White Sox behind the scenes: Dan Fabian, director of baseball operations

White Sox behind the scenes: Dan Fabian, director of baseball operations
December 10, 2013, 9:15 am
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Dan Fabian Facts

Favorite bands: Beatles, Bruce Springsteen, Tom Petty, R.E.M.

Last movie seen: ‘Animal House’

First White Sox player you met: Tom Seaver “It was all downhill from there when you meet a Hall of Famer first.”

Favorite dish/restaurant: Steak at Morton's or Gibson's

Best non-White Sox sporting event attended: 1989 Fiesta Bowl with Notre Dame and West Virginia

If you didn’t work in baseball: I would have worked in sports information

Three people I’d take to lunch: Abraham Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt, John F. Kennedy

Dan Fabian, White Sox director of baseball operations. (Photo courtesy of Chicago White Sox)

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- When you consider his White Sox career began after he produced a postseason collegiate fencing media guide, it’s no surprise Dan Fabian has become Rick Hahn’s information guru.

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Twenty-seven years and more than a half-dozen roles later, Fabian is at the center of it all as the White Sox senior director of baseball operations. He’s whom Hahn first turns to for all the quantitative and subjective analysis he desires whenever a potential player acquisition comes across his desk.

But Fabian, 47, is almost certain he wouldn’t have been offered an internship in the team’s media relations department in 1986 had it not been for the ambitious project he undertook as a student assistant in the sports information department at Notre Dame. Several months later, the soon-to-be junior found himself in the press box at Comiskey Park.

“I look back, that was the moment,” Fabian said. “I went back to school my junior and senior years but came back each summer and got hired full-time in the fall of 1988.”

The moment doesn’t still just resonate with Fabian.

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His boss at the time, John Heisler, remembers it well. Now the senior associate athletic director, Heisler was Notre Dame’s sports information director for 16 years. Even though it was nearly 30 years ago, Heisler recalled Fabian’s zest for his job.

“Dan was truly passionate about Notre Dame fencing,” Heisler said in an email. “He treated every aspect of his work with the program as if it was New York Times front page material every day.”

That same thirst has carried over to the White Sox and manifested itself quickly once Fabian graduated into the team’s baseball operations department in 1993. It was then Fabian began to work as a scouting and player development administrator, a title he held for four years. Already heavy into sabermetrics -- he purchased the Bill James’ Abstract in 1983 and played Strat-O-Matic as a kid -- Fabian wanted to learn both sides of the game.

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Hahn said Fabian’s choice to understand both sides is critical to his current role.

“Dan was ahead of the curve,” Hahn said. “He realized early on to be a well-rounded executive he needed to spend time evaluating players and with our scouts and learning from some of the long-time scouts that were here when he started. At this point now, it’s not just the information management of the computer system, it’s the administration of our pro scouting program. He’s made sure the right players get seen and the right scouts see the right guys and we get enough opinions on players prior to us making a transaction.”

Fabian has also -- with the help of a computer programmer -- worked since 2000 to develop the White Sox Scouting Portal, an all-encompassing database where the club compiles its statistical and scouting analysis of every amateur and professional player in baseball.

Now whenever he’s informed of a potential deal, Fabian with only a few key strokes can produce a potential list of players Hahn should ask for in return.

“When it comes time to discuss a player move, we tend to turn to Dan and all the information he has compiled all in one place as a means of getting all the information we need on a guy,” Hahn said, calling Fabian the team’s “caretaker and purveyor of information.”

Per the team media guide, Fabian’s job includes overseeing the daily operation of the team’s scouting efforts as well as the club’s video coaching and processing of advance scouting reports and general statistical research for the baseball department.

Not surprising, Fabian has a easier explanation of his duties.

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“My biggest thing is managing our information,” Fabian said. “I try to get all the scouting reports and statistical information into a format that it’s usable and can be accessed quickly. That’s probably the simplest way to put it.”

Fabian has simplified information for nearly 30 years now.

He loves his position with the White Sox and said it’s easy to recharge the batteries after each season -- “it hasn’t gotten old yet, which is great,” Fabian said. He loves how, just like his father, who worked at WGN his entire career, and grandfather, an Inland Steel company man throughout his working days, he has managed to stay in the same place.

And it’s all because he sat down with his first-generation Macintosh computer to compile fencing information, about six hours worth. He laughs when he thinks back on the project.

“It got the door kicked in,” Fabian said.