Big League View

Growing up, Tyrone Brooks ’96 was the kid who would go around the neighborhood and organize baseball games on a nearby tennis court. He thrilled to the sound of bat connecting with ball and sending everyone into motion.

“I loved legging out a triple and seeing guys run the bases,” he says.

Brooks is still getting players together for games, only now on a much grander scale as the director of player personnel for the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Although he didn’t play baseball in college, Brooks didn’t leave sports behind once he arrived in College Park. The accounting and marketing major was “living in two different worlds”—while going to business classes and eyeing work with the IRS, he also photographed sports for the yearbook and The Diamondback.

“The sports (fan) in me couldn’t leave,” he says.

After graduation, Brooks landed an internship for the Atlanta Braves; he was offered a full-time position just two months later. He spent 11 years with the club in various roles, at one point driving 60,000 miles a year to scout prospects in Missouri, Kansas, Iowa, Nebraska, North Dakota and South Dakota.

“It was one of the best experiences I’ve ever had,” Brooks says. “You are on your own little island.”

After three seasons with Cleveland, he arrived in Pittsburgh in 2010—the Pirates’ 18th consecutive losing year, with a dismal 105–57 record. It was a far cry from life with regular contenders like the Braves and Indians.

But by 2013, two years after Brooks was promoted to his current position, the Pirates made the playoffs for the first time since 1992. In mid-September this season, Pittsburgh was once again in the thick of the race to secure a Wild Card berth, jockeying with San Francisco, Milwaukee and Atlanta for the two National League slots.

Maintaining that success begins each day around 7 a.m., as he reads reports from scouts, gives feedback and organizes schedules to get the right eyes on the right player at the right time. Brooks’ job is about gathering and synthesizing information, an appropriate task for someone with a business education amidst the explosion of statistical analysis in baseball. Ultimately, it’s his responsibility to give the general manager the background needed for personnel decisions.

Brooks still spends a lot of time on the road, up to 170 nights a year, often visiting minor league affiliates. Unlike richer teams, the Pirates rely on a grassroots system rather than on plucking established superstars for gaudy contracts.

“Our margin for error is a lot smaller,” he says.

He may be a long way from neighborhood kids playing a pickup game on a tennis court, but the romance is still there.

“It’s something I don’t think I’ve ever taken for granted,” he says. “I love what I do.”


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