball, by pursing a communication degree, I still hold that dream somewhere in my heart. 

It's why I coach baseball, It's why I umpire baseball, It's why I love baseball. I've adhered to a piece of advice Theo Epstein himself gave me in 2006, when I did a school project on him, "Learn as much about the game as possible and try to get involved in the game in some capacity as soon as possible.  You can read books about baseball, talk to coaches, watch a lot of games, play the game, learn how to score, etc."

Those words changed my life forever. I've done each and every one of those things and continue to do them today.

I recently logged into my AOL email account for the first time probably in over six years and found the email exchange between me and Theo and I thought I would share it with you. 

Thanks for reading, Enjoy.

The Following are the contents of the email exchange between me and Theo Epstein dated Thu, Mar 30, 2006 10:55 pm

What do you look for in a trade?

"We want to trade for players who help us for the current season and the next several years.  Sometimes we make trades because the new player is a better fit with our team than the one we’re trading away.  Sometimes we make trades to balance out the team.  When we traded Nomar, we thought we had plenty of offense but not enough defense so we gave up a good hitter and got back two good defensive players (Cabrera and Mientkiewicz)."

How do you determine what free agents to sign?

"First, we identify the team’s weaknesses to figure out what we need.  For example, our bullpen depth was a problem in 2005 so we targeted free agent relievers this winter and signed Tavarez and Seanez."

What do you look for in the draft?

"We don’t draft based on need.  We draft the best players available.  It takes most young baseball players a long time to make it to the majors, so our major league needs can change by the time a drafted player is ready for the big leagues.  Obviously, we want guys who will be good players but we also want guys who have a strong work ethic and good attitude."

What does it take to be a General Manager?

"Patience – it’s a long season and even very good teams lose more than 60 times each year.  
Passion – you have to love the game.  Our staff works a lot of hours all year long, but we don’t mind because we love thinking and talking baseball.
Leadership – a GM is the final decision maker.  You must be able to take in information from many different sources – scouting reports, statistics, advisors, etc. – and make a final decision.  You cannot have a fear of failure because the job is about being right more than you are wrong while realizing that you can’t possibly be right every time."

"What advice would you give a youth who is interested in becoming a general manager?  How would you go about doing this?"

"Learn as much about the game as possible and try to get involved in the game in some capacity as soon as possible.  You can read books about baseball, talk to coaches, watch a lot of games, play the game, learn how to score, etc."

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