Written By: Sarah Mallepalle
The CMU in Sports Series details the impacts of past and present CMU students, faculty, post-docs, and staff who have made an impact in the world of sports analytics. This third profile in this series features an interview with Oscar Garcia, a former CMU graduate student in Business.
Carnegie Mellon’s campus lies in a city rich with history of sports championships and legends, and at the top of our list of celebrated athletes reigns Pirates’ pride-and-joy, Roberto Clemente. His accomplishments include two World Series Championships, a Most Valuable Player Award, and an astounding twelve Gold Gloves, tied only with Willie Mays for the most earned by an outfielder in MLB history. In addition to his success on the diamond, Clemente was equally admired for efforts as a humanitarian, hosting baseball clinics in Puerto Rico for youth in low-income families, and heading relief efforts in Nicaragua after an earthquake struck in 1972. More than 40 years later, Clemente’s legend of baseball and service lives on, as exemplified by Tepper’s very own, Oscar Garcia – a first-generation Nicaraguan-American, Scouting Coordinator of the Milwaukee Brewers, and honored military veteran.
After completing his Bachelor’s degree in Economics from College of the Holy Cross, Garcia served in the Navy for eight years as a supply officer, an experience which has helped him in his current position with the Brewers. “One of the most important lessons I learned was how to effectively interact with people, from Navy colleagues to foreign nationals, and how to treat them with honor and respect,” Garcia explained. “I learned the importance of building trust with people to effectively forge relationships. These experiences have helped me tremendously in baseball since I collaborate with colleagues and baseball professionals from different parts of the world.”
Coming to the Tepper School of Business after his military career, Garcia was able to forge more opportunities in teamwork and leadership, while also honing his quantitative skills and working on sports-related endeavors. As an officer in the Tepper Sports Business Club, one of Garcia’s most notable accomplishments was winning the annual SABR analytics case competition, travelling to Arizona to showcase his teams’ sports analytical prowess in front of MLB front office personnel and industry professionals (pictured above). On why he chose to attend CMU specifically, Garcia states:
“I chose Tepper because of the quantitative rigor in academics, the leadership emphasis, and the sense of a small, tight knit, and familial community. After serving close to 8 years in the Navy, I wanted to earn my MBA at a school that stressed the importance of data analytics in the decision making process, and also placed an equal importance on leadership. Compared to other schools I was considering, Tepper became my number one choice because of the endless opportunities and community I was going to join.”
Soon after finishing his MBA, Garcia moved on to the big leagues, working as a Baseball Operations intern with the Washington Nationals. His responsibilities included researching strategies involving roster management, salary arbitration, player transactions, and evaluating and writing scouting reports on major and minor league players. Through developing his scouting abilities, the opportunity emerged with the Brewers to support both their amateur and international scouting staff as Scouting Coordinator – a perfect opportunity for Garcia to seamlessly combine his knowledge, experience, and education in the scouting vertical.
I had the opportunity of sitting down with Garcia, offering advice to CMSAC on how to merge life lessons, quantitative education, and leadership background with a passion for a sport.
What does a typical day look like at your job? Does it differ in-season vs. out-of-season?
A typical day involves checking in with the scouting staff to ensure they are ready and equipped with everything they need to conduct their duties effectively and in the most efficient manner. I also work on ad hoc projects that emerge throughout the year. Depending on the time of the year, we could be preparing for the annual draft and international signing period, At times I also will have the opportunity to scout and check into our baseball academy in the Dominican Republic.
I work mostly as part of two teams. I support both the amateur and international scouting staff with day to day operations. I am in constant communication with them on how best I can support them in their scouting duties.
How did you know you wanted to have a career in sports, specifically being a Scouting Coordinator?
Growing up my dream was to be a baseball player. Once I realized I wouldn’t be able to attain that, I always had an interest in pursuing an opportunity that would support sports, particularly baseball. As I finished college and entered the Navy, I stayed plugged in to the current environment of baseball and in the back of my mind, I carried an unsettling desire to pursue an opportunity in baseball. I wasn’t sure at what time in my career this would emerge. As mentioned, while at Tepper, I was able to leverage my education and all the resources at school to enter the baseball industry after graduation.
The Nationals internship presented an opportunity to contribute in a baseball operations capacity that spanned many verticals. As I continued to evaluate players and write scouting reports during my internship, I realized this was a baseball operations realm I wanted to continue to grow in. Amateur and International scouting are both very interesting and dynamic areas in baseball with many questions and problems left unsolved.
What skills, technical and non-technical, are essential for being a Scouting Coordinator? How do you recommend one develop these skills?
Skills that are essential for this role are to be collaborative, organized, have a passion for learning, and passion for the game. Additionally, technical skills such as advanced excel, SQL and R are beneficial to handle large datasets and synthesize information. I recommend the best way to build these skills is by working on baseball projects with team members. Through an interesting baseball project with others you can collaborate with your teammates, continue to develop your technical skills and advance your baseball acumen.
What are some things that you learned or worked on in school that are beneficial to you in your current job?
My concentrations during my MBA program were in quantitative analysis, information systems and finance. In addition to learning concepts, these concentrations allowed me to take data analytics courses such as data mining, Big Data, and Modern Data Management to learn R, SQL and advanced excel skills.
I also completed my leadership certification course with the Accelerate Leadership program which allowed me to continue to develop my leadership skills. This leadership curriculum allowed me to self-assess and identify improvement areas in how I am able to lead and work effectively with teams.
The Brewers are headed into the 2019 season as the favorite for clinching the NL Central, after a narrow loss last season in a riveting seven-game National League Championship Series, and outfielder Christian Yelich earning the MVP Award. But more than supporting just his team, Garcia admirably considers himself a student of the game – he’s forever fascinated by the strategic elements, the team components, the competitiveness, and the methodology behind constructing and managing teams across the entire league. Garcia totes what he calls an “unconventional background” in the sports industry, and he serves as a great role model and example to all of us at CMSAC on how we can use our unique perspectives, opinions, and education to make an impact in the sports industry.