Power Hitter

In his 20s, Michael Morizio was on his way to becoming an accomplished opera singer. He was performing with the Opera Company of Boston.

Fast forward 25 years: Morizio is performing for a different audience.

He travels the country as president and chief executive officer of ScoutAdvisor Corporation, a Tampa company that makes customized software that helps professional sports teams improve the way they collect, organize and access scouting and other statistics on players.

ScoutAdvisor is actually a spinoff of another Tampa technology company, E Solutions Corp., where Morizio was a partner. He spun off ScoutAdvisor in March 2007.

Since then, [a total of] 15 Major League Baseball teams — half of the league — have bought the product.

On the horizon: the National Football League. Morizio has meetings scheduled with NFL teams and hopes to sell into the other professional sports leagues, such as the National Basketball Association and the National Hockey League.

“We want to turn it into a real war horse,” says Morizio, 51. “Our vision is expanding it into something pre-eminent in scouting and information for professional sports. We want to be a brand name.”

Morizio grew up in New England. He earned a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Hartford in music and opera. He then won a scholarship for a master’s degree program for voice and opera at the Boston Conservatory. He sang with the Opera Company of Boston and its founder, the late and legendary Sarah Caldwell. Morizio married his high school sweetheart and they had a child. Around that time, he took engineering courses. He eventually got a full-time job with Raytheon Corp. as a materials inspector. In five years, he became a supervisor.

He also began studying software and developed a specialty in Lotus. As he studied software more deeply, he never finished a degree in computer science, but earned an MBA at Bentley College in Boston with a concentration in computer systems. Morizio joined Lotus as a quality assurance engineer to build test programs. He then became manager of quality assurance. IBM later acquired Lotus. By about 1992, he began to work more in software sales. As an IBM global account executive, he traveled the world and handled blue-chip clients such as Coca-Cola, FedEx and PricewaterhouseCoopers.

Coming to Tampa

By 1999, IBM was doing a lot of business with a Tampa custom software company called E Solutions Corporation. While funneling a lot of work to E Solutions, Morizio met with the E Solutions CEO, and in January 2000, they became partners.

Morizio was there seven years and did lots of software development. But in that time span, E Solutions went through a paradigm shift, moving from primarily software development to primarily Web site hosting. One of its software applications was ScoutAdvisor®. One of ScoutAdvisor’s early clients was the New York Yankees. The Yankees wanted E Solutions to rebuild the [scouting] technology behind its minor league system. Although ScoutAdvisor wasn’t born as a separate company, Morizio began to realize the product’s potential as a custom solution.

In 2001, the dot com bust took its toll on E Solutions. The company’s [development] head count dropped in half. Fearing he might lose some talented engineers, Morizio told five of the company’s software engineers to enhance the ScoutAdvisor® software. They built it and the company branded it.

Morizio took the product to California to a game for all-star players and got enthusiastic response from many scouting directors. Some suggested that someone announce Morizio’s software over the ballpark’s PA system. They did. And Morizio’s staff set themselves up in the ballpark’s press box. Many scouts came up to visit and try out the software. “This was seven or eight years ago,” Morizio says. “People were still doing a lot of faxing, making phone calls. This kind of thing was pretty new.”

At that time, a book titled, “Moneyball” by Michael Lewis debuted. Lewis spent a season researching and spending time with the Oakland Athletics, which has one of the smallest payrolls in the league, yet often makes the playoffs. How? By managing player development, including their scouting and farm system inventory, like no one else, Lewis found. “The big money clubs weren’t tracking the players [the same way],” Morizio says.

The book was an indirect endorsement of ScoutAdvisor® because that’s what the software helps teams do. Each major league baseball team has six affiliate teams with players coming and going from each roster. Gathering the information is one task. Organizing it and manipulating the data is more challenging.

Eventually, major league teams began buying ScoutAdvisor®, but they wanted to customize it. That became the trend. Each team wanted it done their way. They collected information on player prospects. But they wanted to organize it and use it different ways. ScoutAdvisor® helps them do that. “Any one application wasn’t going to cut it,” Morizio says.

The operation

In March 2007, Morizio left E Solutions and formed a separate company, ScoutAdvisor Corporation, in Tampa on Harbor Island. Now 15 major league baseball clubs, including the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox, use ScoutAdvisor. The two most recent teams to buy the software are the Arizona Diamondbacks and Chicago Cubs.

The company has four full-time employees and two contractors, which include software engineers and sales people. “Anything we don’t do well is outsourced,” Morizio says. The lead sales person, the client executive, used to work in the front office of the Baltimore Orioles. After he makes the initial presentation to clients, Morizio, like the closer in baseball, comes in at the end to finish the sale and sign the contracts.

Profit rose 19.5% at the company in its first year and it expects a similar increase this year, Morizio says. “The increase is largely because of creating new (product) offerings,” he says.

Its lone competitor is IBM, which has eight baseball teams signed up. Morizio says ScoutAdvisor took two of IBM clients. The key, moving forward, is continual improvement. “The clubs are wonderful in helping us evolve,” Morizio says. How long does it take to customize the software for teams? It could be three weeks to three months, depending on what the team wants.

The future

Besides being a name brand in baseball, ScoutAdvisor wants to expand sell into other sports and expand its products. It has already developed ScoutAdvisor® Data Pro, a software that works with ScoutAdvisor® as an advanced searching and reporting system. It sits on top of the original software, like a portal. It also debuted ScoutAdvisor® International, a Web-based tracking system for scouting players and tracking them. Scouts can translate different languages easily by clicking on the little country flag symbols on screen. A Japanese baseball team has bought the product.

While ScoutAdvisor continues to penetrate Major League Baseball, Morizio met with two NFL teams in the off season. He plans to meet with three other NFL teams this year. He expects NFL implementation by end of the year. “We’re looking forward to 2009 to be able to be used cross-sport,” he says. “ScoutAdvisor® is being re-architected. The NHL and NBA are next. Then soccer, rugby and cricket, which is big on stats.”

The economy has not wounded ScoutAdvisor. Sports and the theater may see increased business in a recession,” Morizio says. “People need an outlet. As long as we’re doing our job, there’s no way the recession would affect us.”

Morizio, who attends a Lutheran church in Westminster, Mass., is involved in a Christian CEOs organization in Tampa called C-12, which meets to discuss how God and spirituality can help CEOs be successful. It’s been invaluable. “It’s been very instrumental in guiding me,” he says.

Morizio divorced and 13 years ago remarried. He has two sons. Matthew, 24, is a baseball player in the minor leagues with the Wilmington Blue Rocks, a farm team of the Kansas City Royals in Wilmington, Del. His other son, Mike, 27, works for Fidelity in Boston.

REVIEW SUMMARY

Company: ScoutAdvisor Corporation

Industry: Software development for professional sports teams

Key: Anticipating clients’ needs, updating existing products.

July 10, 2008

by Daev Szymanski | Tampa Bay Editor