Kansas City Royals – 2014

1280px-Kansas_City_Royals.svg
Your 2014 American League Champions!

 

I have talked about my interest in working in baseball throughout this blog (like Project Scoresheet – 1989). There is a website called TeamWork Online that is a place where the vast majority of teams in baseball post all of their jobs. I have an alert for jobs I might be interested in.

The Royals had just been to their first World Series in 19 years, and right after that, I got notified that they had a job opening called “Systems Architect/Deverloper, Baseball Analytics – Kansas City Royals (Kansas City, MO)“. The job listing talked about maintaining internal websites, working on databases, capturing statistics real time, etc. Right up my alley!

I was fairly happy at Mozilla, but, really, baseball!

This time, I got a response:

Thank you for completing the teamwork application. Just to give you a little background, the position we are looking to fill in the past was in charge of everything from managing our data imports to developing web/mobile applications for wider us through the organization. Our existing architecture mostly uses MySQL and Ruby on Rails, and we are looking for the new hire to take over a great deal of code a varying stages of completion along with moving forward into new areas. As this position will for the short term at least be our only dedicated developer they will work with autonomy in this area in terms of how they choose to execute projects. Based on your resume it looks like you are proficient in those technologies and many more, does our specific opportunity or are you more comfortable starting from scratch and/or working with a team of developers?

Our goal is to fill the position ASAP to get ready for next season but we will continue our search as long as necessary to find the right candidate. Because the baseball season is long and the commitment by employees significant the personality fit is as important as the skill-set in our search. As for next steps in our interview process we would like to see an example of work product if possible. A web app you have developed that is accessible publically would be great (or access to relevant code on GitHub). If not we can send along a self-contained project to accomplish the same. Thanks very much for your time and interest.

I could hardly believe it when I read this. I was doing a little happy dance inside. This sounded great!

I replied:

Thanks for getting back to me so promptly.

I am comfortable however things need to proceed. My vision is working alone on the code while developing a long-term strategy for where the system needs to be. Once the strategy is articulated, I can then build a team to build the new or overhauled system.

As for an example of my coding, you are going to have to send me a self-contained project. The only part of this entire stack that I really have little experience on is building the actual web apps. My development experience is with client-side or standalone app development. The rest of my experience is with the rest of project development – building of systems, deployment of web apps, testing, managing the product cycle, building teams, etc.. I hope this is not a hurdle, but I hope I can prove my ability to learn quickly by completing your self-contained project.

Let me know; I am looking forward to us talking more. Thanks!

We then talked on the phone for a while. He told me he was going to send me a task to do, a programming test. I told him the truth; we were travelling for the Thanksgiving holiday. And then, I had to go to Portland for Mozilla’s All Hands Meeting for another week, so it was going to be a while before I could tackle the problem.

And then I came back from Portland with the Mozflu, and I was laid out for several more days.

I finally got started on the project. It had sample anonymized data from PitchFX, a system which tracks every pitch. I was told I needed to present this data in an interesting way using Ruby-on-Rails, which I did not know at all.

I bought an online course and spent a few hours reading and playing with sample code, and the I wrote something which presented a histogram of average velocities of a given pitcher for the first 10 pitches, the next 10, etc.

I was quick and dirty and it was ugly, but I had something to turn in.

A couple of days later, the manager called me. He told me that they had narrowed it down to two. They liked my general experience a lot, but that the other candidate had more direct experience with Ruby-on-Rails, so they were going to go with him.

Still, I almost got a job in baseball!

It was hard to be disappointed.

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