By Liam McGuire
It’s a 14-hour drive from Drew Balen’s Edmonton home to the nearest major league park.
Or 800 miles as the line drive travels.
Yet, Balen is focussed on major league games each and every night of the season.
He says it’s not unusual for him to be doing something baseball related throughout the entire day.
"During the season, I will watch a number of plays during the day for at least an hour or two," Balen says. "Then I’ll watch two or three games live, plus spend time looking at information from our databases."
Balen works for Inside Edge, an advanced scouting service that provides advanced information to baseball teams and media.
Inside Edge works with over half of the teams in MLB, in addition to offering services at the amateur level.
Inside Edge has been used by eight World Series championship teams, including a stretch of seven consecutive winners from 1996 to 2001. In 2006 the scouting service jumped into the video game market, appearing in the 2K Sports Major League Baseball series.
Balen, a Drayton Valley, Alta. native has a number of roles with Inside Edge, including video scouting and data base analysis. He says the work he does contributing to scouting and impacting the game is a good feeling.
"It is a neat feeling knowing that you played a small role in what they are doing on the field," says Balen, adding, "and also it has helped me learn the game better by watching in more detail."
Balen works from his home-office, which he says allows for his schedule to be very flexible.
"It works for me. Technology makes it much easier as I am able to work from my home and still be connected to other employees from Inside Edge," says Balen, who was at the Futures Game in Kansas City this past July as part of all-star week festivities; the Rising Stars game where the best of the Arizona Fall League gather, and he attended spring training games in Florida and Arizona.
"In a lot of ways working in sports is a lifestyle because you have to have a flexible schedule and be able to adapt to the current task that you are working on," says Balen.
Balen graduated from Brock University in 2012 with a degree in sports management and he got involved with Inside Edge after attending a Society for American Baseball Research (SABR) analytic conference.
"At the SABR analytic conference in Arizona during spring training last year, I met one of the founders and co-owners of Inside Edge, Randy Istre, and the head of their California office, Kenny Kendrena.
"We talked for a few minutes and they decided to hire me."
Balen was recently recognized as one of the Most Influential Canadians in baseball in 2012 by Canadian Baseball Network, an honor which he says was a privilege to receive.
"It is nice to be recognized among your peers," says Balen. "The list speaks for itself with names that are well respected in the industry."
Balen has advice for those interested in following in his footsteps and entering of the world of baseball and scouting.
"Immerse yourself in baseball or whatever you are passionate about," he says. "Do things that you enjoy because you never really know how far that might take you. You can always learn more."