ST. PETERSBURG — When Chaim Bloom finally got the opportunity he had been seeking for several years in Boston, the Rays decided there was no one person who could replace him as the top lieutenant to general manager Erik Neander.
That’s because they felt they had several talented and rising men who share those duties and carry on the good work they’d been doing, creating a trio of top executives in Peter Bendix, James Click and Carlos Rodriguez.
“Their unique combination of strengths and different personalities really complement each other well,’’ Neander said Friday. “They’re ready and it will be rewarding and fun to see them mesh together. With this group we’re positioned to keep pace with a rapidly changing game. I’m excited to see them and a lot of other staff step up.’’
Here are the stories of how they got here, and what they bring, including some gourmet-level cooking, travel bonus points savvy and deep coffee knowledge:
Peter Bendix, 34
How he got to Rays
A sabermetrics class freshman year at Tufts University, a research project on former Braves pitching coach Leo Mazzone selected for presentation at the Society of American Baseball Research conference , talks with Red Sox execs and Boston media at a campus sabermetrics club he formed, other articles getting published online all encouraged Bendix to try to turn his passion into his profession.
Blind emails to any team executive he could find an address for, a plane ticket to Las Vegas for the 2008 winter meetings, a courtesy tip from Bloom to not over-dress and a $20 a night room at the Excalibur hotel made it happen.
Bendix had talks with several teams and offers for two internships, Rays and Mariners. “I wish I could say I had tremendous foresight and knew beyond a doubt that one was correct to accept, but I got super lucky and ended up taking this one,’’ he said. “And I won $200 at poker when I was there.’’
Bendix spent nearly two full years as an intern then was hired fulltime, working in operations and then research and development, serving as the bridge in implementing that information, with an increasing role in building the big-league team.
Grew up outside Cleveland. … Played baseball and other sports until high school, then focused on tennis, saying “I was always like the worst player on the highest level team.” … Has a degree from Tufts in American studies. … Wrote for Tufts alumni magazine. … Interested in education policy and urban planning before going into baseball, noting “I like solving these puzzles that require synthesizing information from a lot of different sources.” … Getting married in January to Lauren Growney.
What we didn’t know
Has “sneaky good” hand-eye coordination and boasts of his elite-level ping-pong skills. … He is known around office for his remarkable knowledge of travel reward programs and credit card benefits and how to maximize them. “He is the greatest travel awards accumulator,’’ Click said. “It’s unbelievable. I literally want to pay him to do mine and I’d still come out ahead.’’ Said Rodriguez: “There’s a Twitter account @thepointsguy, there is some suspicion Pete may be the points guy.’’
James Click, 41
How he got to Rays
Earning a history degree from Yale and doing website and database construction for a tech consulting firm in San Francisco isn’t the usual path for an MLB exec. But a childhood love of baseball led Click to also do some nights and weekends data entry and database cleanup work for the Baseball Prospectus analytics-based website and to venture into writing some initial analysis pieces. Also relevant, Bloom worked for the same website and they had built a connection, though never met in person.
So when Bloom got hired by the Rays as an intern in February 2005, and then baseball operations chief Andrew Friedman asked if he knew anybody who could help them build a database, Bloom suggested Click. Which was a surprise to even Click when he got the email with the offer.
“I cannot convey how much it was just right place, right time,‘’ Click said. “If I hadn’t been doing database work out in San Francisco and hadn’t latched on to Prospectus and hadn’t met Chaim there and he hadn’t gotten an internship with Andrew, who knows … ’’
Click, who actually met Bloom for the first time when he showed up at the Trop after taking the job, went fulltime with the Rays in 2006, and has worked his way up to vice president of baseball operations.
Born in Boston. … Family moved from southern New Hampshire when he was five to Durham, N.C. … Attended many Braves minor-league games there, before Bulls became Rays’ Triple-A affiliate. … Played baseball only through Little League; “I tried out for the middle school team and didn’t make it.’’ … Married to Ace, sons Sam and Nate.
What we didn’t know
Click claims he’s pretty handy in terms of building furniture and fixing things, and “could go toe to toe with (noted oenophile and former manager) Joe Maddon on the wine front.’’ … Well known for his snark. … Also, he and Ace are gourmet-level cooks. “Like the kind of chefs that don’t need recipes,’’ Bendix said. Said Rodriguez: “They put together these choreographed cooking displays that are so impressive.’’
Carlos Rodriguez, 37
How he got to Rays
Four years into the first job he didn’t expect to be doing as a Miami-based area scout for the Blue Jays under good friend Alex Anthopolous after preparing to go into the business world and dabbling in college coaching, Rodriguez was surprised when then Rays exec Matt Arnold reached out in 2010. He was even more surprised they offered him the chance to be a pro scout and to help build up their international program. He was impressed by talking with the top Rays and intrigued by the opportunity. “It was a little bit unexpected,’’ Rodriguez said. “My wife and I were like, why would I want to do this. Things were going well. But we kind of took a leap of faith.’’ He nailed the landing. Rodriguez quickly took over as director of Latin American and then international scouting, was promoted in September to also oversee the player development staff, and will have even more responsibilities now. “There were so much serendipity,’’ he said. “So many different, weird, coincidental connections that ended up opening doors.’’
Born in Puerto Rico, and bilingual. … Family moved when he was 6 to Orlando area, attended Bishop Moore High School, where he was buddies with future big-leaguer Drew Butera. … Played as an infielder, but not very well (“That’s why I became a coach”), at North Florida under legendary coach Dusty Rhodes, who became a mentor. … Spent three seasons as an assistant coach at UNF, teaching himself to throw BP left-handed after needing Tommy John surgery on his right elbow. … Has a business degree and a double major of international business and economics, with plans to go into financial advising before “that Eureka moment” of wanting to stay in baseball. … Spent 2004 as an intern with Brewers doing advance scouting before joining Blue Jays. … Married to Omayra, daughter Eva.
What we didn’t know
Ran the Chicago Marathon three days after Rays were eliminated from the playoffs, having done his training runs around 3-4 a.m. his first such race in 10 years. … Likes to hike and is open to trying sky diving. “As you can see, I’m a little extreme,’’ he said. … Into wine enough that he says he could be a sommelier. … Also an expert on coffee. “He’s a coffee lunatic,’’ Click said. “He has very strong feelings on coffee. He knows about the beans, how to roast them, the Japanese drip machines, all that.’’
Contact Marc Topkin at email@example.com. Follow @TBTimes_Rays.