Baseball Industry Networking Night
Students get some realistic advice about how to break into the sports business.
Smith School students got an insider’s look into the business of baseball at
the Smith School’s Baseball Industry Network Networking Night on April 25, hosted
by Tyrone Brooks ’96, director of baseball operations for the Pittsburgh Pirates.
Brooks brought together a wide variety of baseball professionals who advised the
audience of undergraduates and MBAs about what it really takes to break into the
sport. They described an obsessively networked industry in which connections are
Internships, the group agreed, were an important way to get your foot in the
door with most sports organizations. Matt Klentak, now director of baseball operations
with the Baltimore Orioles, started his MLB career as an intern paid $6 an hour,
working as a landscaper on the side to make ends meet. But that internship eventually
landed him a job as a scout for the Atlanta Braves.
Working for a team in any capacity, even the most menial internship, allows hopefuls
a chance to see if they really want to devote their lives to the high-stress, high-energy
environment that makes professional baseball happen. Interns are low-paid and the
work is entry-level. But organizations notice great workers and invest time in developing
their skills, said Rachel Fink, human resources and recruiting manager for Ripken
Baseball. “We even help with resume-building and interviewing skills.”
“If you’re a good intern,” said Catherine Silver, executive director of ballpark
enterprises and guest services for the Washington Nationals, “we will find a job
for you, either in our organization or with another team. We take care of our own.”
The panelists identified the traits they thought made people successful in the
professional baseball industry: an even temperament, because dealing with the games
and the public brings enough emotional drama of its own. Adaptability, because teams
often choose to keep their young interns because of their drive and work ethic,
and will set them in whatever staff position becomes available. And a passion for
baseball—because, as Klentak said, if you didn’t really love the game, you’d never
survive the punishing schedule and low pay till you worked your way up the ladder.
The panel presentation was the final event of the day, which also included networking
receptions and a presentation by Brooks in the afternoon.
Smith alumnus Brooks is also founder of the Baseball Industry Network. It started
when he noticed that there were a number of baseball professionals on LinkedIn who
weren’t connected to one another. He started a group on LinkedIn and began inviting
his professional connections to join, and today the group has more than 8,000 members.
Brooks hopes the Baseball Industry Network will continue to grow and provide
opportunities for others hoping to work in professional baseball. Many open staff
positions in baseball organizations are never even posted, Brooks pointed out, because
baseball professionals reach out to each other to fill open spots. “In baseball,
it’s not a case of who you know—it’s who knows you,” said Brooks.