ALUMNI NOTEBOOK: Nevada Union grad Sam Schultz combines love of baseball, passion for crunching numbers
August 6, 2018
Baseball is a thinker's game. A paced and deliberate contest with many layers of calculated moves based on historical, and up to the minute, data analysis.
That's exactly why Sam Schultz loves America's favorite past time.
"It's really more like chess," said Schultz, a 2013 Nevada Union graduate who now works as a research and development analyst for the San Diego Padres. "It's a very mental game and you're always trying to outsmart your opponent and think ahead. The nuances of that was always really interesting to me."
Schultz's affinity for baseball began when she was young. Her best friend's father, Steve Fillman, is a big San Francisco Giants fan and he would spend hours with Schultz, explaining the rules and discussing the history of the game. That coupled with her mother's burgeoning interest in the sport helped Schultz down a path that would lead to her dream job.
“I want to let people, especially young girls and young women, know that if you have a passion and there’s something you’re good at or think you could be good at, follow your dreams and pursue it. Don’t let people tell you, ‘you can’t do it,’ because you absolutely can. I think we need more women chasing their dreams and succeeding in fields like physics and sports.”
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She joined Little league at the age of 8 and later switched to softball, competing in the Nevada County Girls Softball Association. Schultz played through high school, taking the circle as a pitcher for the Nevada Union Lady Miners softball team.
"I just fell in love with the game," she said "I played softball all the way through high school, and I've loved watching baseball and talking about it for as long as I can remember."
After graduating from Nevada Union, Schultz attended Saint Mary's College of California where she majored in physics. She didn't play on the collegiate softball team at Saint Mary's, but her heart was never far from the game.
By her senior year at Saint Mary's, Schultz was questioning her major choice, but put her analytical mind to work in an effort to help the college's baseball team.
"I realized physics just wasn't what I wanted to do at this point in my life, but I figured out a way to combine my love for data and numbers and story telling through data and do that with baseball," Schultz said. "So, I started doing that with the Saint Mary's baseball team and then when I went to grad school, I did the same thing for the Columbia baseball team."
It was Schultz's analytical work for Columbia University's baseball team that got her noticed by the New York Mets.
"They liked my analytic, problem-solving background and wanted to utilize that in a business analytics way," Schultz said. "So, my time was spent finding ways to drive revenue and understand the customer base better."
After working in a business intelligence and analysis role for the Mets, Schultz applied to Major League Baseball's Diversity Fellowship Program. Then, after an arduous application process which included multiple essays and several interviews with Major League Baseball, she was one of 22 candidates chosen out of 13,000 to be part of the program's inaugural class.
The MLB's Diversity Fellowship Program is an effort to competitively recruit the most talented individuals and brightest young minds entering the workforce. The program provides the opportunity for young, diverse professionals to experience front office positions that have been traditionally influential in baseball operations decisions, according to http://www.mlb.com.
Schultz was offered a baseball operations position with the Padres and jumped at the opportunity, despite being a few classes short of a graduate degree from Columbia.
"The opportunity to do what I've wanted to do and have this dream realized so soon was just too good to pass up," she said.
For Schultz, who loves to pore over numbers in search of patterns, the job is a perfect fit.
"My job is to try and make the team better by locating patterns in our on-field play, in the data we're collecting constantly from what's happening on the field," Schultz said. "I'm trying to exploit the things that we're really good at to make us even better at them, and find our weaknesses so we that we can improve upon them or change what we're doing."
Although the days are long and the industry competitive, Schultz is truly enjoying her position with the Padres.
"I feel lucky every single day to have been able to figure out that I can do this with my degree and my skill set, and to do it so quickly," Schultz said. "Sports, especially major sports, is an extremely competitive industry and people spend years and years trying to get into it… So, every day I feel so lucky to be able to do this."
According to Schultz's mother, Elizabeth Baldwin, it's her work ethic that landed her the job.
"Nobody gave her anything," said Baldwin, who is the circulation and audience development director at The Union. "She worked hard for it. People would say to me as a compliment, 'oh she must be a genius' when she was pursuing physics. No actually, she works for it. Which I think is more extraordinary. She worked for all of this and I look forward to her being able to mentor other young women in the future, whether that be those interested in STEM (Science, Technology Engineering and Math) or sports."
While her current position with the Padres is one Schultz treasures, she does one day want to be a general manager for a Major League Baseball team.
"For right now, this is definitely the dream job. But long term, in the next 10-15 years, I would love to be the general manager of a baseball team," She said, acknowledging there has yet to be a female GM in MLB's history. "While I don't want to have to be the first one, I'd like someone to just do it first because it's time, I'd also be completely honored to be the first one. That would be my long term goal."
For now, she will keep crunching numbers in an effort to help the Padres win and hope her story inspires others.
"I want to let people, especially young girls and young women, know that if you have a passion and there's something you're good at or think you could be good at, follow your dreams and pursue it," she said. "Don't let people tell you, 'you can't do it,' because you absolutely can. I think we need more women chasing their dreams and succeeding in fields like physics and sports."
To contact Sports Editor Walter Ford, call 530-477-4232 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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