Joseph Botelho ’14
Jim Bouton, the big league pitcher and author of Ball Four, wrote, “You spend a good piece of your life gripping a baseball and in the end it turns out that it was the other way around all the time.” Baseball gripped Joey Botelho early on. “I could play, talk, and watch baseball all day, every day,” he says, “and never seemed to get tired of it.”
While he loved to play the game (he was on the varsity team at East Providence, R.I., High School and made the NEWMAC Baseball All-Academic Team as an infielder for WPI), his sights were set not on the field, but on the front office. “I began to think of a career in the front office in high school, when Theo Epstein was a pretty big deal locally as GM for the Red Sox,” he says. “He was someone I could look to and say, ‘Hey, I want to do that!’”
Still, when he arrived at WPI in the fall of 2010 he kept his options open. Torn between aerospace engineering and business, he opted for a major in business administration after a first-year course called Discovering Careers and Majors helped him realize that his interests lay in that direction. While he saw a business major as a logical route to a career in baseball operations, “I also had an interest in entrepreneurship and could’ve seen myself in the start-up world,” he says.
He did get a taste of entrepreneurship when he completed his Major Qualifying Project. With a team of business majors, he started Gompei’s Goat Cheese, which partners with Westfield Farms of Hubbardston, Mass., to sell high-quality goat cheese logs branded with WPI’s mascot, Gompei the Goat. “That was one of the best examples I was able to experience at WPI of combining theory and practice,” he says. “It’s great learning about business in the classroom, but when you are actually trying to launch something, there are a lot of unforeseen challenges. Ultimately it comes down to just being able to find a way to get the job done.”
The business was successful from the start, and continues today as a student-run enterprise. “I think the fact that the business is still operating shows that WPI students are passionate about being involved and making a difference, in the WPI community and in general,” he says.
“It’s great learning about business in the classroom, but when you are actually trying to launch something, there are a lot of unforeseen challenges.”
After graduation, Botelho took a position as associate supply chain leader at PepsiCo’s Frito-Lay manufacturing plant in Killingly, Conn., where he managed a team of 60 front-line employees in the packaging department. “It was a great experience for someone just out of school to be put in a leadership situation immediately and to learn how to make decisions under pressure.”
While the job was an excellent learning experience, and a Fortune 50 company offered great potential for upward advancement, he couldn’t ignore the lure of the baseball diamond. He wrote to all the major league teams, but received no reply. Then a classmate, Tim O’Neil ’14, put him in touch with his brother, a college baseball coach in Maryland, who connected him with the general manager of the Delmarva Shorebirds, a minor league affiliate of the Baltimore Orioles, who introduced him to Kent Qualls, director of the Orioles’ minor league operations. The next thing he knew, he was at the MLB Winter Meeting in Nashville chatting with Qualls, who soon offered him a post as a video intern with the Shorebirds.
Walking away from a well-paying, full-time job for a minimum-wage internship with a limited term and no assurance of future opportunities required a leap of faith. “You start to question yourself when your friends are getting married, buying houses, and traveling the world, and you’re substitute teaching in the off-season, not sure of what’s coming next. But I was in my 20s, pursuing my dream, and no matter how things turned out, I’d be happy to say I gave it a shot.”
As it turned out, he spent four years as an intern (for the Shorebirds and the Bowie, Md., Baysox, and at the Orioles’ training complex in Sarasota, Fla.) before being offered a full-time position as a development coach. His job involved using technology, including an in-game video system and a radar tracking system called TrackMan, to give coaches sophisticated information (on pitch velocities and spin rates, for example) and videos to help them work with players to improve their performance.
“You start to question yourself when your friends are getting married, buying houses, and traveling the world, and you’re substitute teaching in the off-season, not sure of what’s coming next.”
When a new management team came on board during his fourth year with the organization, bringing in even more technology, Botelho’s responsibilities and leadership opportunities grew. He found himself coordinating the use of those systems across the entire Orioles minor league system. Today, as coordinator of minor league technology, he is continuing to find new ways to use technology to give the coaches the information they need. “We have such an incredibly talented group of development coaches and tech coordinators,” he says. “I see my role as finding out how to support them without getting in the way and slowing them down.”
After being shut down for several months due to the COVID-19 pandemic, major league baseball resumed in July 2020, albeit with empty stands. Botelho says he stayed busy throughout the shutdown and afterward, working at the team’s alternate training site and for the Fall Instructional League.
Now that he’s made the leap to baseball operations, he says he’d like to continue in player development and maybe even transition to pro scouting someday. “I don’t want to try planning too far down the road because you never know how life is going to unfold.”
But no matter where that road leads Botelho, it’s likely that baseball will never lose its grip on him.