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The Ivy League’s—and Harvard’s—parade into the front office ranks of Major League Baseball continued yesterday as the Red Sox announced the hiring of Peter Woodfork ’99 as its new director of Baseball Operations and assistant director of Player Development. Woodfork, just four springs removed from O’Donnell Field, will work primarily in the area of contracts alongside new Red Sox General Manager Theo Epstein.
“It’s quicker than you think it’s going to happen,” Woodfork said yesterday afternoon from the Red Sox spring training site in Fort Myers, Fla. “I’ve been lucky at a few points.”
Woodfork, who spent the last two years working with contracts for Major League Baseball, will bring that financial expertise to his new position with the Sox. He will also be able to dip his feet into player personnel, an area in which he has less experience.
“It’ll help me to diversify a bit,” Woodfork said. “I’ll be assisting player development people, helping to develop talent and learning whatever I can.”
Woodfork, 26, becomes the latest young Ivy League alum to enter the executive ranks in the majors as he joins Epstein, who graduated from Yale in 1995. The growing list of recent Harvard baseball players includes Paul DePodesta ’95, a former JV player who is now the assistant general manager of the Oakland A’s, former captain Mike Hill ’93, who is now director of Player Development for the Colorado Rockies and David Forst ’98, who played alongside Woodfork in the infield and now works with DePodesta as an assistant to Oakland General Manager Billy Beane.
“I definitely have spoken to a lot of them, but more in the course of day-to-day baseball work,” Woodfork said of the alumni network. “I’m friendly with all of them, but Dave is really the one I’m closest to as a friend.”
Woodfork got to know Epstein—who became the youngest GM in baseball history when he was hired at age 28—during his time at the league office, when Epstein was director of Baseball Operations for the San Diego Padres. Woodfork took his post around the time baseball reworked its collective bargaining agreement, which he now remembers as a “great opportunity” to get acquainted with the financial side of the game.
Woodfork started 148 of his 157 career games for the Crimson, playing three seasons at third base before sliding over to second for his senior campaign. A native of Swampscott, Mass., he hit .301 for Harvard, scoring 87 runs and knocking in 62 more as the Crimson won the 1997, 1998 and 1999 Ivy League championships.
Daniel Habib ’00, a former Crimson baseball writer and current staff writer for Sports Illustrated, has written two articles about the new Red Sox administration this spring. Yesterday, he remembered Woodfork as a fundamentally sound player who fit in well with the Ivy championship teams of the late 90s.
“He was somebody who understood Joe Walsh-style baseball and played it well,” Habib said. “He was a solid contact hitter, very versatile defensively and also had a sharp, biting kind of wit to him.”
Habib suggested that the move fits Epstein’s approach to personnel
“Someone like Epstein will hire someone and err on the side of education and intelligence rather than having a traditional baseball background,” Habib said. “There’s isn’t necessarily a high emphasis on having a rolodex full of baseball contacts.”
Kevin Shea, Red Sox director of Media Relations, said that Woodfork will contribute significantly to a front office that blends intellect and youthful energy with veteran baseball minds.
“There’s a balance,” Shea said. “There are a lot of seasoned baseball people in the office like [former general manager and current Sox advisor] Mike Port he’ll be able to learn from.”
—Staff writer Martin S. Bell can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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