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Jose Nogueras, Tom Simmons, and Harold Putt Tell Basebal Class About Baseball Reporting, Running a Club, and Baseball and Math

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

The Baseball in American culture closed out the season with a trio of excellent speakers who helped students understand many of the things that go on behind the scenes at baseball games, and also delved into the world of mathematics to discuss how the game is measured.

Jose Nogueras (pictured at left with many of the press passes he has collected over the years) led off by telling the class about the life of a beat reporter for a minor league baseball team. Nogueras, who is the Associate Director for News Services in the Department of Communications and Marketing, worked as a reporter covering the San Antonio Missions of the Texas League. He told the class that he became interested in baseball reporting as a youngster by making scrapbooks detailing the exploits of his beloved Cincinnati Reds. He mentioned that sport reporting is a job for a young man, because it requires long hours on the road and at the games. He also told students that though the career likely seems glamorous, it involves a great deal of hard work, often trying to coax quotations from players who would rather not talk to reporters. Nogueras held that establishing trust and rapport with players was the most important part of the job, and that reporters therefore did not typically write all that they knew of any individual player.

Tom Simmons, ONU's Athletic Director, and an alumni of the sports management program here, told students about his experience as an executive with the Los Angeles Dodgers organization. As a Dodger, Simmons managed the Dodgers' former spring training facility at Vero Beach, Florida. He told the class of his work, which included designing the promotions that would put fas in the seats, and providing an enjoyable experience once they arrived. A great deal of behind-the-scenes effort went into the last part, and included ensuring that the stadium was clean, that concessions were handy, and that they would be motivated to come back again. Simmons also served as the General Manager of the Memphis Bay Bears, a minor league team operated by a consortium of investors who payed very careful attention to the bottom line, a feature of the baseball business that Simmons told students became increasingly the focus of the game.

The final speaker was Harold Putt, who teaches in the ONU math department who told students about his work on seeking ever more descriptive measures of players' on the field performance. Putt does research on baseball mathematics, and mentioned that one of his students did his capstone experience on fielding statistical analysis. During the past few decades, baseball teams have been paying a great deal of attention to situational statistics to evaluate talent and create the most effective lineups. The Boston Red Sox have gone so far as to hire Bill James, one of the founding fathers of the Society for American Baseball Research as a senior consultant. Some have pointed to James' efforts as one of the reasons the team was finally able to break the Curse of the Bambino and win the World Series in 2004.

All of the speakers this year served to provide students with valuable insights into the often hidden parts of the baseball world. The class will likely be offered again during the 2011-2012 year.