It wasn’t how Alexander Zedlovich '22 had pictured it. But there he was, standing alone in his home’s unheated basement office, in front of a computer screen, making his case virtually to a panel of experts judging this year’s Tulane International Baseball Arbitration Competition.
For Zedlovich and teammates Matthew Callahan ‘19TCB, ‘22L, John Gilroy '18C, 21L, and Rebecca Pasternak '22, participating in this unique law school competition from a distance was another twist in a year that has thrown a lot of curveballs. But, guided by coach Ryan Lake ‘13LL.M., they advocated capably through several rounds and bested a crowded field to take first place.
“I was so impressed with the team and their dedication,” says Lake, a Colorado-based sports lawyer who has coached past competition teams and taught Sports Law at St. John’s. That dedication included preparing to represent multiple players and clubs in mock salary arbitration hearings, with arguments based on complex game statistics. “The students really drove the formation of their competition cases,” Lake explains. “As they crafted their arguments and practiced presenting them, I offered feedback on how to make them stronger. This was all done remotely using video calls, recorded videos, and communication on Slack.”
Flexibility was key to working across three different U.S. time zones and over some technology hurdles says Callahan, who played a vital team role, but didn’t compete. “I helped prepare the statistical comparisons and player profile sections,” he shares. “Much of my work was sifting through player data and developing the themes we wanted to argue. But the highlight for me was seeing the wide variety of opinions and ideas that the other team members brought. I think our diverse backgrounds and mutual respect was instrumental in our success.”
Like Callahan, Pasternak says that being on the team was well worth the effort, even with the 6:30 a.m. PST practice sessions she attended from her home in California. A lifelong baseball fan, she came to St. John’s with an interest in Sports Law. “I joined the Law School’s Dispute Resolution Society (DRS) and, when sign-ups came out to try out for Tulane Competition, I knew right away that I wanted to participate,” she says. In addition to expanding her baseball knowledge and analytics skills, Pasternak appreciates the opportunity she had to engage with the competition’s judges. “As someone who wants to work in baseball, being able to hear from people on both the player and the club side was enlightening, as each person has followed a different path in the industry,” she says.
While Gilroy, a veteran of last year’s Tulane Competition team, considers winning a highlight of this year’s Competition, he also points to other memorable moments, including a panel program that featured a player agent and a former MLB general manager. But, as someone aiming for a career in the field, he says the biggest benefit of competing is getting an insider’s look at sports arbitration. “Baseball arbitration is at one end a science and at another an art,” he observes. “It’s hard to explain exactly what falls into each. There’s a way you want to present it, certain things you want to convey, and certain rules you must abide by. And getting your message across, how you want to prove your point, requires creativity and the ability to think on your feet.”
Looking back on the experience, the team members recognize the unwavering support of Elayne E. Greenberg, who guides DRS and facilitates its participation in the annual Tulane International Baseball Arbitration Competition as Assistant Dean for Dispute Resolution Programs, Professor of Legal Practice, and Director of the Carey Center at St. John’s Law. They also recognize and appreciate one another, notes Zedlovich. “Everyone did their part, putting in late nights and early mornings because we all had the goal of winning,” he says. “We really developed a connection and became friends, and that translated into our competition performance. Even when I was presenting alone, in that freezing cold basement, I knew that my teammates were with me, and that made all the difference.”