He didn’t have any experience on the field — as a player or coach — past high school, which used to be a prerequisite. And he didn’t have an Ivy League or similarly haughty education, which is the rage among the cool kids today.
No, Neander got there the old-fashioned way.
Wrote letters (yes, actual letters) to teams coming out of Virginia Tech in December 2005. Took an 8 bucks an hour gig logging game data off TV to stay involved until something better developed. Got hired, in his second try, as an intern by the Rays in January 2007, ostensibly to help build their data base, but in reality starting by driving team officials to and from the airport. And worked tirelessly to move up, impressing bosses, colleagues, coaches and players with his persistence, performance and presentation.
“I love Erik,” said former Rays / now Cubs manager Joe Maddon. “He’s a star. Erik Neander is a star. The thing that stands out to me about him was brilliance. Absolutely brilliant. He presents his work and he’s never offended by your comeback, your retort. He’s got a real good level-headedness about him. And a real strong belief in what he believes in, which I love. Because if he told you something, it was vetted. It got to that point, “If Erik is saying it, I’m in.’
“He’s a great listener. And he doesn’t act like he knows everything. But he knows everything. … He’s going to be a GM for a long while. And a good one.”
Source: Marc Topkin, Tampa Bay Times