White Sox add technology to lineup

May 31, 2004

BY MICHAEL KRAUSS

Don Brown is my vote for 10th man on the Chicago White Sox. Brown, the director of management information systems for the team, doesn't make the big hits like the Big Hurt, Frank Thomas, but his systems track them. Brown won't be threatening Magglio Ordonez's outfield job or Jose Valentin's work at shortstop, but he oversees the computerized scouting information systems that identify tomorrow's talent.

Sox manager Ozzie Guillen makes the dugout decisions, and general manager Ken Williams runs the organization. Brown is the behind-the-scenes IT guy who provides the information so things run smoothly.

"Baseball is entertainment, but it is also big business. It demands high technology," says Brown. In addition to the usual business accounting systems, Brown is in charge of proprietary player development and game analysis systems. He monitors electronic ticket taking, the computerized scoreboard, and the systems supporting stadium vendors. His No. 1 concern is making sure the fans have a great experience.

Since the appearance of Michael Lewis' book, "Moneyball," which describes a set of analytical approaches that Oakland Athletics' general manager Billy Beane uses to conserve money and win divisional titles, Brown's job has become even more important. He has information flowing on laptops, personal computers and PDAs.

Prior to joining the White Sox in 1991, Brown worked on Wall Street. He compares major league baseball to the financial services industry. "When the game is on, it's got to work," he says.

Brown is modest about his role with the White Sox: "Information technology plays a major support role. It's behind the curtain. Our goal is to keep the place running."

Brown believes Guillen and the players are the main event, but baseball is a numbers game, and Brown's systems deliver the numbers.

"I think he can help them win," says Tom Caprel, CEO of IT Lighthouse, a local technology services provider who serves the White Sox. "Don has brought incredible insight into how IT can help a baseball club."

UC entrepreneurs win grants

Ten teams of aspiring Chicago entrepreneurs received a total of $50,000 in prize money at the Edward L. Kaplan New Venture Challenge at the University of Chicago Graduate School of Business.

Top prize winner, Midway Pharmaceuticals, receives $15,000. The company offers a new compound to treat inflammatory bowel disease. The compound was developed by the Division of Gastroenterology at the University of Chicago. First year MBA students Ana Nicolau, from Iasi, Romania; Robert Durden, from Charlotte, N.C.; and Dhiren Jhaveri from Nashua, N.H., authored the winning business plan. Nicolau says the compound is ready for pre-clinical trials. Robert Okabe, principal with Illinois Partners, which helps commercialize university based technology, served as an unpaid advisor to the group.

James L. Tyree, corporate vice president, global licensing & new business development for Abbott Labs, helped judge the competition. He says the Midway Pharmaceuticals' plan "is a biotech business model that's been proven time and again. If the technology is successful (in trials), investment in the company will also be successful."

Tied for second place and receiving $10,000 funding are: Internet Marketing Institute, a corporate training company that guides small and mid-size companies, and TixNix, which provides an Internet-based software platform enabling lawyers to deliver services. There was no third place finisher.

Two fourth place finalists receive $5,000 awards. HealthSource Global Staffing, which places nurses from China, and Interome Biosciences, which develops new biomaterials receive these grants.

Five remaining teams receive honorable mention awards worth $1,000. These are: Infusion, a tea house restaurant concept; Precision Performance, a high-end retail store for car hobbyists; Ripula Financial, a financial services firm targeted at the 56 million workers without bank relationships in the United States; Roar Athletics, a sports apparel concept targeting women; and WINCO, a wireless technology company.

MIT Forum

The MIT Enterprise Forum convenes Wednesday for a satellite broadcast to hear Ethernet inventor and 3Com founder Bob Metcalfe; Garage Technology Ventures CEO, Guy Kawasaki; and Hummer Winblad Venture Partners co founder, Ann Winblad discuss where to place future technology bets.

Michael Krauss is a Chicago-based tech writer and consultant.

 

 ©2004 Marion Consulting Partners