Grab a mitt. These alumni know the most important rite of spring is the race to the World Series.
By Chris Jenkins
Baseball might not be a sport that comes to mind when people think about Marquette, a basketball-mad school that doesn’t field NCAA baseball or softball teams. But for several alumni, the advent of spring training, the crack of a bat and the dusting of homeplate are anticipated with as much enthusiasm as any Big East showdown.
Though their names don’t appear on a team roster, they have an important impact on what happens off the field.
The Law School’s nationally recognized sports law program is one path graduates follow into Major League Baseball, but there are others. Communication alumni cover the sport as members of the media or public relations staffs, and some business administration graduates crunch numbers in front offices or direct player personnel, for example. It isn’t all fun and games, but working in baseball isn’t a bad way to make a living.
“Driving to the ballpark every day as your place of employment, if I ever complain to my wife, she just kind of looks at me and rolls her eyes,” jokes Greg Heller, Law ’96, senior vice president and general counsel for the Atlanta Braves.
With the 2014 season getting started, here’s a look at how a few alumni work behind the scenes, handling everything from security to player recruitment to the way these heralded baseball franchises give back to the communities they call home.
BOB QUINN, Bus Ad ’90
Executive Vice President for Finance and Administration, Milwaukee Brewers
Quinn is a fourth-generation baseball executive; his father, grandfather and great-grandfather all worked in the game. But this Quinn didn’t go directly into baseball after graduation. While working for an accounting firm in San Francisco, he happened to be at a Giants game and heard a team executive mention they needed somebody to help the team prepare to build a new ballpark. Contract work turned into a full-time job with the Giants, and then Quinn moved to the Brewers in 2003 a team his father, also a Marquette alumnus, worked for in the 1970s.
WHY IT’S GREAT “What can I say? We all have stressful days, but when I pull into a parking lot, and my office is a ballpark, things aren’t all that bad.”
WHY IT’S CHALLENGING A team’s fortunes can change quickly in baseball, and its financial outlook may change along with it. “You can have one or two injuries and have to reassess your entire season.”
HIS MARQUETTE EXPERIENCE Quinn stays in touch with several of his professors. “I think they were more than just professors for me. They did take an interest in who we were as students beyond just school.”
LEN KASPER, CJPA ’93
Broadcaster, Chicago Cubs
This is Kasper’s 10th season as the television voice of the Chicago Cubs. Previously, he did play-by-play for the Florida Marlins (the team is now the Miami Marlins). He got his start calling Marquette basketball games as a student and worked in several Milwaukee TV and radio roles after graduation.
WHY IT’S GREAT “I think it’s the best job in sports certainly in baseball. You’ve got Cubs fans, who are the most rabid baseball fans around, you’ve got a great sports town, you’ve got an iconic ballpark and half our games are on nationally on WGN.”
WHY IT’S CHALLENGING In the middle of an ambitious long-term rebuilding project, the Cubs lost more than 90 games in three straight seasons. “I think that the ‘work’ part of the job comes when you’re trying to keep people interested when the game might not mean anything in the standings, and it might be a blowout. But I think my talk show experience in Milwaukee really helped, just in terms of filling time and ad-libbing.”
HIS MARQUETTE EXPERIENCE He came from a small town in Michigan, so Milwaukee gave Kasper a taste of city life. His Marquette ties remain strong and include the occasional impromptu reunion outside Wrigley Field. “I’ve literally walked to my car and had somebody yell at me: ‘Hey, Len, remember me? I lived on your floor in McCormick in ’89.’”
KARIN MORRIS, Bus Ad ’00
Vice President for Community Outreach, Texas Rangers; Executive Director, Texas Rangers Foundation
Morris started with the Rangers in 2003, leading the team’s outreach efforts in the Hispanic community. From there, she took on a larger role in the team’s community programs and became director of the multimillion-dollar team foundation that supports those efforts.
WHY IT’S GREAT “I think any time you have an opportunity to bring a child to a baseball game for the first time, and you see their eyes as they walk into a giant stadium and see the players on the field, it’s just one of those things that you can’t ever replace.”
WHY IT’S CHALLENGING You have to fight the temptation to get too wrapped up in the team’s fortunes on the field. “You can’t control the wins and the losses. What you can control is what you do to represent your brand in the community.”
HER MARQUETTE EXPERIENCE Coming from a Marquette family her grandparents were friends with the late Hank Raymonds, longtime men’s basketball coach Morris takes the Jesuit emphasis on cura personalis to heart. “The homeless person I may be working with at the food bank is just as valuable a human being as a starting pitcher on our roster. I think a Marquette education kind of helps formulate that and makes sure you stay grounded.”
EARNELL LUCAS, PROF ST ’00
Vice President of Investigations, Major League Baseball
After a 25-year career as a Milwaukee police officer, Lucas went to work as head of security for MLB Commissioner Bud Selig. Next, he moved to New York to become the league’s head of security, then took over its investigations division in 2012. It has been an unconventional journey for Lucas, who was injured by a gunshot while on duty in 1982. “I consider myself very fortunate to be in the position that I am today, having gotten up from that misfortune back in January of 1982 to continue pursuing the opportunity to do my best and to be my best,” he says.
WHY IT’S GREAT “Each day is fulfilling and satisfying, knowing you’ve done something to help protect and promote the integrity of our sport.”
WHY IT’S CHALLENGING “We find that social media and other things are affecting not only our players, but also our umpires and other executives in baseball. The challenges that the technological age present us, it makes our job very interesting.”
HIS MARQUETTE EXPERIENCE “The inspiration that I got from my classmates in the College of Professional Studies, watching them balance a career, a family, education and other commitments, that truly was inspiring and motivating.”
GREG HELLER, Law ’96
Senior Vice President and General Counsel, Atlanta Braves
Heller joined Turner Broadcasting in 2000 and served as counsel for the company’s sports properties, including the Braves, NBA’s Atlanta Hawks and NHL’s Atlanta Thrashers. When Turner sold the Braves in 2007, Heller continued working with the team, leading a three-person department that handles the franchise’s legal needs and also serves as a strategic adviser on other major decisions.
WHY IT’S GREAT “I view our organization almost as a public institution that the entire Atlanta area and the Southeast love. You take a lot of pride and take that to heart. You really have a special job.”
WHY IT’S CHALLENGING “When you’re dealing with legal issues, sometimes they can be tough whether it’s litigation or incidents at the stadium or folks getting injured kind of your traditional tough legal issues that any general counsel would face.”
HIS MARQUETTE EXPERIENCE After earning his undergraduate degree at Indiana University, Heller came to Marquette for the Law School’s sports law program. “And I’m Catholic, so the whole Jesuit culture of the university fed my soul.”
SARAH PADOVE, Law ’12
Legal Coordinator, Major League Baseball Properties
Padove joined MLB’s properties division in 2012. She works with the retail licensing department, preparing contracts for outside vendors who want to produce official baseball-themed apparel and assorted products. She also reviews MLB-produced video programs to identify potential legal issues, including video footage rights.
WHY IT’S GREAT “I literally get paid to watch baseball TV. I mean, you can’t beat that.”
WHY IT’S CHALLENGING Requests for a quick turnaround test her ability to meet tight deadlines.
HER MARQUETTE EXPERIENCE A former softball player at Indiana University, Padove came to Marquette for the Law School’s sports law program. “There are other places you can go and take some sports law classes here and there, and there are other good programs, but there’s really nothing like it. The combination of sports law-specific courses, the networking opportunities, the internships, the National Sports Law Institute. It really is a draw.”
MATT SLATER, Bus Ad ’93
Director of Player Personnel, St. Louis Cardinals
Slater has been with the Cardinals since 2006. As the right-hand man to General Manager John Mozeliak, Slater plays a key role in shaping the roster of a team that played in two World Series in the past three seasons and won the championship in 2011. He previously worked with the Los Angeles Dodgers, Baltimore Orioles and Milwaukee Brewers.
WHY IT’S GREAT Slater cherishes every step of the process that leads to the team’s success on the field. “I think everything in life, that’s how you’re going to be successful, if you focus on the process and not the tangible result.”
WHY IT’S CHALLENGING “It’s a thrilling type of work to do, but there’s a lot of sacrifice. I’m away from my family a lot. My wife is a blessing to me in that she’s able to handle so much at home.”
HIS MARQUETTE EXPERIENCE In a business that ruthlessly reduces a person’s value to a series of statistics, there doesn’t seem to be much room for the Jesuit principles taught at Marquette. But Slater thinks about them all the time. He tries to keep in mind that he is dealing with people. “This is a cut-throat business. We’re cutting players all the time, negotiating with players. But you’ve got to have an open mind and look through a window like that person would be looking through. I think that’s one thing Marquette taught me. I always think about the dignity of the human being.”
An internship with the Milwaukee Brewers led to an offer to work full time with Sal Bando, the team’s GM at the time. Slater almost turned it down. “He’s like, ‘Hey, I’m offering you a full-time job.’ It was a really low salary, and he looked at me like I was crazy not taking it. And I ended up doing that, and here we are today.”
Want to work in sports? Guess what: You’re not alone
“We do get thousands and thousands of resumes here,” says Matt Slater, Bus Ad ’93, director of player personnel for the St. Louis Cardinals. “That’s how many people want to work in sports. So, you’ve got to have something that separates you.” Alumni who work in Major League Baseball offer some tips to help job seekers stand out:
Coursework is important, but it’s not enough.
Real-world experience is at least as important as the knowledge you gain in the classroom. It’s up to you to find those opportunities.
Internships? Yes, As many as possible.
Even if you have to do some grunt work. Especially if you have to do some grunt work. At this point, moving boxes isn’t beneath you. “It’s not pretty, and it’s not fun, but in most cases, that’s what we look at,” says Karin Morris, Bus Ad ’00, vice president for community outreach for the Texas Rangers. “I may look at a student who has two internships and a student who has an MBA but no internships, and I almost exclusively lean toward the internships over the MBA.”
The team isn’t the only game in town.
Major league teams have partnerships with outside vendors ranging from food service companies to entertainment and marketing groups. If you land a job with one of those companies first, you can begin to build relationships with people who work directly for the team and you’ll probably be among the first to hear when the team has a job opening. “You’ve got to be at the ballpark to get exposed to those opportunities,” says Bob Quinn, executive vice president for finance and administration for the Milwaukee Brewers.
Find your niche.
There’s no shortage of people who consider themselves sports experts. But what if you find one specific thing of interest a data analysis system or an aspect of a sport’s administrative rules or a section of the league’s collective bargaining agreement and learn everything you can about it? “Become an expert in something,” advises Slater.
Network like crazy, but be professional, not pushy.
When a guest speaker comes to campus, think of it as a networking opportunity. But be tactful, says Sarah Padove, Law ’12, legal coordinator for Major League Baseball Properties. The speaker might be approached by 10 students seeking jobs. You’ll stand out if you do a brief introduction, ask intelligent questions and follow up with an email that could be the first step toward building a relationship.
The same goes for using the professional networking site LinkedIn. If you send someone you don’t know a connection request, Padove recommends including a note that indicates why you want to connect. “I don’t want to sound clichι, but it really does come down to networking,” she says.
“Be willing to do anything at the start,” Slater says. “Start on the lowest rung and have open ears so you learn from everyone you’re around. Never act like you have all the answers because you never do, even if you’ve been in the game 25 years.”