Giants Continue to Innovate Internally

Innovation doesn’t always come on the field. Innovation can invade any part of the sport, really. And innovation doesn’t always mean you are first in your field, even if that sounds wrong. If you define innovation as the introduction of something new, the Giants are constantly innovating upon their own processes.

“You always have to assess your best practices,” admitted Giants Vice President Bobby Evans this week. That includes everything from the training room to the rest room, apparently. Over the last three years, the Giants have spent time improving their facilities so that the fans and players had the best experiences possible. You might not see it easily on the field, and it’s hard to quantify how much these things help — but these changes are probably meaningful.

To be clear, though, this isn’t even to say that the Giants have always been out in front on these new changes they’ve made. Yes, they were one of the first clubs to offer free wi-fi to fans in their stadium, but some of the recent changes have only been innovations to their own setups.

The newest change to how the Giants work has them flying in a “specially configured aircraft” as Evans put it. Instead of chartering a plane with 20 first class seats and deciding it based on “service time or if a guy was banged up” as General Manager Brian Sabean put it, the team has a plane full of first-class seats available for their use on road trips.

Madison Bumgarner’s name was evoked. Evans admitted that he usually got first class treatment, but pointed out that he didn’t always get the seat up front, and when he didn’t, it wasn’t comfortable. “He took up three to four seats, but still had that limited legroom,” Evans said. Now Bumgarner, and his fellow veterans, can all take advantage of extra legroom.

This might be a little easier on their backs, so maybe this shows up there. This should help with the sleeping habits, and show up there. Whatever it is, we know that distance traveled is a big part of home field advantage. And so, for a limited upgrade in cost — Evans pointed out that there are more carriers offering this sort of solution now, so the price has become more competitive in recent years, and Sabean credited Team Travel Director Bret Alexander with the idea — the team offered its players a much better traveling situation.

Oakland and Seattle have been doing this for some time, so this isn’t something the league hasn’t seen before. But it is impressive that a team with three championships didn’t rest on its laurels — it identified a place where it could improve the lives of its players, and it acted.

In a similar fashion, the team has just finished a two-year remodel of the clubhouses at AT&T park. In what Evans referred to as “a little bit of a catch up” to where the other clubs are, and Sabean called “a completely new clubhouse,” the Giants reconfigured the rooms and upgraded the amenities offered to the coaches and players. Little things add up.

Like the lockers, for instance. Now they are wired, so players can charge their private devices in a private space. Lockers include a wing now that provides a little more privacy. Personal storage in the lockers was upgraded. The manager now has a private bathroom. These things might only help a player and a manager feel more at ease, if that’s a small thing.

But there were walls that came down and went up, too. In the training room, the head trainer has a private office now. Not only does that line up with the industry standards better, but it allows him to have private conversations with players, and stay better organized than he did when his space was just part of the training room.

The walls changed shape in the conference room for coaches. The space became more open and rectangular. Evans felt that would be “conducive for communication and collaboration, and more typical of the modern clubhouses,” and that all of this was “part of a transition from an East-West clubhouse to one more square, with fewer columns and obstructions.”

There’s always a tension between public and private in these sorts of spaces, but the front office here noticed evolving needs and made a few changes. For the players, the emphasis was on comfort and privacy. For the coaches, the emphasis was on collaborative work. For the fans, the emphasis was on a fun, open, free hooked-in social experience at the park.

None of this is to say that other teams don’t do this. None of this is to say that the Giants were out front on the bigger part of these changes. And none of this is to say that these things were free and paid for themselves — the Giants made these things a priority over the last two years.

“Any advantage you can gain, or any possible roadblock you can eliminate, you should try to do it,” said Sabean. “It’s all value add and cost,” admitted Evans, “but the additional costs we’ve taken on are not that significant in the grander scheme.” In the end, Evans felt it was a question of “what do you value?”

By considering their coaches’ and players’ needs carefully, it’s clear that the Giants value the comfort, privacy, and productivity of the many people that work for them. “What we’ve learned here is that you try to empower the player — you make it their clubhouse, you make it about them, you make it where they decide how the season goes,” said Sabean.

If that’s not innovative in a general sense, it’s at least smart.

We hoped you liked reading Giants Continue to Innovate Internally by Eno Sarris!

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With a phone full of pictures of pitchers' fingers, strange beers, and his two toddler sons, Eno Sarris can be found at the ballpark or a brewery most days. Read him here, writing about the A's or Giants at The Athletic, or about beer at October. Follow him on Twitter @enosarris if you can handle the sandwiches and inanity.

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Ullu ka Patta
Ullu ka Patta

So you’re saying the Giants have identified a market inefficiency in leg space and rectangular rooms? 😉