Daniels Student Lands Dream Job With Rockies
When Evan Eshleman first saw the movie “Moneyball,” he was captivated.
Like so many critics and fans, he thought actors Brad Pitt and Jonah Hill were great in the 2011 film, which depicts the unorthodox methods used by the Oakland Athletics general manager to assemble a winning baseball team in 2002. But Eshleman, a business information and analytics major who will graduate in May from the Daniels College of Business, was more impressed by the role sabermetrics played in the movie than by any actor’s performance.
“I thought, ‘This is a really interesting field but you know, like, 20 people in the world have that job,’” he says of sabermetrics — or the statistical analysis of baseball that is used to evaluate players’ performances. “So I thought, ‘That’s okay, I can follow it from a more casual, armchair perspective.’”
But just six years later, before he even graduated from the University of Denver, he landed his dream job, receiving an offer from the Colorado Rockies to serve as a baseball research and development analyst.
The offer was especially gratifying considering that the relationship between Eshleman and the team got off to a bumpy start. Esheleman had applied for a baseball analytics internship with the team in 2016 but was turned down.
“That was kind of a bummer, but then I did an independent study with Dr. [Ryan] Elmore,” Eshleman says. The assistant professor of business analytics Elmore happened to volunteer with the Denver Nuggets as a sports analyst, running complex predictive algorithms for the team.
“So because of my interests, Dr. Elmore structured my independent study in a way where I was gaining the skills needed for sports analysis and at the same time meeting course credit. It was a lot of work and a lot of learning. It took a long time to learn this stuff,” Eshleman says.
That hard work paid dividends in confidence and know-how. So much so that he saw himself in the Rockies’ job posting for a research and development analyst. “I kept thinking, ‘wait a second, I learned that skill. Oh, I learned that as well … I know this,’” he says.
While sabermetrics was revolutionary at the turn of the 21st century, it’s now a common — if unspoken — practice for most professional teams, in baseball and beyond. “It’s almost like the elephant in the room where every team knows everyone else is doing this,” Eshleman says. “And I’m sure there’s a large overlap — in basketball, for example, I’m sure the Nuggets are doing a lot of things similar to the [Cleveland] Cavaliers or the [Golden State] Warriors — but any small, competitive advantage you can get, you hold onto that as much as possible.”
In many respects, Eshleman says DU gave him a competitive advantage in getting the Rockies job. “The biggest thing is how my education equipped me with useable skills,” he said. “The classes have translated really well into the work I’ll be doing, and I definitely appreciate that. That’s what I was looking for when I chose a major that focuses on applied numbers and data.”
A lifelong sports fanatic, former baseball player and die-hard Rockies fan, Eshleman is focusing on his new job, which he started in March. As someone who uses statistics to predict future performance, he already has a ready answer to the standard question about where he sees himself in five years. “Obviously, still working for the Rockies,” he says. “Now that I have this job, I can’t let go of it.”