Professional sports bettor James Holzhauer has completely dominated “Jeopardy” since he began appearing on the popular quiz show three weeks ago. But completely dismantling “Jeopardy” wasn’t his childhood ambition — Holzhauer wanted to be in baseball.
As you might imagine from the analytical way he plays “Jeopardy,” Holzhauer didn’t want to be a player on the field. He wanted to be in the front office of a baseball team, making decisions about players and lineups, making trades, and signing free agents.
Holzhauer talked about his past MLB aspirations with Marc Carig of the Athletic, telling Carig “I’ve always been a math guy and I was hooked on all the statistics that baseball offered.” He often watched baseball after school (though “Jeopardy” was also a choice). He traded baseball cards just to get player stats, which he kept track of in a spreadsheet, and as a teenager he read Bill James and the yearly Baseball Prospectus Annual.
He graduated from the University of Illinois in 2005 with a degree in mathematics, and then he thought he’d turn his love of math and baseball into a career. He tried applying to several jobs in MLB front offices, but had no luck. From the Athletic:
“I applied for a number of entry-level positions with teams, but never got anywhere. I’m not sure if this is the case now, but when I was fresh out of college, MLB teams were not paying their entry-level employees a living wage. I’ve thought about going to the Winter Meetings, but I feel that my lack of networking experience would be a serious drawback.”
Well, MLB teams still don’t pay their entry-level employees very well, so he might’ve dodged a bullet there. But Holzhauer found a different way to combine his love of baseball and math: fantasy baseball. In fantasy baseball, it doesn’t matter if you’ve struck out in the MLB job market — you can create and control your own team from top to bottom, and that’s what Holzhauer did.
Holzhauer’s love of math and baseball led him to a career in sports betting, and those analytical techniques have helped him win $1,426,330 over 19 days (as of Wednesday) on Jeopardy!. And while he says that he’d love to realize his childhood dream and work in a front office one day, he loves his job.
Besides, if some MLB staffer had taken a shine to his resume, he wouldn’t be here now, showing the world a whole new way to play “Jeopardy.”
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