And as a VP for Fenway Sports Management and director of business development for the Boston Red Sox, Zue’s path to front-office executive in the Major Leagues was as unconventional as it is inspiring.
Watching the ball
Zue grew up 10 miles north of Boston, and followed all the hometown teams. He played sports throughout his childhood, living out the on-field triumphs of his pro heroes, but as he says: “The Red Sox, for whatever reason, we’re always my number one passion.” He remembers staying up late to watch game six of the 1986 World Series. He was only a young boy, but Zue vividly remembers “watching the ball go through Buckner’s legs” and the disappointment that followed.
Last robot standing
If there was one thing that trumped the importance of the Boston Red Sox throughout Tim Zue’s childhood, it was MIT. The Zues lived and breathed Massachusetts Institute of Technology. “Both my parents work at MIT; both my older brothers went to MIT; my mom got her undergraduate, master’s and PhD from MIT; my dad got his PhD from MIT,” Zue says. “The joke with my parents is that when I was born they were wearing an MIT sweatshirt, looked in the mirror and there was my name, TIM.”
He was valedictorian of his high school, only applied to one school (guess where), became a mechanical engineering major, and soon accomplished something that would keep his name etched in the history books of the school his family so loved. Zue won one of the most competitive displays of engineering brainpower in the world, famously known as the 2.70 Robot Competition at MIT.
If you’ve watched the old PBS telecasts or walked through the exhibit at the MIT museum, you know that every year the sophomore mechanical engineering students participate in a class-cum-competition: Every student receives the same starting materials and must build a robot that can compete at a specific task. Robots are pitted against one another to see which can complete the task most effectively, and the last robot standing wins. Zue’s robot won. He was flown to Japan to compete internationally for three weeks, and will forever hold the title of 1997 champ.
MIT to the Red Sox
So, here’s a Boston guy who grew up in love with hometown sports, was raised in an academically privileged family, went on to MIT, and essentially won a gold medal in what some would consider the Nerd Olympics. You’d expect him to break into tangents about Einstein and Galileo, offer up unsolicited math facts, and brag about the backroom tour he got at Microsoft. But Zue is about as non-geeky as you get. He acts the part of pro-sport exec — well dressed, tanned, clean-cut and direct. So how does this promising engineer go from MIT to the Red Sox?
Naturally, he looks for a career where he can flex his analytical muscles while being in a more social environment, settles on consulting for a couple of years, and then becomes an inner-city schoolteacher. Of course.