It's an email that lands in the MLBTR inbox often: an ambitious high school student dreams of being a Major League GM one day, and asks us for advice. I decided to ask a bunch of people who would know: current GMs and assistant GMs. Top execs from 17 teams responded to MLBTR's query: What one piece of advice would you give to a high school student who hopes to work in baseball operations one day?
Get around the game as much as you can. There's no substitute for watching and talking baseball. You've got to love the game enough to want the lifestyle that comes with it, and the family sacrifices on the back end. Play as long as you can, go to as many games at all levels as possible, talk to whomever you come across, and read what you can. The market is increasingly flooded with job applicants with analytical backgrounds. The way to differentiate yourself is your feel for the game, and your people skills — a good education and analytic skill set aren't enough. – Jon Daniels, Rangers General Manager
Play baseball until someone tears the jersey off your back. - Dan Duquette, Orioles Executive Vice President, Baseball Operations
1. Read mlbtraderumors.com daily. 2. Play as long as you can. 3. Watch as many games as you can. To tie points #2 and #3 together, I do think it is important to learn by watching and playing…not just studying the game. - Josh Byrnes, Padres Executive Vice President, General Manager
Follow your passion. As much as anything these jobs are a way of life that often require both resiliency and unconditional love of the game. In the end all types of skill sets and backgrounds work – but those that are rooted in true passion for the game are those that will last the longest. – Jerry Dipoto, Angels General Manager
Study hard! If you are a player, study the game and players. Seek out experienced coaches and managers, to learn to evaluate players and teams. Spend time with scouts to understand how they evaluate and what is important to them in their position. Study the use of analytical data to combine with your baseball knowledge. If you do not play, study the game and statistics. A statistical background will help you get in the door for an interview. In today’s front office, it’s a prerequisite. Go to as many games as possible, ask your high school coach if you can be the team assistant. Experience the game as closely as possible. You need to know the common language of the game to increase your credibility. Overall, understand that a career in baseball is a constant learning experience and the game changes. Be open-minded to learn throughout your career. - Bill Geivett, Rockies Sr. Vice President – Major League Operations
It’s like anything else in life: prepare in case the opportunity comes, but do not assume or expect anything will happen. There is no magical formula to find work in baseball operations and there are so many qualified individuals who don’t get opportunities. I think if you ask anybody who works in baseball operations they will tell you that luck, even in the form of just being in the right place at the right time, played a big part in their career. The key is to put yourself in the best position possible and be prepared so that if fortune smiles upon you that you are able to make the most of that opportunity. – John Coppolella, Braves Assistant General Manager
Whether high school or college, I give similar advice and it boils down to one key thing for me. Do something that helps you separate yourself from the competition. You need to have a great resume that shows achievement in academics and leadership experience, but many people have these qualifications and still have a hard time getting a job in baseball because the competition is so strong. What separates you from the rest of the candidate pool is having actually done something—it could be independent work or it could be a school-related project or paper—that shows that you can make an immediate impact in a front office. This could be doing your own original analysis, writing scouting reports on players, writing for a blog, building a video website, writing mock arbitration briefs, building an organizational efficiency tool, etc. Find a niche that you are interested in and that shows off your skills and pursue some real work in that niche that would contribute to a front office immediately. – Mike Chernoff, Indians Assistant General Manager
One that I think some will overlook that might set them apart is to become fluent in Spanish. Do as many internships as you can. Ask questions of everyone you meet that is involved in baseball. – Bob Miller, Reds Vice President and Assistant General Manager
The one piece of advice I would give them is to not get too specific when planning college courses. I believe it is important to be able to write well, speak in front of a group or crowd and be able to articulate your thoughts and compose a defensible argument when discussing any topic. I’m convinced that a well-rounded education is more valuable than someone who is overly specialized. I also believe that the best education is an internship with a Major League club, particularly in baseball ops. It gives the person a first-hand look at how a baseball is run in basically every facet of baseball operations. It also affords the person the opportunity to showcase their skills and make many valuable contacts. – Rob Antony, Twins Assistant General Manager
To put simply: be persistent, leave no stone unturned. Overall, I would say to be as well-rounded as possible, be a sponge, and spend as much time as possible around various baseball personnel as possible. – Jeff Kingston, Mariners Assistant General Manager
I would tell them to develop their analytical skills as much as they can. One of the main front office skills is analyzing the never-ending flow of information. This consists of scouting reports, medical, performance, agents, etc. Analytical skills are used in every aspect of the operation, from payroll management to breaking down a pitcher's delivery or a hitter's swing. They further can educate themselves on statistical analysis and the valuation of players. – Michael Wickham, Marlins Director, Baseball Operations
Think about what value you could offer a front office someday and start working towards it – if it's scouting, start writing reports; if it’s analytics, learn SQL and do analysis; if it’s web development, create a website; etc. - Michael Girsch, Cardinals Assistant General Manager
The best advice I received was to pursue activities and environments that challenge you to think critically. Whether that's academically, athletically, or extracurricularly, taking time to develop critical thinking skills will help in any profession and baseball is no different. Some of the most impressive young job seekers I've met are those with a strong baseball background and interest in the game who also have the ability to discuss industry issues with a unique slant. – David Stearns, Astros Assistant General Manager
I'd probably say that they should be open-minded and creative in finding ways to gain experience and opportunities. There are a lot of smart, qualified people in the baseball industry that have gotten to where they are via a wide variety of paths. As such, it's difficult to pinpoint a specific path or skill set for someone in high school or college to pursue. If someone can be passionate, creative and committed to the goal of a career in baseball from a young age, they're certainly putting themselves in a good position early in life. - Billy Ryan, Diamondbacks Assistant General Manager
When you are young it is always best to keep your focus broad in terms of career choices. Choose a college where you can get the best education for your money and your interests. There is no limit what you can accomplish inside or outside of baseball, but your education will be a key foundation for your future. While in college, summer internships are a great way to explore many different options for your future. Do not get too narrow-minded too early. Allow each summer to give you a unique perspective on various industries, professional services or even international and cross-cultural experiences. Regardless of what career you choose, you must demonstrate a strong work ethic, develop your character with integrity, fulfill your educational goals, and treat others with kindness. - Bobby Evans, Giants Vice President, Baseball Operations
I would tell them to maximize their educational opportunities by studying hard and achieving good grades – use their classes as a means to acquire knowledge and skills that can be transferred into employment…teams are always looking for smart people. I personally recommend a business/economics/statistical focus for the most readily transferrable skills, but ultimately candidates that are smart and willing to work very hard are what clubs (or any business) seek the most. Additionally, having attention to detail is something that is achievable and they should try to continually improve on.
In their spare time, they should closely follow the game and try to learn as much as possible about the industry – having knowledge and passion for baseball (in whatever aspect intrigues them the most…scouting, player development, statistical analysis, etc.) is nearly as important as what grades are on their resume. The ability to demonstrate a true passion and desire to work in this field goes a long way.
They’ll need to use these attributes/skills in order to compete for highly sought-after internships…getting one of those is the first step in the process (and people usually have more than one these days). If they are able to secure one, they should work the hardest that they can in order to earn the respect of their bosses…and they should do so with the best attitude possible (don’t promote yourself to the detriment of others, etc.). - Jay Sartori, Blue Jays Assistant General Manager
Try to acquire a broad-based background, both from and educational standpoint and from a practical work standpoint. An eventual degree is sports administration can be helpful but it isn’t mandatory. If you are not playing baseball in high school, get involved with the baseball team in some fashion (manager, scorer, videographer, Webmaster, etc.).
Many of the established collegiate sports administration programs should be able to aid you in securing an internship with either a Major League or minor league club. The minor leagues are a great place to get a broad-based background. I have recommended to young people that they begin in the minor leagues, preferably at the lower levels where smaller staffs are prevalent. A young person can get a broader perspective there rather than going directly to a Major League club and working in a narrowly-focused internship position. The minor league experience will also enhance your resume as you prepare to seek an opportunity with a Major League club. An alternative would be to seek a minor league video internship position with a Major League club, where you would be dealing with minor league players, coaches and managers on a daily basis.
If you are successful in eventually securing a baseball operations position with a Major League club, be patient during the early stages of your career. New opportunities may not present themselves as quickly as you would like. In looking back at my career, I spent five years in the minor leagues. I spent another five years in the Royals front office before I got to a position where I was given opportunity to work closely with John Schuerholz. It took me 24 years in the game before I got my chance to be a general manager, which was my eventual goal. While young people in baseball need to prepare for their next opportunity, they also need to have the patience to wait for it to develop. The chances are good that if you work hard in whatever position you’re in, someone will notice and you will receive new opportunities as they become available. Typically, it’s a step-by-step process that is not going to happen overnight. Unless you are prepared for the fact that it’s going to take some period of time, you’re probably not going to realize long term success. – Dean Taylor, Royals Vice President – Baseball Operations/Assistant General Manager and former Brewers GM