This story originally appeared in Sunday Baseball Notes. Read the rest here.
When Peter Bendix made his well-timed arrival at Tufts in the fall of 2004, the freshman from Cleveland was clear-eyed in his ambitions. As instructor Andy Andres reviewed roughly 70 student submissions for the 20 available spots in Sabermetrics 101, a course he was introducing that semester through the Experimental College at Tufts, Bendix stood out for his precociousness.
“Pete, as a freshman — first semester in college, just from high school — wrote he wanted to be the general manager of the Cleveland Indians,” Andres, a lecturer at Boston University, recalled with a laugh. “We saw that when we looked at his application and said, ‘Oh, we’ve got to take that guy.’ It turned out to be a wise choice.”
Indeed. Earlier this month, Bendix — a 38-year-old who’d spent 15 years with the Rays, including the last two as GM — was named president of baseball operations for the Marlins. He beamed at the preposterousness of his freshman aspiration coming to fruition, albeit with a team other than the one he’d grown up watching.
“I had no idea what [being a GM] meant, what it actually was, or the fact that it might actually happen someday. It’s completely surreal,” said Bendix. “I was so fortunate that that class existed, that they let me into it as a freshman when there were more people that wanted to be in it than spots available. Andy must have been a good scout.”
For Andres, seeing Bendix emerge from that first iteration of his course to become the head of a baseball operations department — the first time one of his former students has assumed such a position of prominence — represents a thrilling milestone after nearly two decades of teaching in an area that has gone from experimental to established.
“It’s a much different landscape in 2003-04, when we were putting [the course] together,” said Andres, noting that now-familiar staples of baseball operations departments such as Statcast and data-driven pitch design were years away. “It was the dark ages of analytics. It was fun. It was fun to put together, for sure.
“We were trying to [help students] get [their] feet wet, know what this is, and start giving advice about what to do if you want to pursue these jobs,” he added. “It was a novel thing 20 years ago. Twenty years ago, there were a handful of people working full-time in analytics for teams. It was brand new back then. And now we’ve got 500-plus, and it’s probably a lot more than that, depending on how the positions are described.”
Andres taught Sabermetrics 101 at Tufts until 2019, and about a decade ago, he reintroduced it as a free online course on Boston University’s EdX platform. Tens of thousands of students have taken the introduction to sabermetrics, baseball analytics, and data science online. Andres also periodically offers an introduction to sports data science in person at BU, which now has a Data Science major.
The field has matured, and there is an established academic and curricular pathway for aspiring front office members. Bendix, however, is a product of the first post-garage days of sabermetrics as an academic discipline, making his path to the head of a baseball operations department all the more remarkable.
“It’s just really cool,” said Andres.