Drew Hedman’s title with the Arizona Diamondbacks is Major League Run Production Coordinator. The 33-year-old Pomona College graduate was promoted to that position in January 2019 after spending the previous 12 months as a pro scout. His backstory is interesting, in part because he bypassed business school along the way.
Hedman played four seasons in the Red Sox organization, and while he topped out in Double-A, that alone qualifies an accomplishment. A total of 1,521 players were selected in the 2009 draft, and only three of them went later than Hedman. As a 50th-round pick, the writing was on the wall by the time the ink dried on his first contract. Not that he didn’t give pro ball the old college try.
“I certainly knew the odds weren’t in my favor, but with that being said, I always tried to be stubborn enough to think I’d be the exception,” Hedman told me. “I did everything I could to put myself in the best possible position to make it. Obviously it didn’t happen.”
Staying in the game beyond his playing days was a goal even before his release. The question was, in which capacity? A front office role made sense — Hedman has a B.A. in Politics, Philosophy and Economics, with a focus in Economics — but his alma mater wasn’t yet the baseball breeding ground it’s become. Over a dozen Pomona alums have gone on to work for MLB teams since Guy Stevens, who now runs the Kansas City Royals’ R&D department — broke the ice in 2013. Hedman was cut loose in spring training that same year.
“Back then it wasn’t really a path that people [at Pomona] were exploring,” Hedman told me. “It wasn’t something I really knew existed, or knew how to approach if I wanted that to be a reality.”
A coaching role at the collegiate level ended up being Hedman’s “impactful first step” toward a return to professional baseball. In August 2013, he was hired as an assistant to Tim Corbin at Vanderbilt.
Seventeen months later, Hedman got his foot in the door. In January 2015, he hooked on with the Washington Nationals — “a front office internship where I got my hands dirty with whatever was thrown my way” — and got to work closely with assistant GM Sam Monday-Cohen, whose own path was profiled here.
Then came a two-year hiatus that nearly included a return to academia. Following his stint with the Nationals, Hedman worked for a Washington D.C.-based company that runs baseball camps and showcases. Then, as 2018 loomed, he was accepted at one of the world’s most-prestigious business schools. MIT-Sloan, which boasts a strong sports analytics program — “Them being one of the thought leaders in that space spoke to me” — was going to be a stepping stone to a position with an MLB organization. Quite possibly a higher-level position.
Few jobs in professional baseball are less glamorous than scouting. No matter. When the Diamondbacks reached out to see if he’d be interested, Hedman waved goodbye to MIT-Sloan and picked up a radar gun. Working for Mike Hazen, Jared Porter, and Amiel Sawdaye — front office executives in Boston during his playing days — was too good of an opportunity to pass up. Add scouting director Jason Parks to that mix, and Hedman viewed the non-sexy role as a hardball heaven.
Upward mobility was in the offing. After just one year of covering two organizations, from MLB down through low-A — a few special assignments thrown in for good measure — Hedman was hired into the newly-created position he now holds. Supporting hitting coaches Darnell Coles and Eric Hinske — “D.C. calls us a three-headed beast” — he performs a multitude of tasks.
“A Run Production Coordinator has a lot of roles,” said Hedman. “There are a lot of different rocks to turn over to make sure we’re scoring as many runs as possible. I’m diving into analytics-based projects, working with Mike Fitzgerald and his R&D team. I’ll focus on our game-planning and advance scouting. Some days I might be on the field, or in the cages. The culture Darnell has created is extremely inclusive and collaborative. He makes sure we’re doing everything we can as a staff to get our guys everything they need.”
What does Hedman want going forward? Much like when his playing career ended, he’s not entirely sure. All he really knows is that he wants to stay in the game.
“I don’t know exactly what’s next,” Hedman admitted. “I just want to make sure I’m doing as much as I can, and learning as much as I can. Right now, I guess the end goal is to have as much impact as I can for our organization.”
Back at November’s GM meetings, I asked San Diego’s AJ Preller what one of his pitchers was asked to focus on over the offseason. He wouldn’t provide specifics, but he did offer a glimpse at the Padres’ process.
“That’s a conversation between us and our players,” Preller told me. “It’s always a part of the process. You get to the end of the season, give the players a month to kind of decompress, then it’s about review. You look back and figure out, ‘Is there some information, some tidbit, that we can provide to our pitchers?’ At times it’s ‘Hey, this is food for thought,’ and in some cases it’s, ‘We’d like to see if we can make these adjustments.’ And a lot of times, our pitchers are aware of that. They’re asking their own questions about what they need to adjust.”
RANDOM HITTER-PITCHER MATCHUPS
Fourteen months ago in this space, I wrote about how Payton Henry grew up in a wrestling family in a wrestling town, and how he is viewed by many as Milwaukee’s catcher of the future. How the latter role unfolds is highly dependent on the development of his bat. The 22-year-old Utah native has both the aptitude and the defensive chops to one day catch at the highest level. But his offensive game has been nothing to write home about. In 482 plate appearances last year at high-A Carolina, Henry posted a .711 OPS and fanned 142 times.
Rather than sit on his hands all winter, the young backstop enlisted the help of a former home champion and his sweet-swinging son.
“Over the offseason, I got a chance to work with Dante Bichette and Bo Bichette,” Henry told me prior to spring training being shut down. “A lot of it was consistency and approach. I’m a bigger guy with a bigger swing, and I’ve been kind of streaky, which is something I never was before pro ball. There was nothing drastic — I didn’t want to go through a complete swing change at this point in my career — but rather it was [Dante] basically saying, ‘Hey, listen. We need to take these paths to the baseball to be correct and meet that ball.’”
Most of Henry’s hands-on interactions were with the older of the two Bichettes. The 22-year-old Toronto Blue Jays shortstop was usually around — “he was always in the cage” — and Henry did take the opportunity to pick his brain, as well. After all, he was there to learn as much as he could.
“I felt that working with them would only help,” said Henry. “Hopefully working with them will help.”
A trivia question:
Which former New York Yankee once spent a month on the Red Sox’ active roster, during the regular season, without ever playing a game in a Boston uniform?
The answer can be found below News Items.
The Cape Cod League officially canceled its 2020 season on Friday. The prestigious collegiate summer league has been in action each year since 1946.
Dan Walters, who caught for the San Diego Padres in 1992 and 1993, died earlier this week at age 53. A native of Brunswick, Maine, Walters became a police officer after his playing career ended and was paralyzed in a 2003 shooting.
Dick Hyde, a submarining right-hander for the Washington Senators and Baltimore Orioles from 1955-1961, died last week at age 91. Hyde’s best season came in 1958 when he went 10-3 with 19 saves and a 1.75 ERA.
Steve Dalkowski, whom Cal Ripken Sr. and Earl Weaver both said threw harder than Nolan Ryan, died earlier this week at age 80. Legendary for his velocity and wildness alike, the Connecticut-born southpaw had 1,324 strikeouts and 1,236 walks in 956 minor-league innings from 1957-1965. Dalkowski never pitched in the major leagues.
The answer to the trivia question is Gene “Stick” Michael. Signed by the Red Sox as a free agent prior to the 1976 season, Michael sat on the Boston bench throughout the month of April and was released on May 4. He then retired. (Per Red Sox: Where Have You Gone? by Steve Buckley, published in 2005.)
On Friday I tweeted that Rico Petrocelli’s 1969 performance — .293/.403/.589 with 40 home runs and 10.0 bWAR — might be the most underrated shortstop season ever. Not mentioned, but notable, is that Petrocelli finished seventh in A.L. MVP voting that year.
One of my Twitter followers replied that Cal Ripken Jr.’s 1984 season ranks right up there, as well. Looking at the numbers, @bguizzet was spot on. A year earlier, Ripken had been named A.L. MVP after registering a 146 wRC+ and 8.5 fWAR.
In 1984, Ripken had a 146 wRC+ and was worth 9.8 fWAR… yet finished 27th in MVP balloting. He received all of one down-ballot vote.
I ran a “Who was better?” poll on Twitter this week, and the result was pretty much what I expected: Kirby Puckett (71.5%) bested Brian Giles (28.5%) by a wide margin. Truth be told, I’d have gone with Puckett myself. That said, the numbers don’t necessarily agree.
Both finished their careers with 51.1 bWAR, and — this may come as a surprise — Giles had a clear edge in fWAR, 54.8 to Puckett’s 44.9. If your gut-reaction to that is “Well, Puckett’s career got cut short”… not so fast. Puckett had 7,831 career plate appearances; Giles had 7,836 career plate appearances.
Puckett’s .318 batting average stands out, but Giles (.291 BA) had a .400 OBP and a .502 SLG. Conversely, Puckett had a .360 OBP and a .477 SLG. Moreover, Giles had 287 home runs and a 139 wRC+, Puckett had 207 home runs and a 122 wRC+.
Despite his boffo offensive numbers, Giles was an All-Star just twice. Puckett, who won six Gold Gloves and a batting title, garnered All-Star honors 10 times. Adding to Puckett’s bona fides were a pair of World Series championship, and better postseason performances. Giles did little in October.
Again, my inclination is to say Puckett was the better of the two. Even so, the difference is by no means wide enough that one should have been a first-ballot Hall of Famer while the other received nary a vote in his lone year of eligibility. That’s exactly what happened.
LINKS YOU’LL LIKE
The greatest pitching performance in New York Mets history came in 1965, from a pitcher you probably haven’t heard of. Hannah Keyser wrote about it for Yahoo Sports.
Over at the Portland (ME) Press Herald, Kevin Thomas talked to former Red Sox farmhand Mike McCarthy, who continues to volunteer for Baseball Miracles — an organization that brings baseball to impoverished areas around the world.— while serving as a pitching coach in the Minnesota Twins system.
John Dillinger was a diehard Chicago Cubs fan; he was also the star shortstop on a semi-pro team, and later on his prison team. Chris Landers wrote about the legendary bank robber’s baseball talent at MLB.com.
Which teams have traded with each other most often over the past 30 years? Andrew Simon provided a detailed answer at MLB.com.
RANDOM FACTS AND STATS
Ted Kluszewski averaged 43 home runs annually from 1953 to 1956. The Cincinnati Reds slugger had more home runs than strikeouts in each of those four seasons.
Ralph Kiner played in 140 or more games nine times. He led the National League in home runs in seven of those seasons.
In 1944, Detroit Tigers right-hander Dizzy Trout led qualified American League pitchers in both ERA and hits allowed.
The Detroit Tigers won their first game in franchise history on April 25, 1901, beating the Milwaukee Brewers by a score of 14-13. The Tigers went into the bottom of the ninth inning trailing 13-4.
On April 25, 1961, Haywood Sullivan went 4 for 4 with a double and a pair of triples as the Kansas City Athletics trounced the Minnesota Twins by a count of 20-2. The light-hitting catcher went on to manage the Athletics in 1965, at age 34, and later served as the general manager of the Boston Red Sox from 1978-1983.
Two players who recorded four hits in their big-league debuts did so on April 25. On that date in 1987, Bill Bean went 4 for 6 with the Detroit Tigers. In 1933, Russ Van Atta went 4 for 4 with the New York Yankees. The cherry on top of Van Atta’s debut performance was his mound work — he tossed a complete game shutout.
Skeeter Kell recorded the first of his 47 career hits on April 29, 1952. The younger brother of Hall of Famer George Kell went 2 for 5 off Bob Feller as the Philadelphia Athletics fell to the Cleveland Indians 21-9. Feller allowed 18 hits in his complete-game win, Al Rosen homered three times, and Jim Fridley had six singles and a walk in seven plate appearances.
Boo Ferriss made his MLB debut on April 29, 1945, throwing a complete-game shutout as the Red Sox bested the A’s 2-0. In his second outing, he blanked the Yankees in a 5-0 Boston win. Ferris was the winning pitcher in each of his first eight starts on the way to a record of 21-10. The following year he went 25-6.
Players born on this date include Packy Rogers, who had seven hits in 37 at bats for the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1938, his lone big-league season. Three of those hits came in his MLB debut, a game in which Rogers both walked and tripled in the first inning.
Hall of Fame first baseman Jim Bottomley — born on April 23, 1900 — had 42 doubles, 20 triples, and 31 home runs in his 1928 MVP season with the St. Louis Cardinals. Per @BSirvioBtB, no other player in MLB history has had a 40-20-30 season.
David Laurila grew up in Michigan's Upper Peninsula and now writes about baseball from his home in Cambridge, Mass. He authored the Prospectus Q&A series at Baseball Prospectus from December 2006-May 2011 before being claimed off waivers by FanGraphs. He can be followed on Twitter @DavidLaurilaQA.