Meet a SABR member: Sig Mejdal
By Rick Balazs
Sig Mejdal was in the midst of a successful career, working as an engineer for reputable employers like Lockheed and NASA. An avid traveler, Mejdal would take a couple months off during the year to travel. Few people would pass this up to make a career change.
But that’s what Mejdal did when he joined the St. Louis Cardinals as their Senior Quantitative Analyst in 2005. To Mejdal, though, it was a move he had to make. Baseball statistics were his lifelong passion. Heck, this was the same guy who joined SABR in the middle of grade school.
“[I joined] shortly after the Bill James article came out in Sports Illustrated,” Mejdal said. “I had ordered his abstract before it was published, and I think he mentioned SABR in the abstract. I read the publications and I remember playing All-Star Baseball, the table baseball game. They would have regression analyses on how to generate RBI from home run totals, and I would use that on my table baseball game.”
He acknowledged that he was drawn more to the game for its statistical nature than the game itself.
“I think I was inclined for the math or statistics part of it. If it wasn’t baseball, it probably would have been something else that had statistics with it,” he said.
Mejdal decided to pursue his passion as a career about five years ago. He would conduct his own research, type it into reports, and then send it to all of the teams. Due to the competitive nature of getting a job in pro sports, as well as the fact that GM’s have little spare time on their hands, Mejdal did not receive many responses at first. Slowly but surely, though, he did receive a few “no’s.”
“I’d like to describe it as, only in the baseball world, receiving a ‘no’ was encouraging. But I was starting to get some ‘no’s’ and some written letters saying ‘no thanks,’ and I took that as encouragement,” he said.
He even went so far as to try to network at the MLB winter meetings in New Orleans in 2003.
“A couple of the GM’s or assistant GM’s said ‘if I have time during the winter meetings, I’ll give you a call,’” he said. “I had nothing set up. I wasn’t invited. So I stood in the lobby for three days, waiting for a GM to walk from the elevator to the front door so I could give him a brochure I made of why he needed to hire me. I didn’t meet with any of them. I said hi to a few, but none of the ones that showed interest were available to meet with.”
However, he did meet a sports writer from The Wall Street Journal named Sam Walker, and he helped Walker with the statistical analysis for Walker’s book on fantasy baseball, Fantasyland.
“Meeting with Sam was an accident,” Mejdal said. “It gave me a good excuse to keep in the baseball world, and I was thinking ‘OK, I might make some contacts through Sam that could generate some revenue as I continued to try to get my foot in the door.’”
However, Mejdal knew that helping an author write a book about fantasy baseball would not make the impression on general managers that he needed to have to get his foot in the door. So he kept sending his brochures, resumes, and cover letters to the teams in hopes of breaking through. Finally, he did when the Cardinals offered to meet with him.
“I had sent unsolicited proposals and phone calls and resumes and cover letters to everybody, and it was my current boss, Jeff Luhnow, who called seemingly out of the blue saying ‘I got one of your proposals, it looked interesting, and I would like to talk to you.’ It was a sign of somebody being more than polite, somebody showing interest.”
And the rest, as they say, is history, as Mejdal has been working with the Cardinals since Opening Day of the 2005 season. Most of his work with the Cardinals is focused on evaluating amateur players for the June draft. Mejdal said the one of the most inspiring aspects of his job is to see college or high school kids who are not given much of a chance early in their careers fulfill their dreams.
“When I got this job, it seemed like the world was a better place because I got a job that didn’t seem like a job. What I never imagined was the impact that you could make on kids’ dreams,” he said. “There are many players who are performing great but don’t look like a baseball player or are playing at a Division II or Division III school and the system wouldn’t give them a chance. They’re not first or even fifth rounders, but they have a dream just like the first-rounders do and arguably deserve it. Picking up some of those guys and seeing them appreciated has been wonderful.”
As for Mejdal, he is living his own dream working in Major League Baseball. That’s a good thing, since the job doesn’t leave him time to do much else. An avid hockey fan, he does manage to play goalie for a hockey team a couple times a week. He doesn’t get to travel nearly as much as he used to, but that’s fine by him, as he deemed his job a “wonderful vacation.”
After giving up a successful career for a new one in baseball, Mejdal has made a personally fulfilling and enjoyable transition.
“When I was trying to get the job and it wasn’t working and I was continuing to try, I think my friends were close to having an intervention,” he said. “But when it worked out, I don’t think anybody questioned it. I think they realized how important it was for me and there was no way I was going to pass it up. There’s only a few of these jobs in the country, and a majority of baseball fans would love this job.”
This article was first published on July 20, 2006.