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Friedman's new career a lifelong infatuation
By DAMIAN CRISTODERO
Published November 4, 2005
ST. PETERSBURG - Ask Andrew Friedman about the moment that best describes his passion for baseball and he takes you back almost 20 years to his hometown of Houston.
It was there Friedman said his mother Barbara began driving her 9-year-old son to the old Astrodome to watch the Astros. But getting to the game on time wasn't enough. Friedman said he had to be there by 4 o'clock to watch batting practice.
Sometimes Friedman went with friends. Many times, he said, he went alone.
"During the summer everyone would be doing other things, going to camp," Friedman said. "My camp was at the Astrodome, hanging out, watching the players interact and then staying to watch the game. My mom would pick me up at 10:30 at night."
To say, then, that Friedman has landed his dream job is an understatement. At 28, the former Wall Street investor is the Devil Rays' executive vice president of baseball operations.
A weighty title for one whose only hands-on experience is the year and a half spent as the team's director of baseball development.
But owner Stuart Sternberg, who watched Friedman play a major role in signing Carl Crawford to a long-term deal, said, "I have seen what he's done and I have a lot of trust in him. He's the right guy for me."
Friedman has worked for such a position since his days at Tulane.
He said he took management and finance classes because he believed them best for the "real world." But said he took an internship at the investment firm Bear Stearns on the recommendation of Astros executive Tal Smith, a family acquaintance Friedman approached for advice on pursuing a front-office career.
"The game has a lot more zeros today," Friedman said. "I think what is going to make me successful is first-hand knowledge of this organization combined with bringing a business sense to personnel decisions. Everything needs to work in conjunction."
"He's obviously a very bright and intelligent guy and that certainly helps," Smith said. "Particularly the way the game has changed in recent years with much more emphasis on analysis and technology. But it still has to be a passion."
Friedman said his passion took hold listening to father Kenny and older brother Brent talk baseball.
Brent called his brother "a bigger baseball nut than I ever was" and said his memorabilia collection included wristbands, bats "and loads of other stuff."
A community-league shortstop, Friedman switched to centerfield at Episcopal High. He played for Tulane in 1996 when the team won the inaugural Conference USA championship.
Friedman said he was just as enamored of the game's history, and kept a stack of books next to his bed. His favorites were a biography of Nolan Ryan and Lords of the Realm, John Helyar's examination of the game's economics.
In April 2003, while working in New York for MidMark Capital, Friedman was introduced to Sternberg by friend Matt Silverman, who was with Goldman Sachs, another investment firm, and would become Rays president.
Sternberg, five months into talks to buy the Rays, said Friedman became a sounding board.
"When we finally got the team I was seeking his counsel. "What do you think of this? Should we be doing that?' " Sternberg said. "He would come back with a very learned opinion. After sitting here and listening to the baseball people I had been exposed to, this was quite enlightening."
"He assimilates information quickly, and he understands how the game is played," Kenny said. "He has a sense the things ballclubs do to win games don't necessarily show up on the stat sheet."
Such as batting practice. Asked if he expected to make time to watch the Rays, Friedman said, "I do, I expect to be involved in everything."
"He loves it so much," Brent said. "They'll have to pry him from the stadium."