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Alumni Trio Hits a Home Run with Baseball Analytics Service

Friday, July 10, 2015
Alumni Jeremy Hochstedler, Kellen Hurst, and Paul Gagnon with baseball bats.

Diamond Gems: Alumni Jeremy Hochstedler (left), Paul Gagnon (middle), and Kellen Hurst (right) have combined their interests in baseball, mathematics, and computer software on the successful entrepreneurial enterprise Diamond Charts, which has helped the past three NCAA Division 1 College World Series baseball champions and this year's softball champion. (Photo by Bryan Cantwell)

Jeremy Hochstedler, Kellen Hurst, and Paul Gagnon weren't at the College World Series as the University of Virginia celebrated its first NCAA Division I college baseball championship, but the alumni trio took great pride in the role they played in the Cavaliers' victory.

Virginia is among 180 college baseball teams utilizing analytic services provided by Diamond Charts, an entrepreneurial enterprise started by Hochstedler and Hurst in 2013. The company provides clients with weekly spray charts that dissect hitting and pitching patterns for upcoming opponents' players. Each report, featuring 20 to 25 color-coded charts, showcases a player's hitting tendencies against right- or left-handed pitchers, ground ball/fly ball ratios, and pitches per plate appearance.

With this valuable knowledge, teams can shift their defenses and pitching patterns in hopes of keeping opposing players off the bases, enhancing the chances of victory.

And, Diamond Charts has an impressive track record of bringing success to its client teams, including three straight Division I baseball champions (UCLA, 2013; Vanderbilt, 2014; and Virginia, 2015), along with this year's Division I softball titlist, University of Florida.

"Without video footage of each player and team, the spray charts provide a foundation to each player's spray pattern. It was a tremendous resource to us," says Vanderbilt Coach Tim Corbin. The Commodores nearly won consecutive titles, losing to Virginia in the final round of this year's College World Series.

Indiana University Coach Chris Lemonis is another believer in Diamond Charts' services, stating "When we're in a game, their stats are right there on the front of our clipboards. I'm making a lot of in-game decisions based on those charts. That's the kind of confidence I have in them."

Former Rose-Hulman baseball teammates Hochstedler and Hurst combined their love of the summer game and interests in math and computer software development to create the baseball analytic service in their hometown of Noblesville, Indiana. Hochstedler, a 2006 electrical engineering alumnus, was a volunteer small-college baseball coach from 2012-2013. That's when he would chart the hitters' tendencies of opposing teams by hand, and, later, built a computer program to compile and plot the information on one-page reports. He saw an opportunity to market this service to help other college teams.

Hurst, a 2007 civil engineering graduate, soon came on board to assist in business development and dealing with clients. The duo formed a limited liability corporation, developed a website, and established a Paypal site to process registration fees from their client contracts.

The first client, Baylor University, came within days of sending the first marketing materials to Division I coaches.

Diamond Charts Spraychart

Providing Insight On Game: Diamond Charts provides color-coded charts that reveal a player's past hitting tendencies. This shows where an opposing team should set its defense to keep the hitter off base. (Image courtesy of Diamond Charts)

"When we received the first Paypal financial receipt, we knew we were onto something," says Hochstedler. "We just didn't know how big it would go."

From 15 clients for that first season (2013), Diamond Charts' popularity grew to include 125 teams by 2014 and 250 (180 baseball; 70 softball) for this past spring.

Gagnon has played a key role in the company's growth, bringing his computer programming expertise to the enterprise. His ideas to help automate software systems and expand services were adapted, and Hochstedler and Hurst asked the 2006 software engineering alumnus and former campus residence hall friend to become co-owner in the company late in 2013. He quit a job as a senior systems analyst for Eli Lilly and Company.

"With Paul it went from a science fair project that we were both doing at night to a real business enterprise," says Hochstedler.

Also, Gagnon's status as the enterprise's only full-time employee, working from his home near Fort Wayne, allowed Hochstedler and Hurst to devote attention to their engineering careers and growing families. Hurst is a water services construction department leader for HNTB, with a wife and 3-year-old daughter living in Indianapolis. Hochstedler has recently started a new job as a senior project manager for KSM Consulting, and has a wife and 5-year-old and 2-year-old sons (with another child on the way) living in Noblesville.

Diamond Charts opened a headquarters in office space in Noblesville's downtown square-a point of pride for Hochstedler and Hurst, who learned to play baseball on sandlots in the community. They became all-conference players at Rose-Hulman.

Gagnon went on to earn a master of business administration degree from Purdue University's Krannert School of Management. He spends his free time with his wife and daughters.

Gathering data from websites of NCAA and individual college team websites, Diamond Charts prepared 7,500 reports for clients' upcoming opposing teams for this past season. With each report consisting of 20 to 25 spray charts and graphs, the service provided approximately 160,000 charts for the 2014 season.

With nearly 1,900 college baseball teams, there's tremendous opportunity for growth in future seasons. And, Diamond Charts' success hasn't gone unnoticed. Two competing companies have since been developed and are trying to capture segments of the marketplace.

Hochstedler says the company is also looking to expand its analytical services into other sports, making it a year-round operation.

"Starting out, we didn't have a solid business plan and didn't have a marketing strategy. However, as Rose-Hulman graduates, we had an ability to get things done," says Hurst. "We thought we had a neat idea and wanted to see how far it would go. It's been an exciting and interesting ride so far."

Hochstedler adds, "Diamond Charts keeps Kellen and me around the game of baseball. We get to talk with coaches and get examine the statistics about some of the best young players in the country. We would like to think we share in our clients' successes. It's more fun and enjoyable than a job."