Harvard Grad Thrives in Front-Office Role

Courtesy of Alex McPhillips

David Stearns ‘07 (center)—the Indians’ current director of “contracts, strategy, and analysis”—poses with former Crimson sports chairs Gabe Velez ’07 (left) and Alex McPhillips ’07 at the annual Kirkland House holiday dinner. Five years after graduation, Stearns has secured a coveted MLB position.

It’s fall, 2003. Then-junior quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick ’05 and the Harvard football team have just closed out a somewhat disappointing, 4-3 Ivy season with a 37-19 victory over their biggest rival, Yale. And based on the atmosphere around the field, the win appears to be adequate consolation for a season of missed opportunities.

David Stearns ’07—a freshman at the time—types the first sentence of a game recap: “It’s the power of The Game.”

Nine years later, his former roommate and fellow Crimson sports editor Alex McPhillips ’07 laughs as he recalls the first line of that story.

“Simple, straight forward—that’s a very ‘Stearnsian’ lede,” McPhillips says.

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In December of 2011—less than five years after the Class of 2007 graduated from Harvard—the Cleveland Indians named Stearns as one of two directors of baseball operations.

Stearns is the youngest person in Major League Baseball currently occupying his post. But the former government concentrator and resident of Kirkland House noted that his youth doesn’t factor into his ability to do his job.

“At some point, [age] doesn’t matter a tremendous amount,” Stearns says. “It’s more about what you can bring to the table, if your skill set matches what is needed for the particular position.”

“I had a lot of people to teach and mentor me and help me grow,” he adds. “That’s what led to me being able to work my way up. People trusted me with more responsibility than someone my age typically has…. A lot of it is about being in the right place at the right time.”

His former roommate tends to agree.

“He’s accomplished a lot for his age,” McPhillips says. “He’s really mature and kind of an old soul. That doesn’t mean he doesn’t have a good sense of humor or like to have fun. He can hang with the best of them when we’re goofing off.”

For Stearns, his appointment to the front-office position is the next step in a lifelong baseball and sports-related journey.

“I played growing up and was always very attached to the game,” Stearns explains. “Everyone has hobbies, and everyone has activities that teach them certain things. Baseball was always that activity, and staying involved as a career and profession always intrigued me.”

Because he developed an interest in both the game and the industry at an early age, Stearns was able to start forging his path to the Indians’ front office long before he graduated from college.

“I was very fortunate in that I knew I wanted to work in baseball since high school,” Stearns says. “So right from the beginning—freshman, sophomore years in college—I sent out a lot of letters to clubs and the league office.”

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