While teaching a course on personnel budgeting in California recently, GFOA's John Fishbein, a lifelong baseball fan, ran into former Philadelphia Phillies relief pitcher (and current financial controller at the Orange County Sanitation District) Wally Ritchie. They talked about baseball, of course, and how Ritchie made his way to a career in government finance.
Fishbein: How did you get involved in professional baseball?
Ritchie: 1 was always interested in baseball and played from the time that I was five. I was first scouted by professional teams while I played in high school. I was extensively scouted and followed while in college and was drafted by the Philadelphia Phillies. The Phillies selected me in the fourth round of the June 1985 draft.
I noticed that you didn't play baseball from 1989 to 1990. Was it an injury? You probably don't have to worry about those as much in your current career.
I was back in the minor leagues in 1989 and spent that year in Triple A. I was injured near the beginning of the 1990 season and ended up having shoulder surgery that kept me out for the rest of the year. Being a controller does have a lower injury risk than being a pitcher.
How did you feel watching the Phillies play in the World Series the year after you retired?
I had moved on from the Phillies and played in the minor leagues with the Detroit Tigers in 1993. I did watch the Phillies in the World Series that year. Part of me wished that I was still with them and had the opportunity to experience the post season. I had spent all of my professional career up to that point in the Phillies organization, both major and minor leagues, and had developed some really good friendships and other relationships. I was excited for the organization and my friends and was hoping that they would win. I think that everyone that plays the game at that level has a goal to reach the World Series. I understand the difficulty of reaching that point and was happy for my friends to be there. Unfortunately, they came up a little bit short and lost to the Blue Jays.
You went to Pepperdine Graziado Business School. Was that in the baseball offseason or after you retired?
I had taken an individual course here and there during my playing days, but nothing significant. I went to Pepperdine after I retired from baseball and completed both undergraduate and graduate degrees there.
What was your first job in government?
After my schooling was done, I worked in the private...