“We work in a business that relies upon the decisions of 18- to 22-year old kids every day.” This was a line that Marc Harding from the University of Pittsburgh shared with me when I first began working at Othot three years ago.
While I work for an advanced analytics company and strongly believe in the power of data, I do try to remind myself of how temperamental those decisions can be.
Like when I was an 18-year old kid myself.
(That’s me, second from the left)
When I think back to that time to my own college decision and the trajectory of my life while at school, there are two moments that stand out more than others.
1. Choosing a School
I remember taking a trip with my family to visit schools during the spring of my junior year of high school. The two most significant male influences in my life attended Bucknell and Miami (OH). I grew up hearing incredible stories about college from my roles models, my Dad and my uncle. I thought, “What worked for them, should work for me, right?” Those two schools were on the “short list” for me to see for myself.
My parents decided that we were going to take a short vacation to Williamsburg, VA so a few more Virginia schools were added to our tour. On the way to the University of Virginia, we decided to stop at the University of Richmond.
We visited on a beautiful spring day – all the students were in the quad. I will never forget the tour that we joined. I remember thinking that the tour guide was a guy who I would like to be friends with. And he seemed to love the school and knew everyone. I also remember thinking that I might like to do something different – to carve my own path that was unlike anyone in my family or at my high school. I left that day with a feeling that I had found a place that could be my school. Similar to Bucknell and Miami (OH), but uniquely mine. I’ll never forget that feeling.
(This really is me walking around campus right before joining the tour!)
I was fortunate to be accepted at the University of Richmond and I decided to enroll. But this did not come without some questions and anxiety.
2. Finding “My” School
Which leads into the next key moment for me: college orientation weekend. I distinctly remember driving to Richmond with my parents. As the oldest child in my family, I was the first to go away to college. I had a lot of excitement about it, and I was also nervous. What if this didn’t work out?
The move-in day for orientation was on a Friday and it was close to 100 degrees. It was the early 1990s and air conditioning wasn’t an option in the dorms. I remember going back and forth with my Dad from the car, taking all of my stuff into the dorm, and sweating a lot. I had a roommate who I had never met, and I was the first to arrive. I recall this sense of anxiety coming over me as I realized that I truly was leaving my family.
Just as we were wrapping up with the unpacking, a guy walked into my room. He introduced himself. He asked me my name and where I was from. He was from Pittsburgh like me. He commented on the music I was playing – he liked the band. He played on the baseball team at Richmond, and he was my orientation counselor. I couldn’t believe my luck. His name was Sean, and all of his friends called him Case. He ran out and grabbed his roommate who lived three doors down from me. He was from Pittsburgh too. He loved sports and also played on the baseball team. We knew some similar people too. I remember thinking ‘this just might work out.’ The two guys from Pittsburgh joked with my parents and said that Pittsburgh people take care of each other and not to worry about me. I had this sense that I was going to be ok. Years later, my mom told me that she considered these two guys to be like guardian angels who were sent to help me.
Within a week, I had met most of their friends and they became my friends. They also introduced me to other freshmen that would eventually become my closest friends. Case also gave me a bootleg of some great new music (this local band called Dave Matthews Band played every Tuesday night at the Flood Zone). Within a month, I had gone to three Dave Matthews concerts, joined a fraternity, played intramural sports, and had an active class schedule.
Richmond was my school.
Over the next four years, my orientation counselor would become one of my best friends, a fraternity brother, and a roommate. His biggest gift in life was his ability to connect with all types of people and to do it in a way where everyone in the room was drawn in. He was quick to laugh, always on the go, and never forgot a name. He helped me and countless others to be more comfortable with the notion that nice people can win in the end.
Looking back, I think that Case would have been a phenomenal enrollment management leader. But one thing sort of got in the way of a more conventional path for him – he could hit a baseball like nobody that I had ever seen. He was also consumed by it. Case worked to transform himself from someone who had never lifted a weight to a 230 lb. man who lived in the weight room. He hit baseballs at all hours of the day. Just as importantly, he had this incredible belief in what he wanted to do. Case wanted to be a professional baseball player.
Unlike many of us who have these kinds of early ambitions, Case actually achieved his dream.
Sean Casey finished his baseball career at the University of Richmond in 1995 as a three-year starter, two-time All-American, and winner of the Division 1 National batting title during his junior year, finishing with a .461 batting average. He was a freshman All-American. During his sophomore year, he competed in the prestigious Cape Cod league, where he was named 1st team All-Cape Cod. After his junior year, he was drafted by the Cleveland Indians in the 2nd round. Within three-years of playing minor league baseball, Sean was traded to the Cincinnati Reds, where he eventually became their everyday first baseman for the next seven years. Sean ended up playing 12 years of major league baseball, was a lifetime .300 hitter, a 3-time All-Star, and played in one World Series as a member of the Detroit Tigers.
His personality became as popular as his abilities on the field. During his playing career, Sean became one of baseball’s most outgoing and likeable players and earned a nickname as “The Mayor.” He was voted “Friendliest Player in Baseball” by his fellow players in a May 2007 Sports Illustrated poll.
Notably, as a Pittsburgh native, he also had the first hit and first home run in the opening game at PNC Park as a member of the Cincinnati Reds on April 9, 2001.
Sean has been voted into multiple sports Halls of Fame, including the Cincinnati Reds Hall of Fame, for his baseball exploits. He is currently an analyst at the MLB Network, appearing across MLB Network’s programming, including Emmy Award-winning flagship studio show MLB Tonight. He serves as a player advisor to Diamond Kinetics, the market leader in mobile motion technology and information that enables player development, superior equipment fitting, objective scouting and recruiting, and engagement-driven entertainment.
Not to mention, Sean is a great dad to four terrific kids who gives back to his community in some pretty incredible ways.
These days, watching a Steelers game at Case’s place might be interrupted by a call on his cell phone from Eddie Vedder or a text from Theo Epstein or Terry Francona.
But that’s really the only difference. He’s the same guy I met in my dorm room almost 30 years ago and a friend for life.
Our theme for the Othot Partner Experience and Innovation Day is “Changing the Game.” There is no one on this planet I know who is better equipped to handle that than Case, the “Mayor,” Sean Casey. I know this because he changed the game for me as an 18-year old kid. My early instinct that I wanted to carve my own path was something that he made significantly easier. More importantly, he showed me that the best way to do this is by finding your passion, by treating people with respect, and by not taking yourself too seriously.
I am excited to share that Sean Casey will be our keynote speaker at our Partner Day. He will discuss the evolution of analytics and technology in the game of baseball. Moneyball 2.0, if you will. His incredible life stories will most assuredly bring this topic to life in ways that are educational, engaging, and entertaining.
Sean Casey changes the game of life when he is in a room.
The 18-year old and 45-year old in me both agree on that.
Please join us to see for yourself!