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April 26, 2019

O’Connell Makes the Pitch for CMU, Pittsburgh

By Bruce Gerson

Kevin O’Connell is combining his passion for writing with his love for baseball.

O’Connell is a writer, editor and videographer for the School of Computer Science (SCS) and the co-author of two baseball books.  

At SCS, he’s editor-in-chief of “the Link,” the school’s biannual magazine.  

“I like to tell the great stories that people haven’t yet heard about. There are so many very cool things happening here,” said O’Connell, SCS’ associate director for communications. “SCS is working on research that may not impact the world until  five-to-10 years from now.” 

O’Connell’s first story for the Link was about CMU computer scientists who invented the pinch-to-zoom gesture in the 1980s, well ahead of the smartphone’s emergence.

“Steve Jobs came to campus and wanted to see what they were doing,” he said. “Unfortunately, they didn’t patent it. They didn’t have the platform to use it back then. They were that far ahead of their time.”

O’Connell recently wrote about SCS alumnus Doug Ferring, who became an analytics expert in major league baseball, leading operations for the Tampa Bay Rays and most recently the Los Angeles Dodgers.

"I like to tell the great stories that people haven’t yet heard about. There are so many very cool things happening here.”

With four issues of the Link under his belt, O’Connell finds his work challenging and fun.

“We’re competing with people’s time to read, so we need to make the stories compelling, smart, and readable ,” he said. “I try to make every issue better than the last..”

Born and raised in Washington state, O’Connell earned his bachelor’s degree at Gonzaga University and a master’s degree in creative writing at Emerson College in Boston, where one afternoon he and a colleague took in a day game at Fenway Park.

“It was one of those days when everything was perfect. We were thinking, how do we get paid to do this? After the game, we went across the street from Fenway to a bar, where we wrote all our ideas on napkins,” O’Connell said.

Those ideas turned into their first book, “The Ultimate Baseball Road Trip: A Fan’s Guide to Major League Stadiums,” in 2002.  The second edition was published in 2012. 

O’Connell and his college mate Josh Pahigian traveled to all 30 major league ballparks — one round trip for each edition — where they saw at least one game, experiencing the stadiums, its food and amenities, as well as the culture of each city.

“Everything we offer is to maximize the experience of the fan,” O’Connell said. “Where to sit for day games and night games. Where to eat inside the stadium and outside the ballpark. We researched each region for all the cool baseball-related things to do. We wrote 30 to 40 pages on each ballpark.”

O’Connell said the road trip had its ups and downs.

“You have to try all the food. You eat ballpark food every day for a month, it takes its toll. But it was a blast,” he said.

Between the two fan guides, O’Connell co-authored “Why I Hate the Yankees,” a rebellion against his family of Yankee fans, but really a commentary on the problems with baseball, as typified by one of baseball’s most respected franchises, he said.

O’Connell loves Pittsburgh — PNC Park is “perfect” — and working at CMU.

“Pittsburgh has so much local flavor and culture. Its glory days are right now. And I love the experience at CMU. I love being here,” he said.

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