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Home  > Article

Getting Your Turn at Bat

By Martin Lieberman

If your ball-playing skills aren't up to par with the All Stars, what are your chances of breaking into Major League Baseball? We talked to three young professionals who made their way into the front office.

 
How many people dream about going into the Yankees' clubhouse and going out onto the field? For a while, that was my job. -Paul Shipper
 

You may be surprised to learn that working for a professional baseball team is a lot like many other entry-level positions. To many baseball fans, working for your favorite team seems like a dream job. After all, not many people get the chance to hobnob with David Ortiz or Pedro Martinez on a daily basis. But if your ball-playing skills aren't up to par with the All Stars, what are your chances of breaking into the major leagues?

Getting a job in the majors is part luck and part strategy. A job this coveted is not easy to come by, but focusing your skills can help your chances. Take Paul Shipper, for example. He grew up wanting to work for his favorite team, the New York Yankees. Not willing to bank on his athletic prowess, Shipper sharpened his journalism skills to break into the organization. After graduating from college in 1996, he worked as a sports journalist and editor for a variety of newspapers. A year and a half later, Shipper applied to the Yankees' publications department, which is responsible for the team's yearbook, game program, and website. Shipper's previous experience was a perfect match for the team's needs, and he was able to land the job of assistant editor. "The first time I was in the locker room I couldn't believe it," Shipper remembers. "I was going from covering high school sports to covering the Yankees. It was very cool."

And then there's the luck factor: Doug Crooks, 24, is a lifelong Seattle Mariners fan who always dreamed of being part of the team. At the age of 15, he got his wish: With the help of a friend, he scored a job working in the team's locker room; today he is the Clubhouse Assistant.

"Just like when you're going after any job, it revolves around luck to some point," says Oliver Roy, 28, who works in the front office for the Marniners. "But if you keep after it and keep applying and keep a good focus, I don't see why getting a job here would be impossible."

While Roy adds that jobs working directly with the players--such as scouts or trainers--are limited to those with extensive baseball experience, there are plenty of other entry-level positions for non-athletes. In the Mariners organization, for example, a college grad can work in the merchandise distribution or marketing departments. Other entry-level opportunities include ticket sales, promotions, and web site development. (A list of available positions is posted on the team's website).

To break into a team's front office, sometimes it's necessary to start very low on the totem pole. Roy himself started in the mailroom, but in the five years he has been with the team, he has been promoted four times. He is now in charge of the team's retail systems operations. "We have a lot of employees who started at positions far lower than they are at today. As an employee, that's really good to see," Roy says.

Is it a dream job?
Life inside Major League Baseball isn't all hot dogs and championship wins, however. Working in the team's front office can be trying. Shipper, for example, says he had to work around the game times, often staying at the stadium until 1 a.m. writing summaries that had to go up on the web site as soon as the games ended.

Entry-level salaries are also insultingly low. The opportunity to work for a potential World Series champion is priceless to many young professionals, so teams can get away with paying their entry-level employees salaries of $20,000 or even lower. According to Shipper, this dampens the excitement of working alongside such luminary figures of the game as Roger Clemmens and Derek Jeter: "It's their job to go onto the field and play ball. It was my job to cover them. You start to see the players as regular people. They're doing their jobs--they just get a ton of money to do them."

Despite the crazy hours and small pay, positions are still very hard to come by. The glamour and perks of being associated with a major league team are enough for some. Crooks' position as Clubhouse Assistant only requires him to work two weeks each month during the season (when the team is at home). And though that necessitates a second job to make ends meet, he says the flex time schedule has spoiled him.

Roy says he will never forget celebrating with the Mariners when they won the division championship in 1995: "Just to be in that atmosphere was amazing. It was one of the greatest things I've ever experienced." And, of course, there are plenty of free games for you and your friends and family.

Today, while Crooks and Roy remain with the Mariners, Shipper is continuing his journalism career elsewhere. But he still looks back on his Yankee experience fondly: "How many people dream about going into the Yankees' clubhouse and going out onto the field? For a while, that was my job."







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