When a Baseball Lockout Complicates Christmas Dinner

SAN DIEGO — The baseball lockout is complicated on many levels, but perhaps nowhere was it more convoluted than in the home of the Edmans in December.

In theory, anyway, Major League Baseball protocols prevented two of John and Maureen Edman’s children, who were working in analytics for major league organizations, from talking to the third, a switch-hitting infielder.

“It definitely was a weird scenario,” John Edman said over coffee this month. “They joked about it quite a bit.”

Inside baseball talk was out during the family’s Christmas gathering, as front office personnel are prohibited from speaking with players. But at the dinner table, they figured, it was OK for Elise to ask her brother Tommy to pass the pepper.

“But they made me sit in another room, and we had a person going back and forth passing messages between me and my brother and me and my sister,” Tommy said. He was joking.

Among baseball’s many charms over time has been its various royal families passing the hardball from one generation to the next: the Bells (Gus, Buddy and David); the Motas (Manny, Jose and Andy); the Alous (Jesus, Matt, Felipe and Moises); the Ken Griffeys (Sr. and Jr.); and Bobby and Barry Bonds.

Here is a baseball dynasty updated for modern times.

Tommy Edman, 26, is a 2021 Gold Glove-winning second baseman for the St. Louis Cardinals.

Johnny Edman, 28, is a data quality engineer in research and development for the Minnesota Twins.

Their sister, Elise, 23, was a systems engineer with the Cardinals for most of the past two years before leaving last month for a mobile technology job.

“Being in our family, it’s tough not to talk baseball,” Tommy said.

There were no conflicts of interest at Tommy Edman’s major league debut in 2019 when Johnny, left, and Elise both came out to Wrigley Field to support him.Credit…The Edman Family

John Edman, the family patriarch, played shortstop at Williams College in Williamstown, Mass., majored in economics, minored in mathematics and then earned a graduate degree in statistics at the University of Michigan while working as a graduate assistant baseball coach for the Wolverines. He is in his third decade as a high school baseball coach and beginning his 22nd season in charge at La Jolla Country Day School in San Diego, where two of his players have gone on to the majors — his son Tommy and Alfonso Rivas, a first baseman and outfielder who was called up by the Chicago Cubs last summer.

M.L.B. Off-Season Updates

  • Lockout: With negotiations going slowly, the players asked for negotiations to be held in Florida rather than New York.
  • A Question of Brinkmanship: Tyler Kepner is wondering how M.L.B. will find its way out of this mess after a lack of urgency set the process back.
  • Guilty on Both Counts: Eric Kay, a former Angels employee, was found criminally responsible in the overdose death of Tyler Skaggs, a pitcher for the team who died in 2019.
  • A Hall of Famer: David Ortiz, who led the Red Sox to three World Series titles, was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame ​​in his first year on the ballot.

“This marriage never would have worked out if I didn’t love baseball as much as my husband did,” said Maureen Edman, who listened to Dodgers and Angels games nightly while growing up in Southern California. When she returned to Williams for studies in late summer, her mother, in the days before the internet, mailed Los Angeles Times sports sections to her so she could keep up with her hometown baseball news.

Maureen and John Edman’s children inherited the math genes — and the infield dirt. Johnny, who majored in applied math at Wheaton College in Illinois, was the scorekeeper for his father’s teams by the time he was in first grade, working a PalmPilot so well that adults were flummoxed when asked to work his system. Tommy majored in math and computational science at Stanford before St. Louis picked him in the sixth round of the 2016 amateur draft. Elise majored in computer science and minored in data science while playing volleyball at Davidson College.

“I realized I didn’t have a future playing, but I’ve always known about the other side of the game,” Johnny Edman said. “‘Moneyball’ was one of my favorite books.” He added: “I love numbers, love how it can help drive decision making on player acquisitions and in player development.”

His mother, comparing him to the Oakland Athletics executive at the center of “Moneyball,” said: “He basically wanted to be Billy Beane. We did that math, and we said: ‘Johnny, you know, it would be easier to be Wil Myers. There are more players than G.M.s in the majors.”

Edman has become a mainstay in the Cardinals lineup. He led the National League in at-bats in 2021. Credit…Nam Y. Huh/Associated Press

Johnny Edman was an intern with the San Diego Padres in 2016 and added to his data-engineering experience by working for a tax compliance software company afterward. He also played in a fantasy league in which the players started the season by “owning” one organization that included “a full minor league system with full roster rules, arbitration, a full 40-man roster,” he said. “You had a salary cap based on a reasonable amount for your team to spend. You’re signing players to contracts, you really have to think how you want to sign guys, unlike your standard fantasy baseball leagues.”

He bought into the Minnesota Twins in that league, so it was serendipitous that, a short while later, the real Twins had an opening. Johnny Edman was hired in 2019.

“Our guy, he loves the game just like his brother. When I watch his brother play, I think about the way Johnny is in the front office,” Derek Falvey, Minnesota’s president of baseball operations, said at the general manager meetings in November, when executives could still discuss players. “He loves talking about everything. He’s kind of scrappy. That’s the way I view his brother on the field, right? He’s involved in everything.”

Tommy Edman was called up to the Cardinals for a game at Wrigley Field on June 8, 2019. He provided such a spark in what had been expected to be a short stint, hitting .304 with a .350 on-base percentage and 15 steals, that he never returned to the minors. He was instrumental in helping St. Louis advance to the National League Championship Series against Washington that fall, though his success caused one headache: He and his wife, Kristen, who played softball in college, scrambled to postpone their wedding, which had been planned for after the minor league season.

Edman shines brightest in the field, where he won a Gold Glove for his defense at second base.Credit…Jeff Roberson/Associated Press

“Obviously that’s one of the only excuses that’s valid for pushing a wedding back,” Tommy said.

The only surprise bigger than Tommy Edman’s rapid ascent was Elise’s entry into professional baseball.

“I actually wrote my college essay about how I would hide in my little toy pink tent when I was younger and avoid watching baseball games at all costs,” Elise said. But the game grew on her, and she eventually became a team manager for her father’s high school team.

When she learned of an opening with the Cardinals as graduation neared, she applied and was hired in May 2020. It was during the coronavirus lockdown season, and “she actually got to go to a game because she was in the front office, and my whole family was jealous of her,” Tommy said.

Johnny enjoyed teasing Elise about how she had become Tommy’s co-worker. “She’d usually laugh,” Johnny said. “But I don’t think she thought it was all that funny.”

In Minnesota that summer, Johnny Edman was allowed in the ballpark because he was running the Trackman system, which records the trajectory and spin rate of pitched and batted balls. When the Cardinals came to town and Tommy hit a home run, Johnny snagged the ball, which now sits on a mantel in his home.

Sometimes, their baseball world has been awkward.

Johnny, left, and Tommy grew up as Tigers fans because the family lived in Michigan in the 1990s.Credit…The Edman Family

Johnny rolled into his first day of work in Minnesota with a Cardinals bumper sticker affixed to his 2009 Toyota Corolla, which elicited plenty of razzing. He fixed that by adding a Twins license plate frame.

Then, during the 2020 season, the brothers met for coffee, outdoors and socially distanced, when St. Louis played in Minnesota in the Cardinals’ final two games before a coronavirus outbreak in the organization led to a two-week break.

“I remember thinking, ‘Oh my goodness, this could spider out just because he saw his brother,’” Falvey said. Fortunately, neither Tommy nor Johnny was affected.

December, though, did present its challenges. Before the Edmans navigated the conversational chasm at Christmas, Elise married Patrick Casey, who played basketball at Davidson, not long after the owners locked out the players. As her big day approached, Elise’s Cardinals co-workers teased that she wouldn’t be able to speak with her own brother at her wedding.

“Now I can talk to him, so that’s an added bonus,” Elise Casey said, because of her nonbaseball job.

When the lockout ends, Johnny is eager to resume his split loyalties at work.

“I usually have both my TV and computer going, one on the Twins game and one on the Cardinals, so I can keep track of how we’re doing and how he’s doing,” said Johnny, who feels fortunate to be in the league opposite his brother so he doesn’t feel guilty about supporting a second team.

Or, as Tommy Edman said, “If he was working for the Brewers or the Cubs, then he’d really have a tough time choosing who to root for.”

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