Reed Zahradnik knew he wanted to work for a Major League Baseball team. He says the opportunities he found at the University of Iowa showed him how to do it.
Emily Nelson
Tim Schoon

When the 2023 Major League Baseball season opened, few people predicted the Texas Rangers would make it to the World Series—let alone win it. But Reed Zahradnik, who started as a baseball analytics apprentice for the Rangers in January, had a hunch those people were wrong.

“I was telling people to keep an eye on them because they’re good,” Zahradnik says. “But of course, everyone just gave me crap about it.”

Zahradnik had the last laugh. The University of Iowa student attended the first two games of the World Series in which the Rangers defeated the Arizona Diamondbacks 4-1, as well as the massive celebration parade in Arlington, Texas.

Reed Zahradnik

Hometown: Marion, Iowa

Degree: MS in business analytics

What’s next: Finishing up a yearlong baseball analytics apprentice position with the Texas Rangers. “Playing in the World Series pushed back the timeline for figuring out what’s going to happen next,” Zahradnik says. “But I hope to be back there full time.”

As Zahradnik prepares to graduate with an MS in business analytics, he says he’s exactly where he hoped to be when he started as an undergraduate student at Iowa.

“I played high school baseball, and after realizing that I was not going to be a professional athlete, I knew I wanted to stay with sports and in the game,” Zahradnik says. “So, I always knew that I wanted this to be my endpoint, but I had no idea how to get from retired high school baseball player to working for a baseball team.”

Zahradnik, who got a BA in business analytics and information systems and minored in sport and recreation management, says each opportunity he found at Iowa led to another one.

He discovered a sports analytics club through a Sales in Sport course, which led to meeting a student manager of the Hawkeye baseball team, who encouraged him to apply for the team’s data analytics department.

“I told him I didn’t know how to code, but he said they’d teach me,” Zahradnik says. “I applied, got hired, and it just kind of took off from there. It was exactly what I wanted to do.”

University of Iowa graduate Reed Zahradnik standing near home plate at Banks Field, the University of Iowa baseball facility

“Experience comes so easily here because of all the opportunities available on campus. I had a chance to get a built-in résumé builder while also being able to work for a Division I baseball team that I’ve loved my whole life.”

Reed Zahradnik
fall 2023 grad with an MS in business analytics

Along with working with the baseball team for the past three and a half years—the last two as lead data analyst—Zahradnik also has volunteered as a student assistant for the College of Law Baseball Salary Arbitration class led by Dan Matheson, professor of instruction and director of the sport and recreation management program.

Zahradnik says all these experiences played into him landing the yearlong baseball analytics apprentice position with the Rangers. He worked remotely from Iowa City while finishing his degree, spending spring break at the team’s spring training facility in Arizona and summer at the ballpark in Texas.

“Professional baseball teams already have their process in place, so the biggest thing is knowing where I can provide value to them. Based on all the work that I have done already, I know that I can contribute to a lot of areas,” Zahradnik says. “Experience comes so easily here because of all the opportunities available on campus. I had a chance to get a built-in résumé builder while also being able to work for a Division I baseball team that I’ve loved my whole life.”

Why did you choose to come to Iowa?

Iowa’s in my blood. My grandfather graduated with an undergraduate and graduate degree here. My mom and dad both went here. My older brother went here. My uncle went here. So even though I looked at other colleges, I was pretty confident I was going to be a Hawkeye.

And it has just happened to be the perfect fit for me.

How would you describe what it’s like to be a Hawkeye?

The Hawkeye community is everything. College is such an important part of your life because you’re trying to figure out what you’re going to do for the rest of your life. To be a Hawkeye is to know that you have a network of people that you can always reach out to, whether that be on LinkedIn or your professors or your classmates. Any Hawkeye I’ve ever talked to has been more than willing to help me with whatever I needed.

What advice would you give current and future Hawkeyes?

It can be hard for me to take that leap of saying, “I don’t know if this is going to work out or if it’s going to lead to anything, but I’m going to try it.” But be willing to try out new things. Even if it doesn’t lead to anything, there’s always going to be opportunities waiting for you to get you where you want to go. Take advantage of that.

Business analytics at Iowa

We’re not doing business analytics because it’s trendy. We’re doing it because we’re good at it. The country’s best minds in business analytics and data science teach here at the Tippie College of Business.

How has Iowa prepared you for your next chapter?

The Iowa baseball team is nationally recognized for our analytics program. Almost every team knows who we are, the work that we do, and the people who have come out of our program. So that alone speaks for itself.

Also, the fact that we have such a strong tree of former Iowa baseball managers who work for different teams and can give advice and connect you with people is such an incredible resource that very few people across the country are able to access.

What is your favorite memory from the World Series?

The moment of winning the World Series, I don’t even know if I’m able to fully appreciate it. Just that moment of everything you worked for all year, even if I played a tiny part in it, it’s such an incredible feeling to see all that pay off.

And then the parade. There were over 500,000 people there. That’s such a gratifying thing to see. All the work you’re doing for all those people, even if it’s a small part, to bring that much joy to people is an incredible experience.