For James Click ’00, the newly-appointed general manager of the Houston Astros, much of his time at Yale was not careful practice for an eventual career in sports.
A history major from Durham, North Carolina, Click dedicated himself to his studies while still finding time for his friends at the tables of the now-closed Yankee Doodle Diner. He was also a co-captain of the club ultimate frisbee squad, and a seemingly minor aspect of that extracurricular set him up to make one of the important decisions of his life, a choice that set him on the path to take the reins of an MLB franchise.
Click has been a sports fan most of his life and brought that passion to his time at Yale. Hailing from the sports hot bed of Durham, his love for athletics was almost guaranteed. Click wrote a few articles for the Yale Daily News’ Sports Desk but ultimately took more pleasure in getting out and playing sports. He made the decision to join the ultimate frisbee team and found considerable success, as the group made nationals three out of his four years.
“When I first showed up on campus, Dean Broadhead gave a speech to all of us about teaching us to be resourceful and to learn how to learn,” Click said. “Yale equipped me with the tools not specifically for this job, but the tools to continue to grow and to develop the aspects I needed to be successful in something like this. The environments at Yale challenge you intellectually and make you question the things that you thought you knew growing up. It creates a mindset that’s invaluable in this industry and any other.”
Near the end of his Yale career, Click realized that the frisbee team’s communication methods were far too erratic and that they needed a better way of coordinating practices and games. At the dawn of the 2000’s, internet message boards rose in popularity, and Click decided a website was the ideal way of rallying his teammates.
Completely independent of his schoolwork, he devoted himself to learning HTML, the standard programming language. Mike Gordon ’00, a close friend, claimed Click had bought a “Programming for Dummies” type of book and immersed himself in it for weeks. Before long, the ultimate frisbee team had a message board website and Click had acquired a skill that would completely change the course of his life.
By the time graduation rolled around, Click was a bit at a loss for what his next steps would be. He knew that he did not want to enter academia or a similar historical profession and also that sports remained a deep-rooted passion of his. Click finally decided that he would move west to San Francisco.
Following a rejection for a position at the Gap headquarters, Click scoured the classifieds for the highest-paying jobs that he could apply for with his recently-acquired HTML knowledge. He was promptly hired by a database-building company that serviced organizations like VISA, while also helping manage the PECOTA algorithm for Baseball Prospectus, one of earliest websites to focus on the sabermetric analysis of baseball.
It was Click’s involvement with Baseball Prospectus, however, that would prove the most influential. After earning himself a sterling reputation on the data-driven side of the organization, he was given his own column for the website. Click’s baseball knowledge shone through in his writing and caught the eye of those in the administration. One of those impressed by Click washis then-coworker Chaim Bloom ’04, a fellow Yalie and baseball aficionado. Bloom was hired by the Tampa Bay Rays in 2005 and quickly rose through the ranks of the organization. When he was tasked with recommending a person to help lead the data team for the Rays, Bloom immediately thought of Click. The Rays hired him as well in 2006.
“James has been in this field so long and has been so directed, so I am not surprised at all in that way,” Click’s close friend Eileen Funke ’00 said. “We all thought someday that he would be in this role, but for it to happen right now, it feels otherworldly. He’s such an incredibly smart, focused individual.”
Click made his name with the Rays, spending 14 years with the team. His leadership ability was put on full display during his time with the organization and it was to few people’s surprise when the team promoted him to vice president of Baseball Operations in 2017.
Under Click last year, a team with a 2019 Opening Day salary of around $52 million performed well above expectations and posted a regular season record of 96–66 — enough to take the Rays into the playoffs. Ultimately, the underdogs from Tropicana Field fell 3–2 in the divisional round against an Astros organization seemingly at the start of a dynasty.
The recent Astros’ sign stealing scandal then opened the door for Click in Houston just months after that Game 5 loss. As the baseball world was reeling, then-Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow was fired by owner Jim Crane for his inaction in addressing the team’s misconduct.
Despite his young age, Click was the top choice for the new Astros’ front office and he was officially named general manager at the beginning of this month.
Click will be the 13th general manager in the history of the Astros and inherits a team looking to find redemption following the ever-evolving controversy. Despite the loss of star pitcher Gerrit Cole to the New York Yankees, the American League West first place finishers from last season are for most part still intact.
Click married Ace Padian ’00, and they have two children together. From tossing the frisbee on Old Campus to leading an MLB team, Click continues to climb following his years in New Haven.
“This is what he and I dreamed about in our dorm rooms together for four years at Yale,” Gordon said. “Most sports-inclined guys, at some point between the ages of 12 and 20, realize that they are not going to be pros. Once you realize that, it becomes ‘How do I stay in sports?’ For James and me, the dream became to be a general manager someday. I can still picture the two of us in our room at 3 a.m. talking about what we wanted to do with our lives and here he is, he’s reached it. I am so incredibly proud of him.”
Click was a member of Morse College.
Eamonn Smith | firstname.lastname@example.org