Moritz grad scores job as MLB analyst
When Derek Smith ‘09 was applying to law school, his personal statement made his career aspirations unwaveringly clear. He wanted to work in professional baseball.
Five years after graduation, Smith has seen those ambitions come to fruition through his role as an analyst for Major League Baseball’s Commissioner’s Office in New York City.
It wasn’t always a smooth path. There were periods of unemployment and time spent in jobs that in no way utilized his law degree from Moritz, or his math and science degree from the University of Colorado.
At times the battle was just to get his foot in the door and then do whatever it took to make sure that door didn’t close. If that meant throwing batting practice to the Scottsdale Scorpions or hiring PA announcers, then that’s what Smith did.
But the hard work, combined with a little bit of luck, eventually landed Smith in the league office.
“My personal statement to law school was written in 2005 and you would have thought I’d written it yesterday because I’m very fortunate to have the opportunity to continuously pursue this dream over the course of so many years.”
In his role as analyst, Smith’s work helps protect the integrity of the game of baseball. He’s worked on investigations involving the use of performance enhancing drugs and has helped develop systems and processes to curb player age and identity fraud in Latin American countries.
This past year, he joined the salary arbitration team at the Commissioner’s Office that helps settle salary disputes between players and teams. As someone who wrote about the baseball arbitration process in several different classes while at Moritz, he has particularly relished this role.
“Being part of the salary arbitration support team was especially rewarding because that is what I was working toward pretty much my whole career,” he said. “To me, it’s always been the most fascinating part of baseball because it’s the combination of baseball, statistics, and law. To finally get there and do the kinds of things I’ve always wanted to do, I really felt the self-satisfaction of knowing that a lot of hard work, and some lucky breaks, have paid off.”
Smith will admit there were some times he wondered if he’d ever reach this point. While at Moritz, he took an internship working in football with the legal department of the Cleveland Browns. It was an experience he said he enjoyed, but baseball remained his focus.
His goal at the time was actually to be a general manager for an MLB team. He used to familiarize himself with the resumes of MLB executives and knew the road to the top was anything but easy. Many general managers started as low-level interns with a franchise and then slowly worked their way up.
So that’s what Smith decided to do.
He worked two stints with the Arizona Fall League, a seasonal job that included working with minor league players and doing random tasks around the ballpark. Between the two stints, he interned for the Department of Investigations at the Commissioner’s Office in New York.
“Baseball is one of the most competitive industries out there so anything that I could do to make myself more versatile, or my resume more impressive, I had to do it,” he said.
Finally, in April 2011, one of Smith’s former colleagues at the Commissioner’s Office offered him a job and he’s been there ever since.
It’s not a general manager’s job, but Smith said his priorities have changed.
“I think a part of me will always want to win a World Series ring, but I’ve learned over time that you can make a difference in the baseball industry even if your office isn’t at a baseball stadium,” he said. “Right now I really see the Commissioner’s Office as a way to satisfy my passion for baseball, have great work-life balance, and work on interesting projects that I really enjoy.”
For Smith, a large part of that balance includes baseball. When the Ohio-native returns home from a day at the office, his routine during the season is to turn on the Cleveland Indians game while eating dinner.
He also enjoys traveling. His job has taken him around the country and around the world, including trips to the World Series, All-Star Games, Venezuela, the Dominican Republic, and even Australia. Smith has traveled extensively in his free time as well, traveling to 27 of the 30 MLB stadiums and all the continents of the world except Africa. Yes, even Antarctica.
But Smith is perfectly content staying at home as well. Baseball surrounds him at the office, with memorabilia decorating the office and games often being broadcast during work hours. To Smith, it doesn’t get much better.
“I probably have the only office job in the world where you can watch baseball during the day and you won’t get yelled at,” he said.