University of Minnesota Alumni Association

Alumni Stories

Play Ball

As a videographer for the Tampa Bay Rays, Michael O'Toole has a better-than-front-row seat for the game.

Photo by Will Vragovic


ichael O’Toole (B.S. ’18) has always been crazy about baseball. Growing up in his hometown of Burnsville, Minnesota, he played second base throughout high school, and by the time he enrolled at the U of M in 2014, he’d begun to think about somehow pursuing a career in the game. For that reason, he declared a double major in sport management and business marketing.

For achieving his goal of working in baseball, that decision has paid off. Since January 2022, O’Toole has been working as a video coordinator for the Tampa Bay Rays, a franchise in Major League Baseball’s American League.

As a video coordinator in the team’s Baseball Operations department, O’Toole’s job responsibilities are broad. They include capturing and editing footage from games and practice sessions, as well as assisting with scouting reports and presentations for coaches, players, and management. O’Toole also supervises interns who are assigned to the Rays’ minor league teams and oversees all amateur, professional, and international scouting video coming into his office at St. Petersburg’s Tropicana Field.

His work is particularly hectic during spring training, which extends roughly from mid-February to the end of March. The team trains in Port Charlotte, Florida, where O’Toole and his colleagues put in days that start at 7 a.m. and sometimes go until midnight.

“It’s full go, just because the season is about to start and this is not only affecting the players’ jobs but our jobs too,” he says midway through spring training. “It’s a grind, but it’s exciting.”

The Tampa Bay Rays are a small-market franchise that usually ranks near the bottom in American League attendance. But among baseball cognoscenti, few teams enjoy more respect. Despite their obvious revenue limitations, the Rays have a strong reputation for success based on savvy scouting and identifying overlooked or undervalued players who can succeed in their system. In the past 15 years, the Rays have made it to the postseason nine times and won two American League championships. So if you intend to build a career as a talent evaluator in Major League Baseball, as O’Toole does, there are worse places to do it than Tampa Bay.

As an undergraduate, O’Toole landed his first baseball work as an intern with Inside Edge Inc., a sports data and analytics company in Bloomington, Minnesota, that lists several major league teams as clients. There O’Toole charted games and provided player analyses for team subscribers using proprietary software. “I was like, ‘Man, this is really cool; I love this stuff,’” he recalls. “And I wanted to keep trying to get experience like that.”

When he graduated from the U of M in 2018, the Rays first gave him that chance as an intern with the team’s Advanced Rookie level team in Princeton, West Virginia. There he handled video operations and wrote scouting reports on opposing players and wrote hitting and pitching reports on the Rays’ own players.

The next year he continued working with the Rays as an amateur scouting intern who, among other duties, assisted the team with evaluating high school and college players who were under consideration for the 2019 MLB draft.

O'Toole captures footage from games and practice sessions, as well as assisting with scouting reports and presentations for coaches, players, and management.

The arrival of the Covid-19 pandemic in early 2020 forced MLB teams to trim their operations and staffs as the league shortened its 162-game season to just 60 games. O’Toole had to leave the Rays for a time but landed a video internship back home in Minnesota with the Twins.

“That was the first time I had experience working around major leaguers,” he recalls. “I was very fortunate to land that and live at home during Covid, and still work in a position that was good for my career—and really fun, too.”

In 2021 O’Toole returned to Inside Edge, this time as manager of baseball operations, overseeing interns in addition to working on player evaluations for the company’s MLB clients. Then, in January 2022, the Rays took him back to work as a full-time video coordinator.

“There were all these steps in the process,” he says. “So, when it finally worked out, I felt like I was truly ready because I’ve done all these things. I now have six interns and two full-time staff under me.” Despite his title, O’Toole says the job doesn’t require deep video technology acumen. He described his work, in large part, as being an assistant to coaches seeking to improve player performance, as well as being an adjunct talent evaluator.

This spring the Rays broke camp in Port Charlotte and opened at Tropicana Field against the Toronto Blue Jays on March 28. If the team has another successful season, as the experts predict, O’Toole can feel he had a small part in it. 

“Back in 2019, when I was working on the draft, I had lists of players that were undervalued. So it’s been four years now, and there are a lot of them that are really close to the big leagues or thriving in the big leagues. I remember them as amateurs and I put this or that about them in my reports. It’s cool to look back on that and know that I have some general sense about the scouting sphere.”

If you liked this story, Minnesota Alumni magazine publishes four times a year highlighting U of M alumni and University activities. Early access to stories and a print subscription are benefits of being an Alumni Association member. Join here to receive a printed copy at home.

Read More