‘Moneyball’ speaker visits KSU Stark


Paul DePodesta, The New York Mets VP of Player Development, scouting entrepreneur, and primary subject of the book and movie Moneyball, answers questions from the press and Kent State’s student media during a press conference held in the Smith Board Room in the University Center at Kent State Stark prior to his speaking engagement Tuesday Oct. 7, 2014.

Kianna Bugglin

NORTH CANTON — The baseball-themed, Oscar-nominated 2011 film Moneyball is based on a true story of real-life people with one exception: Peter Brand.

Paul DePodesta, whom the character of Brand was based on, walked into the packed University Center at Kent State University Stark on Tuesday Oct. 7 and started with an opening question.

“How many of you have actually read the book or seen the movie Moneyball?” DePodesta asked. As the majority of the crowd raised their hands, he replied, “Well, I apologize—I’m not Jonah Hill.”

Jonah Hill portrayed Brand in the film, is a research geek that can crunch numbers and use analytics to find the best baseball player on the field. He works for Billy Beane, general manager of the Oakland A’s.

DePodesta now functions as the Vice President of player development and scouting affairs for the New York Mets. DePodesta served as the only real-life character in the movie that refused for his actual name to be used.

When DePodesta joined as the assistant general manager to the Oakland A’s in 1999 alongside Beane, the team had one of the lowest payrolls in baseball. This gave the duo the perfect opportunity to create a team-building strategy that was innovative in the team’s payroll disparities.

He told the audience about his analytic strategies in choosing members for teams, better known as sabermetrics, which DePodesta defines as “using analytics from in-game activity to better understand and predict player performance.”

DePodesta emphasized that, in order to be successful, you have to be relentless, become aware of all the psychological biases, and focus on process. But most importantly, you have to be willing to fail.

“The fact is we tried,” said DePodesta. “We knew that with each small failure, we were actually getting closer to a better model, to a better outlook, to a better answer—so we didn’t really view those as failures at all.”

Madison Logan, a freshman psychology major at Stark, enjoyed the entertainment in DePodesta’s speech.

“I really enjoyed listening to his speech because, not only was it entertaining, but it gave me a personal life perspective to use in the future,” Logan said. “I really enjoyed how he added a comedic effect through personal anecdotes and kept me entertained the whole time.”

His advice for students that are transitioning from college to the “real world”?

“My advice is that the ‘real world’ doesn’t have to be so real. It can be whatever you’re passionate about,” DePodesta said in the press conference. “Don’t just do this because you think you are supposed to. Do it because you are passionate about it.”

DePodesta graduated in 1995 with an economics degree from Harvard University. He started as an advance scout for the Cleveland Indians, before quickly being promoted to assistant general manager. He’s also worked for the San Diego Padres and, at the age of the 31, became the general manager for the Los Angeles Dodgers.

DePodesta is the first speaker in Stark’s Leadership Speaker Series. There were approximately 500 in attendance on Tuesday, according to Public Relations Coordinator Cynthia Williams.

The next speaker in the series is Marvel Comics Creator Bill Rosemann on Wednesday, November 19 in the University Center at Kent State Stark.

To find out more about the Leadership Speaker Series, call (330)499-9600 or visit www.stark.kent.edu.

Contact Kianna Bugglin at [email protected]