Theo Epstein is many things: President of the Chicago Cubs, two-city curse-buster, occasional guitarist, and a 1995 graduate of Yale University.
Yesterday, at the university’s annual Class Day, Epstein addressed the assembled students, faculty, and well-wishers with a fantastic address that will be of interest to Cubs fans.
Here’s the video of the address (or you can read the full transcript here, via Yale):
Epstein, thoughtful and peppering his remarks with typical humor, added some Cubs-specific items, including a more specific anecdote about Game Seven of the World Series:
Still in a bit of a daze, I cut through our clubhouse toward a meeting about the weather. Turning a corner, I saw, through the window of the weight room door, the backs of our players’ blue jerseys, shoulder to shoulder and packed tightly, all 25 guys squeezed into a space designed for half that many. It was an unusual sight. We hardly ever had meetings and never during a game. I inched closer to the door and saw Aroldis Chapman, the pitcher who had surrendered the tying home run, in tears. I lingered just long enough to hear a few sentences.
“We would not even be here without you,” catcher David Ross said as he embraced Chapman. “We are going to win this for you. We are going to win this for each other.”
Outfielder Jason Heyward walked to the middle of the room: “We are the best team in baseball,” he said. “We’ve leaned on each other all year. We’ve still got this. This is only going to make it sweeter.”
And then first baseman Anthony Rizzo: “Nobody can take this away from us. We have each other.”
Kyle Schwarber stood up with a bat in his hands: “We win this right here!”
I turned away, a big smile on my face, and headed to the weather meeting.
What had happened was, to Epstein, a perfect example of his improved way of thinking about players – a way of thinking that he wanted to pass on to the graduates:
Early in my career, I used to think of players as assets, statistics on a spreadsheet I could use to project future performance and measure precisely how much they would impact our team on the field. I used to think of teams as portfolios, diversified collections of player assets paid to produce up to their projections to ensure the organization’s success. My head had been down. That narrow approach worked for a while, but it certainly had its limits. I grew and my team-building philosophy grew as well. The truth – as our team proved in Cleveland – is that a player’s character matters. The heartbeat matters. Fears and aspirations matter. The player’s impact on others matters. The tone he sets matters. The willingness to connect matters. Breaking down cliques and overcoming stereotypes in the clubhouse matters. Who you are, how you live among others – that all matters. The youngest team in World Series history with six starters under the age of 25; they helped me get my head up.