Alex Gimenez '15ILR Experience: Research: the importance of team chemistry in baseball Founder, Big Red Sports Network
My interests were in psychology, business, and management, and during the college search process I realized that ILR aligned with those interests very well. More specifically, my passion was, and still is, major league baseball. A career in that area had been my goal ever since my dad took me to one of the playoff games when I was in fifth grade. I was recruited to play baseball at a few other colleges, but turned those offers down to come here. ILR gave me the opportunities to develop the skill set to go into the MLB, whether that’s broadcasting, journalism, or baseball operations. I think this degree gives you a great overall perspective on management, whether it’s the union side of things or just managing people in general, and that’s what baseball operations is really about. You deal with people who are assets and you handle contract negotiations, things that I really didn’t know about before I studied them here, but they’re so crucial for managing and running a sports team.
When I was looking at schools and read “Cornell is a great research university,” it was hard to know what that meant. I didn’t realize it was an opportunity for me to come up with my own idea and develop it. In college, I think everything becomes a question; it’s not just about the way things are, but about why they are that way. My area of interest was team chemistry, which I believe is incredibly important to team success, but there is not enough proof of that. At ILR, I was able to pitch my idea to study this topic to a professor, and was able to work with top researchers in the field.
During my playing career, I played on a team that had horrific chemistry. After learning about organizational commitment, leadership, and group dynamics in my ILR classes, I decided to research the relationship between high school baseball team chemistry and performance. If we can measure and improve how people work together in businesses, we should be able to do this with sports teams as well. How do you develop the right group of players? How do you have the right group of people on your team at any given time, or the right manager to manage that team and lead it to success? I think a lot of teams overlook these topics today.
The past fifteen to twenty years or so have been very focused on statistics…the “moneyball” era of baseball. I think the next step is the mental skills-era, or the organizational behavior-era of baseball, because we’re starting to realize that you can have all the statistically right players on the field, but they won’t really mesh correctly. You’ll see teams that, on paper, should be the best teams, yet they do poorly, and there is something about the team’s dynamics, group cohesion, and organizational culture that play a part in that. By learning about these topics in ILR classes, and through my research examining the chemistry and performance of high school teams, I learned more about how these pieces interact. Understanding how these areas are connected is important whether you’re looking at them from a business perspective, or that of a sports team, or that of a college trying to better understand its students.
Big Red Sports Network
I had always dreamed of broadcasting baseball games, even when I was a player. The organization I founded, Big Red Sports Network (formerly Cornell At Bat), is a student-run broadcasting and media group for Cornell Athletics. We bring access to the teams through radio, video, print, and social media. In the beginning, when we were trying to get our coverage out there in every possible medium, we worked with organizations such as The Cornell Review, WVBR, Cayuga Radio Group, and others, and some organizations were very difficult to navigate. That’s where a lot of the skills we learned in classes like Organizational Behavior and Labor Relations paid off. Every skill that I’ve learned about negotiations became useful, like knowing how to develop a strategy or the ways to show someone that you’re doing the right thing for everyone involved. By using the skills right from the classroom, we went from not being able to get anything from some organizations to being able to get everything we wanted on our terms.
Boston Red Sox
In my current role, I’m involved in managing operations related to the oversight of the Major League 40-man roster. This includes management of the player salary arbitration process, logistical support on player movement and transactions, contract analysis for roster and free agent players, and payroll maintenance throughout the season. A lot of the skills and methods of thinking that I use every day were cultivated during my time at ILR. For example, studying how to navigate difficult organizational landscapes has helped me work in an environment with many competing interests and personalities. Courses on arbitration and conflict resolution provided the foundation for my work on salary arbitration and contract negotiations, which culminated in helping lead the Red Sox to victory in our first arbitration hearing in 15 years in 2017.