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Breaking into Baseball—Lessons Learned from Mark Smith at the Oakland A’s

By Jeannie Liakaris, Director, Wasserman Center for Career Development@SCPS

The Tisch Center for Hospitality, Tourism, and Sports Management and the Wasserman Center for Career Development@SCPS co-sponsored a workshop on “Breaking Into Baseball” hosted by Mark Smith of the Oakland A’s. Here is what he had to share.

First and foremost, there is no magical path to break into baseball. Mark himself started as an aerospace engineering student, entered into the Air Force for 8 years, and parlayed his passion for sports photography to break into baseball starting as a volunteer with the Utah Grizzlies and Ogden Raptors.

Here are his top tips:

1. You have to start somewhere, begin with your passions, interests and show it with a portfolio of those passions.

2. Become a “professional” ditch the “fan hat”; having an intricate understanding of the game, operations, skillsets and experiences in the industry will certainly help you in your journey, but don’t get caught rooting for the wrong team.

There are two arms to baseball, the “business side” which includes Legal, Accounting, PR, Marketing, Finance and so forth, and “player operations” which include Baseball Operations, Scouting and Player Development. Learn and understand the difference of each area. In addition to team jobs there are numerous ancillary companies that teams use for various functions throughout the season. Baseball America Directory, Baseball America Magazine, and Sports Business Journals are good publications that showcase the companies involved with sports teams.

3. Be aware of the various job categories that exist, such as: Administrative Services, Broadcast Media & Journalism, Communication, Executive “C” Level Management & Athletic Administration, Facility Operations, Information Technology, Marketing Management & Product Development, Professional Services, Retail & Supply Chain Management, Selling & Sales Management. Know the areas that you are targeting, as well as your value add for your specific areas of interest.

4. Be open to gaining experience in various market segments that are transferable, such as: Amateur Athletics & Governing Bodies, Corporate Arena/Sports Marketing Suppliers, Facilities/Live Events/Leisure, Health & Fitness, Sporting Goods Brands/Consumer, Strategic Alliance Groups and Teams & Professional Leagues.

5. Have a plan. Develop daily, weekly, monthly and yearly plans that are strategic and thoughtful in your approach to break into baseball. Mark recommended that students talk to at least 80 people in the industry to get a clear understanding of the roles and expectations that will be expected of you. He planned his exit strategy from the Air Force for a few years until he made his transition, and continuously refined his plan.

6. Foster and grow your network. Begin with friends, colleagues, professors and the NYU community to share personal and professional updates. It is never about “a job” but rather combine your skill set and experience into what you
are exploring next. Think about ways to provide value to your network before asking them for something (i.e. an introduction). Also, never let your relationships dwindle; keep them up as you move throughout your career.

7. Know the tools that are needed to be successful in your area of interest. For example, if you’re into Baseball Operations understanding the various topics in the industry is KEY; therefore reading FanGraphs,Journal of Quantitative
Analysis, Baseball America, and Baseball Prospectus in Sports is a must!

8. Be strategic with your resume. Put in metrics and accomplishments and be specific with your objective/profile.

9. Have a plan A, B, C, and D, and remember that you are never asking for a job, it is about having quality conversations about industry, trends, best practices in your field/discipline that will keep you top of mind with your network.

To learn more, follow Mark on Twitter @MarkASmith6, connect with him on LinkedIn, or email marka.smith6@gmail.com.

As an NYU student you have a vast amount of resources available to you to help plan your own personal career action plans. To get started, or help refine your strategy, schedule a career coaching appointment with the NYU Wasserman Center, NYU Wasserman Center@SCPS, and/or the NYU Tisch Center team to hone your approach. As we like to say, leverage all the resources
available to you!

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