After all, the Crimson was facing UCLA, a team which was the No. 4 seed in the tournament and the top seed in the region, featured alumni like Jackie Robinson and was led at the time by Troy Glaus, now a three-time MLB All-Star. Few had heard about Harvard’s shortstop—a junior named David Forst ’98.
But the Crimson—in its first tournament appearance since 1984—shocked the Bruins, winning the game 7-2. Forst played an instrumental role in that win, registering a single during a three-run fifth inning that gave Harvard a 3-2 lead over the Bruins, and playing great defense at shortstop.
When asked about the game today, Harvard baseball coach Joe Walsh remembers that, “On that one particular day a whole lot of people had come to see Glaus. And pro scouts, and a whole lot of guys, walked away from that day and said, ‘Who the hell is this Dave Forst guy?’”
Well, if pro scouts didn’t know who Forst was then, they certainly know who he is now. The former Crimson slugger began the 2004 MLB season in the same position that another Harvard graduate—Paul DePodesta ’95—recently vacated, as the Assistant General Manager for the Oakland Athletics. Forst took over the role for DePodesta when he was hired by the Los Angeles Dodgers as the team’s new GM earlier in the season.
Forst has certainly entered into an interesting area in his new role with the Athletics. Though the club does not have one of the larger payrolls among the MLB clubs, it has become one of the better known organizations in the league due in part to its recent success—going to the playoffs four years in a row—and Michael Lewis’ best-selling work, Moneyball.
The new role is also a drastic change from Forst’s early career. He started out with Oakland for years ago after an unsuccessful attempt to start make it in the big leagues. Forst began in the organization doing a lot of advance scouting work, helping to collect statistics in players, and in general becoming familiar with the way in which the league operated. It wasn’t until the end of that first season in 2000, when the Athletics traded for Tampa Bay’s Cory Lidle—now with the Cincinnati Reds—that Forst got a chance to add some variety to his work, and he helped put together the arbitration case.
“Over the years, both Paul and [Oakland Athletic General Manager] Billy [Beane] were great about expanding my responsibilities, and including me in just about everything that went on around here,” Forst said. “There’s nothing new about the job description, as far as the work goes. I’ve been pretty well prepared to handle just about everything.”
Forst is also quick to point out that he did not play so prominent a role in Lewis’ work as DePodesta and Beane did, both of whom have been accused of using their influence to make Lewis write something that cast them in a more favorable light. Lewis recently wrote a follow-up article in Sports Illustrated where he said that the words in that book were entirely his own making, and he was in no way pressured by the Athletics’ organization to write in a certain manner.
“I was very to be happy to be anonymous in that book,” Forst said. “I spent a lot of time with [Lewis] and was happy to share information and help him out, but I didn’t need my name plastered all over the place.”
But as Oakland’s new assistant GM, that anonymity will probably be hard to avoid, especially considering the success that his old boss, DePodesta, has had.
“I think that [because of the book], rather than just be a small market team, they’re expected to be terrific every year,” said Mike Marcucci ’98, a relief pitcher and former classmate of Forst’s who had a career year his senior year, garnering an All-Ivy First Team selection.
Forst certainly inherits a difficult personnel situation if the organization wishes to make it to the postseason for the fifth straight year.
Due to the team’s limited financial options, it was forced to trade away two of the team’s best players—shortstop Miguel Tejada and closer Keith Foulke—during the off-season.
In order to secure its depleted infield corps, the Athletics acquired Mark McLemore, a man with 18 years experience in the league, but one who still has yet to play a game this year due to surgery on his right knee.