My father played Moneyball before Moneyball.

Moneyball — for those unfamiliar with baseball — refers to the Michael Lewis book about Billy Beane, an executive with the Oakland Athletics who used statistics to select top players.

Dad did something similar, but for the Little League teams he coached during the 1980s.

He would methodically clip articles from the local paper and jot down players who were highlighted. By the end of the season, he had a list and was ready for the next draft.

It was a huge competitive advantage because everyone else selected players based on “scores” assigned during single-day tryouts before the season.

The tryouts were miserable, the worst part of Little League. They were held on a Saturday in March when it was often still freezing in New Jersey. Gripping the bat or catching a ball was painful.

Dad’s insight was that it was better to assess a player based on the entire previous season rather than a score assigned on a random cold day in the Spring.

The trick was that it took more work. It was doing the work that gave him the advantage.

Youth sports have become more competitive these days, but back then they were coached by parents and I doubt many developed a system to draft 10 year olds.

Dad’s system paid off with winning teams.

It also provided him some amusement on those occasions when he would confidently draft a player who had scored low in the tryouts, baffling the other coaches.

Billy Beane would have been proud.

One of the core statistical insights in the book Moneyball was that players who got on base often were more valuable than those who hit attention-grabbing home runs.

Dad’s system benefited from a similar dynamic. It didn’t depend on big plays. The articles in the newspaper mentioned kids who had played well. So you could simply count the number of times someone was cited to determine who consistently contributed.

One of the charming things Dad did at the end of each season — win or lose — was take the kids to get ice cream. They went to Friendly’s, a casual dining chain, in my hometown.

When they arrived, he would ask the kids to line up in batting order. (If you don’t know with baseball, all you need to understand is the better players tend to bat first.)

Then, right before going in, Dad would turn the line around so that the kids who had spent all season batting last or the substitutes who rode the bench, would be treated first.

I like to think it was his way of reminding the kids that baseball wasn’t everything. That they were still in the early innings of life. Little League was a start, but the Big Leagues lay ahead.

(Part of a series of life lessons based on conversations with my parents.)