Hazen ’98 and Gilula ’98 help to keep the Red Sox in top form

Red Sox executives Mike Hazen ’98, left, and Jonathan Gilula ’98 spoke on the field during spring training in March.
Brita Meng Outzen ’84

You’ll have to forgive Mike Hazen ’98 for missing his 10th reunion this spring. As the director of player development for the Boston Red Sox, Hazen oversees the organization’s minor-league system and plays a key role in the team’s preparations for Major League Baseball’s amateur draft, held the first weekend in June. So while his classmates celebrate in Princeton, Hazen will be clocking some of his longest workdays of the year.

In truth, work is a Reunions of sorts for Hazen. Longtime friend Jonathan Gilula ’98, the team’s senior vice president of business affairs, sits just three floors above. And though the P-rade may be one of a kind, the Red Sox championship victory parade last October, which drew hundreds of thousands of fans to the streets of Boston, provided a reasonable alternative.

As Hazen and Gilula are quick to point out, their jobs are, in fact, hard work. Sure, there are the glamorous aspects — the victory parade, the World Series ring, an office connected to Fenway Park by a short hallway — but the Red Sox are a major corporation. “Yes, you’re around professional baseball players,” Hazen said, “but that’s our business.”

Not surprisingly, Hazen and Gilula broke into the business the same way many of their classmates launched careers on Wall Street: with a little help from the Princeton network.

For Gilula, it was Larry Lucchino ’67 who opened the door. While writing his senior thesis on the politics of financing professional sports facilities, Gilula called Lucchino, who recently had become president and CEO of Gilula’s hometown San Diego Padres. Lucchino spent time talking to Gilula about his thesis — and then encouraged him to apply for a job.

Gilula, a two-time All-Ivy League tennis player who had aspired to a career in professional sports, jumped at the opportunity, starting work in the Padres’ ballpark-planning department the day after graduation. Gilula helped the Padres win financing and begin construction on what would become Petco Park, then moved on to Boston in the fall of 2002 after Lucchino became president and CEO of the
Red Sox.

Hazen, meanwhile, took the old-school route into baseball, starting as a player. A two-time All-Ivy outfielder, Hazen was drafted in the 31st round by the Padres and played two seasons in the minors before trading in his spikes for a scout’s radar gun. A call from Princeton baseball head coach Scott Bradley helped Hazen land a job working for legendary baseball analyst Peter Gammons, which in turn led to a permanent scouting job with the Cleveland Indians under Mark Shapiro ’89, then the assistant general manager. After Hazen had spent more than five years working his way up the Indians’ organization, the Red Sox hired him to run their farm system in February 2006.

Today, Hazen’s office looks like that of any young corporate executive — laptop and BlackBerry glowing, desk strewn with binders — save for the giant magnetic depth chart on the wall that includes every major- and minor-league player in the Red Sox organization. Being an expert on the strengths and weaknesses of each of the 200 or so names on that board is his job, so Hazen spends much of the season on the road watching and evaluating the Red Sox’ six minor-league teams in person.

On the other hand, watching games is one of the few things Gilula doesn’t do. His job responsibilities include overseeing all off-season physical improvements at Fenway Park and running day-to-day operations at the stadium during the season, so game days are anything but a day at the park. “There’s a lot of troubleshooting, walking around, monitoring the weather,” he explained. “I don’t think I’ve ever sat at Fenway Park and watched a game start to finish.”

Professional responsibilities aside, Hazen and Gilula make it clear they possess the same passion and desire to win as Boston’s fans do. For Hazen, who grew up a Red Sox fan in nearby Abington, Mass., helping his childhood team win is only natural. Gilula may be a more recent immigrant to Red Sox Nation, but he’s assimilated quickly.

“It only takes five minutes once you get your feet on the ground here to embrace the history and significance of the franchise,” Gilula said. “The fanaticism of people in this region — you’ve got to be numb not to feel it.”

David Baumgarten ’06 is a first-year student at Harvard Law School.