Statistically speaking, the career of Randy Flores ’97, MEd ’14 shouldn’t have happened.
He was no star athlete, but the left-handed pitcher earned a walk-on spot for the Trojan baseball team that went to the 1995 College World Series. He still holds USC’s career pitching record with 42 all-time wins.
After college, he dropped to the ninth round of the Major League Baseball draft, where the New York Yankees organization took a chance on him. A few bounces around the majors took him to the St. Louis Cardinals—where he won a World Series in 2006.
Later, with no experience in the tech world, he founded a digital startup that counts 11 MLB clubs among its clients.
And though he had never worked in a professional team’s front office, last summer Flores landed in the Cardinals’ executive suite as scouting director—a job that can launch future general managers.
“My life’s a dream,” says Flores, who counts among his blessings “two amazing little girls Sloane, 6, and Rowan, 4, and Lindsey, the best wife in the world.”
HE TURNED AWAY RECRUITERS FROM THE AIR FORCE ACADEMY AND PRINCETON FOR A CHANCE TO WALK ON FOR THE TROJANS.
Credit his success to determination, resilience and a fierce work ethic. It’s no coincidence that they’re the same qualities he tells his 25 scouts to look for as they scour for new talent.
Growing up in Pico Rivera, California, Flores was a serious student. He turned away recruiters from the Air Force Academy and Princeton for a chance to walk on for the Trojans. By his junior year, the finance major was crowned one of the Pac-10’s pitchers of the year.
“I’ve always worked hard at whatever I was doing,” Flores says.
Take, for example, his early years in minor league ball. Each spring, he’d hit training camp, then each fall, he’d hit the classroom as a long-term substitute teacher. “Minor league players don’t make much money,” he says ruefully.
Flores would go on to the majors, playing for the Texas Rangers, Colorado Rockies and Cardinals. When his days in pro ball ended in 2012, he returned for a master’s degree at the USC Rossier School of Education, aiming to get into college sports administration. Analyzing games for ESPN and Pac-12 Networks and assistant coaching at USC kept him connected to baseball.
But it was USC Athletics administrator Mark Jackson, now athletics director at Villanova, who dared Flores to “think outside the uniform” and take advantage of USC’s entrepreneurial ethos.
Noticing that amateur ballplayers and coaches didn’t use technologies common in pro sports to assess athletes, Flores launched OnDeck Digital in 2014. The company generates in-game video for use by college recruiters and major league scouts in their never-ending search for talent.
Now his mastery of baseball and big data are coming together in his role as director of scouting for the Cardinals. It’s a new world, but history shows he learns quickly. “You put five equally talented ballplayers on the field, and one seems to rise to the top because for some reason he’s able to break through, hang tough or bounce back,” Flores says.
All qualities he knows a thing or two about.