Covering the Bases with GW Alumnus Kevin Mahala

The former Revolutionaries shortstop and finance grad is the minor league hitting coordinator for the New York Mets.

May 31, 2024

Kevin Mahala

Alumnus Kevin Mahala, who played in 157 career games at GW from 2014-2016, left a career on Wall Street to pursue opportunities in professional baseball. (File photo by William Atkins/GW Today)

Even the late Ted Williams, regarded by some as the greatest hitter to ever play Major League Baseball (MLB), reached base via hit in just 34.4% of his 7,706 career plate appearances, leading the legendary Hall of Famer to once famously say that the hardest thing to do in all of sports is to square up a round ball with a round bat.

That might be truer than ever in today’s game, where an analytical movement has led to pitchers maximizing their velocity and movement at higher rates than any point in the sport’s history. Through the first third of the 2024 Major League season, hitters are on pace to record the lowest league-wide batting average since 1968.

The challenge, therefore, seems even greater for those instructing young hitters. But GW alumnus and former Revolutionaries shortstop Kevin Mahala, B.B.A. ’18., believes the approach to hitting hasn’t changed as much as one might think despite the greater degree of difficulty.

Mahala, whom the New York Mets hired in January as their minor league hitting coordinator, subscribes to the philosophy of hitting strikes—and hitting them hard.

“You control all aspects of that,” said Mahala. “You control the pitches you swing at, you can control whether or not you make contact, and you can control whether or not you hit the ball hard.

“So much of what happens after that is a little bit out of your control, but we tell guys to focus solely on what they can control.”

Mahala oversees the Mets’ organizational hitting prospects, as well as the minor league hitting coaches, to create individualized plans for each player’s potential path to the Major Leagues, where they will inevitably see 98 mile-an-hour-fastballs nightly. 

Comparing his lifestyle to that of a consultant, Mahala travels between Mets’ affiliate clubs, from the Triple A team in Syracuse all the way down to the rookie-level squad in the Dominican Republic, to guide players along those paths and make sure they are pulling in the same direction as an organization.

Even with the amount of information now available to players between advanced scouting reports, empirical statistics and other data, the biggest keys—preparation and communication—to yielding the best results during an actual game are as old as the sport itself.

Mahala, a finance graduate from the GW School of Business, brings perspectives of both former player and analytical thinker, something he believes pays dividends in his current role with the Mets. He always thinks back to how he would interpret a message as a player and employs that with each young hitter in the team’s system. His attention to detail is no surprise to his former GW coach Gregg Ritchie, who saw that acumen shine through daily from 2014 to 2016 when Mahala played 157 games at shortstop.

“Part of what he he's doing out there is developing all those players to be big leaguers, and communication has to be a major factor,” said Ritchie, a GW alumnus and GW Athletics Hall of Famer himself who just wrapped up his 12th year at the helm of his alma mater. “Not just the knowledge you have, but the ability to get that information across and have it soak in is huge, and he's got that ability.

“Kevin is the right man for the job because he's got such a high level of intelligence about things, but he understands people.”

Those pillars—communication, preparation and controlling controllables—are what led Mahala to this opportunity working in professional baseball in the first place.

Kevin Mahala making contact with a baseball
During his final season at GW, Mahala hit .286 with four home runs and a team-best 47 RBIs in 55 games. His 20 doubles led the team and ranked second in the Atlantic 10 while standing as the third most in a single season in program history. (GW Athletics)

Mahala played parts of two summers in the farm system of the Pittsburgh Pirates, who drafted him in the 18th round of the 2016 MLB Draft following his junior season at GW. Although he was playing professionally, he was simultaneously prepping for life outside of baseball, even interning for the hedge fund Davidson Kempner in between his two minor league seasons.

After he hung up the cleats for good following the 2017 season, he went on to work for a pair of Wall Street firms, and by the time a GW baseball alumni gathering in fall 2019 came around, Mahala was fully established in the financial industry. Or so he thought.

Then-Philadelphia Phillies assistant general manager Bryan Minniti was the keynote speaker at the event, and earlier that spring, Minniti was part of an effort to lure star outfielder Bryce Harper from the hometown Washington Nationals to the Phillies. Like every other baseball fan in D.C., Mahala was interested in how that historic transaction—which at the time as the richest contract in the history of North American sports—unfolded.

Mahala approached Minniti afterward and chatting about the game for 20 minutes, covering Harper’s signing among other topics. Mahala had also played against some of the Phillies’ top prospects, and the conversation satisfied his baseball itch—for the time being, anyway.

It apparently made an impression on Minniti, too.

About four months later, in January 2020, Minniti called Mahala to gage his interest regarding a newly created player information assistant within the Phillies organization. Ultimately, Mahala agreed to the position and traded in dress slacks for baseball pants.

“Since it kind of combined aspects of the quantitative aspect that I liked from my finance background, along with baseball, which was a passion and something that had been a constant throughout my life, it just seemed like a really interesting opportunity, and I took the leap,” Mahala said.

He’s glad he did, as he’s moved up in the industry and is now working for a Mets’ organization with one of baseball’s top farm systems—especially for position players—after spending four seasons with another organization that reached the World Series once and advanced to the National League Championship Series a year later.

Mahala is grateful for how the time both on the field (he and Ritchie both are especially fond of his walk-off single against Virginia Commonwealth University in April 2016) and in the classroom at GW set him up for success. He’s especially indebted to his teammates and the culture within the GW program.

“I think the beauty of GW is that you have obviously people who are passionate and care about playing baseball high level but are also passionate about their academic careers and going on to do amazing things in the world like a bunch of my teammates have done,” Mahala said. “That forces you to focus on both aspects of your life as a student-athlete.”

In his own professional life, where he has taken advantage of unique opportunities, Mahala has followed the same advice he currently gives to his players: When there’s a pitch to hit, hit it hard.