New Pirates GM Ben Cherington used professor stint to learn more about himself
Perhaps the new Pittsburgh Pirates general manager can be referred to as Professor Ben Cherington.
After all, he is just a little over three years removed from being an adjunct professor at an Ivy League school.
Cherington took time off from baseball after a four-year stint as the Boston Red Sox’s GM that ended in August 2015. He wound up teaching a class in the sports management department at Columbia during the 2015-16 academic year.
“I really just wanted to learn something next,” Cherington said. “I had been with Boston for 17 years, the last four as general manager, and I knew I was going to work in baseball again. I felt like whatever I did next that I would be better at it if I took the time to learn more about myself, learn about what had just happened there.”
Cherington’s connection at Columbia was Vince Gennaro, who was then the director of the sports management department and is now the associate dean of the sports management program at New York University. Gennaro is also a past president of the Society for American Baseball Research and hosts a weekly analytics-based show on SiriusXM’s MLB Network Radio channel.
The course was titled “Leadership and Personnel Management.” Cherington said he feels he learned as much from the class as his students.
“Each week we were uncovering a different topic,” Cherington said. “It was a good exercise to test my assumptions about (different topics), seeing what I thought I was seeing and actually do this.
“It really gave me a chance to step back and look at things in a little bit different way than I had in the past.”
Cherington returned to baseball in September 2016 as the Toronto Blue Jays’ vice president of baseball operations. His primary duty was overseeing player development.
Cherington isn’t looking to get back to teaching anytime soon, though. The Pirates hired him Monday to replace Neal Huntington.
However, it was fitting Cherington would be an Ivy League professor. His maternal grandfather, Richard Eberhart, taught in the English department at Dartmouth for 30 years and won the Pulitzer Prize for poetry in 1966.
Following in his grandfather’s footsteps, Cherington earned his degree in English from Amherst. However, instead of writing poetry, Cherington pursued a master’s degree in sports management from Massachusetts and became a baseball executive.
John Perrotto is a Tribune-Review contributing writer.