Working in baseball operations for a Major League team is a dream job for many baseball fanatics. If front office job-seekers are being honest, the pinnacle would be to one day land in the GM’s chair and call the shots on trades, free agent signings, and draft picks. But in such a competitive field, how do you stand out? What should you focus on to become as appealing as possible to an MLB team in a job interview?
Seven years ago, I polled many MLB executives on their advice for high school students with front office aspirations. With so many new executives in the game since then, I decided to move a bit further down the career path and ask this question:
What one piece of advice would you give to a college student who hopes to work in baseball operations one day?
I posed this question to many of MLB’s top-ranking baseball operations executives. Just like the rest of us, these people are currently sheltered in place with their families trying to get some work done in these difficult and strange times. The following ten execs kindly took the time to answer my question: Ross Atkins of the Blue Jays, Jeff Bridich of the Rockies, Ben Cherington of the Pirates, James Click of the Astros, Mike Elias of the Orioles, Derek Falvey of the Twins, Matt Kleine of the Brewers, Dayton Moore of the Royals, Brodie Van Wagenen of the Mets, and Dick Williams of the Reds. Their answers are below.
I always think of the creative examples of how several of the current team’s GMs and Presidents got their foot in the door when asked this question. Without sharing those ideas specifically, I tell the individual who asked to think of something that they can bring to the table today that would be beneficial for a baseball operations team. Is there something that they do or can do that would have an immediate impact even if very small. It could be data analysis, programming, scouting, performance coaching, or leadership/communication application but ideally in the form of a project or deliverable and in a perfect world something that the organization doesn’t already have.
I believe that if those looking to get into baseball have excelled in other arenas they should think about how they have done that and share that in a way that is applicable to baseball as that is usually an attractive approach to those who are deciding to add to their operations teams. – Ross Atkins, Blue Jays Executive Vice President, Baseball Operations & General Manager
In terms of trying to trying to get into the world of baseball operations out of college, mindset and attitude will determine a lot. Create for yourself a mindset built around relentlessness, flexibility and hard work. The typical college school year and/or graduation timeframe do not lineup perfectly with when most Major League teams are hiring. So there could be some lag time between leaving college and getting hired.
Also, there usually are hundreds, maybe thousands, more applicants for jobs than there are jobs available. So chances are you’ll hear a bunch of “Nos” before you hear a “Yes”. That’s where relentlessness, flexibility and work ethic come into play. Your first opportunity in the baseball industry may not come in the perfect shape, size and package that you desire – but that’s OK. Be flexible in what you are willing to do and where you’re willing to work (be that departmentally or geographically).
At some point in your job search, you may feel like you are being annoying or that you’re bothering team employees too often. But know that relentlessness and persistence often pay off. It’s tough to count up how many times we have said over the years, “You have to give that person credit for his/her persistence,” whether we hired that person or not. If the worst outcome is that you are not hired (yet) but you are given credit for your relentless desire to work in the game, then it’s worth it.
Finally, look at the job search process like it is a job in itself. Put in the time. Make sure your resume is as good as it possibly can be. Ask thoughtful questions of any and all people who could help you. And always be ready – after you’ve sent off your resume and applied for a job, you never know when a team might call you. Those people who are ready for an in-depth discussion at a moment’s notice usually make a good first impression. – Jeff Bridich, Rockies Executive Vice President & General Manager
It’s hard to narrow down to one but if I had to I’d say finding opportunities to solve complicated problems in groups. Almost all of the work we do in baseball operations focuses on assessing, predicting, or improving human performance. Human performance is complicated. Almost none of the work we do in baseball is done by ourselves. Just about everything we do is done by teams of people. So I’d say the more practice combining those two things the better. – Ben Cherington, Pirates General Manager
There’s no magic bullet, no secret code to getting into baseball. All of us have a unique story about how we got here, so play to your strengths and put yourself in as good a position as possible to take any job that you’re offered, even if – especially if – it’s not in the area in which you see yourself long term. Every job is an opportunity to show what you can do, a chance to gain valuable experience and perspective on how the game works, and to make sure that this lifestyle is something you want to take on. Finally, don’t get discouraged! It took a lot of us a long time to get into the game, but it’s worth it. – James Click, Astros General Manager
I think there are so many public forums today to showcase your work online. Whether it’s contract analysis, data analysis, or scouting evaluation that you want to do, you can start to build this body of work on your own, before anyone hires you. It is so helpful when we are interviewing when someone has a portfolio already started. It shows how you work and think, but also shows initiative and that you are truly passionate about this line of work. – Mike Elias, Orioles Executive Vice President and General Manager
I’d recommend that you don’t wait around for the perfect opportunity to come your way and instead find a way to create one. People who want to work in baseball will reach out and say they’re just waiting for that “break” to come their way. It’s not uncommon that a year later we’ll hear from them again still waiting for that opening to show up.
My suggestion – dive into a topic within the game that interests you, learn as much as you can about it, and then generate a work product that shows you have the baseline skills and passion to impact a baseball operation as soon as you walk through the door. Don’t be afraid to try something because you might fail. Of all the resumes we get, it’s the ones that are accompanied by a work product (and therefore a willingness to put yourself out there) that generate the most interest. – Derek Falvey, Twins President of Baseball Operations
My advice to students is to create baseball-specific opportunities for yourself. Don’t wait for them to come to you. Volunteer to capture video, analyze data or operate pitch tracking software for your school’s team. Connect with your Sports Information Director and ask how you can help. Learn SQL. Learn Spanish. Contact baseball-centric websites and volunteer your time. Devise your own work product that attempts to solve meaningful questions you believe are currently unanswered within the public sphere. This is especially important because providing MLB clubs with examples of self-driven work product showcases your curiosity, thought process, and reasoning. It’s equally as important – if not more so – than a strong resume.
Students should also understand that our approach to hiring is shaped by our constant pursuit of the next marginal win. How can the next hire help us win games both today and in the future? Students who approach us with hard skills, novel work product and a strong resume quickly move to the front of that line. – Matt Kleine, Brewers Vice President – Baseball Operations
As it pertains to teams and front office, compatibility is the most important trait. This will only exist if you have an above and beyond attitude with the commitment to do the jobs that others simply find meaningless. You must have an “others first” mindset and model that behavior. Finally, never stop looking at this game from the eyes of your youth. – Dayton Moore, Royals Senior Vice President – Baseball Operations/General Manager
1. When interviewing with a prospective employer/executive, be specific about the area in which you want to work. Prove to your audience that you have you done the research in his/her area of focus. This will enable you to be versed enough to hold a meaningful conversation. Those who want a “PARTICULAR job” are much more compelling than those who simply just want “a job.”
2. Be willing to work in any city that has an opportunity to further your pursuits. Don’t let geography limit your search. – Brodie Van Wagenen, Mets Executive Vice President & General Manager
The best way to get your foot in the door is to figure out how you can solve a problem for me that I may not have even known I had. It makes for a much more effective cold call when you email your resume into an organization if you can articulate what you can do that the Reds are not doing today that could make us better. At least it makes us more likely to read further.
Keep abreast of the evolving trends in the industry and tailor your coursework accordingly. If you have baseball experience, focus on adding database management or machine learning or something technical. And if you are technically skilled, work on adding the baseball experience however you can. – Dick Williams, Reds President of Baseball Operations
An excellent article! I have always wanted to be in some sort of analytical role with a baseball team. This is an article I will save to read a couple more times.
Great read, we need more articles about things such as the life of a minor leaguer, how pros train during the season and offseason, how players mentally prepare for the bigs etc. Keep it up, Thank You MLBTR, best sports writers. The athletic is cool and all but it’s no MLBTR
You tube – Matt Antonelli has daily videos about everything from the draft to clubhouse life.
Like the content that’s why I want more.
Step 1. Get drafted by an MLB team as a high school or collegiate baseball player.
Step 2. Be good or suck.
Step 3. Turn 30ish.
Step 4. Follow Ken Rosenthal, Tom Verducci, Jayson Stark, etc. on twitter and wait for them to announce you’ve been hired as GM for team x.
have your father/mother buy a team and you can mess it up in 3 days.
**David Samson has entered the chat**
Does this mean I can’t get a job in baseball if I want to apply for university and not college when I become old enough? Is your choice to seek “higher education” detrimental to your resume or chances of being hired by a team, or do they just assume that the advice will only be heard by students who only want to go to college?
i don’t think you’d have to go to college as long as you can educate yourself in analytical mathematics. and be able to write a resume’ team officials are not going to throw away.
colleges may not be for everyone but they usually open the door a little wider for you.
I personally wouldn’t hire any young/inexperienced person without a college education for non-labor related positions.
What sets you apart from a sea of applicants are your knowledge and skillsets. If you haven’t established what knowledge and skillsets you have, how can you compete with those who have via education or experience? And if you lack the motivation/commitment/work ethic to educate yourself, you’re not exactly the best candidate for these types of jobs anyway. Those who’ve played or coached in the sport will get more consideration over those who haven’t, as it should be. But it’s nearly impossible to get a GM job without a formal education.
The way you say “without a college education” makes it seem like you think that college is superior to university. You need crazy good grades to get into university and only need mediocre ones to get into college. The education program in university is also more advanced than college.
Am I missing something here?
Are you posting from outside the United States, 13yearoldbaseballfanatic?
The reason that I ask is that you’re making a university vs. college distinction that I associate with the U.K. Most people use the terms “college” and “university” interchangeably here in the United States to describe the same caliber four-year college/university-level education.
Your initial post suggesting the pursuit of the best “higher education” option available to you is correct.
You’re right, except I’m Canadian and not British. And I just learned something about the US education system on a baseball site, further confirming my belief that Canada and the US and way more different than we are taught to think. Thank you.
You’re welcome. Good luck!!
Your version of “college” sounds like a post secondary school (after high school) that grants a two-year degree (Associate’s degree) upon completion. University is a post secondary school which grants a four-year degree (Bachelor’s degree). Universities are compromised of colleges here in the states. So after completing your first two years of study, you then pursue your “major” by completing your last two years (or more) of study at the college. It really is the same in both countries. The different terminology is just semantics.
Kudos, agentx, for a kind and insightful answer — there’s not enough of either on MLBTR. And good luck, 13 — if you want to achieve your dream, dive into it! Even if you don’t end up doing something baseball-related, pursuing your dreams always results in some kind of worthwhile learning experience.
Funny, most of my labor employees are idiot college kids, who now have a worthless degree that they went thousands of dollars into debt to receive. Hiring based on college education is asinine, and why you end up with morons who think they know everything yet can’t complete simple tasks. The only “college” education that is worth anything is science and math based. Vocational and tech schools are where you are getting good employees.
I’m guessing from your choice of words that you aren’t from the United States. In the U.S. “college’ is the generally used term to refer most/all higher education There’s no “only want to go to college” in the U.S. The term encompasses everything from neighborhood accounting classes to Harvard itself. Beyond that, you can see that the executives who talk about things like having a background in machine learning are clearly prizing a more elite education.
Working in a baseball front office has always been a dream job of mine. I’m majoring in Sport Management in college right now, so this was a very good read.
Hope you get that dream job! Fangraphs has actual past job postings by MLB front offices if you want to get some ideas on what type of skillsets they are looking for.
Good luck with that! My son was majoring in Sports Management in college and then did an internship with a minor league baseball team. He had a crappy job and decided after the summer to switch to finance. Worked out for him and he ended up getting his MBA from any Ivy League school. Maybe he’ll make his way into sports at a higher level one day.
Would be interested in hearing Kim Ng (LAD) & Scott Crane’s (HOU) answers for [very] different reasons – though they aren’t GMs but area execs.
Great read. Now, bring back Burke Badenhop and Tim Dillard’s articles!!
With the world going nuts, what we all need is a big dose of Dim Tillard.
Bring. Him. Back!
If you have a “dream job” that everyone wants, expect to be underpaid since you can easily be replaced.
90% of sports jobs are Sales.
End of story.
All American Johnsonville Dogs
Easiest way is to start your own analytics company like fangraphs.
You’re gonna have to be creative here.
Maybe you discover a link between ucl thickness and/or length and Tommy John surgery. Maybe you discover sound pitching motions that lessens strain on the arm and lessens risk for tjs.
Maybe you investigate different wood types for bats and look at bat speed, contact vs density.
Maybe you find a new stat that hasn’t been created yet. Something like torque. Maybe you analyze best placement of hands and fingers (axis of rotation) on a ball to balance command and spin on curves sliders.
Maybe you find a new material to make baseballs out of that doesn’t cause as much friction or pitchers can better grip so we don’t see as many errant pitches.
Sky’s the limit. Tons of investigation. Point is making a name for yourself is best chance a teams gonna look at you.
Actually, for the UCL, if we’re using basic physics, the thickness and length of it do matter. Because of how “thin” the UCL can be, and because of how much strain and force its under, we can theorize how much torque it can be under. Using the formula to find torque (t=rfsin of the angle) we can find how much force the elbow is under during the throw, and then the amount of torque its under. Generally based off of the research my group and i did for our capstone course as seniors in high school(engineering design and development), we found out that the UCL can be under around 1000 Newton meters of torque. So we found how much work (force X distance (in this case thickness)) it was under (i dont rlly want to give away any details of our project) but we were working on a solution before this outbreak to essentially extend the UCL thickness to cover some of the distance to minimize the force and torque that one puts on their UCL when they throw.
This is the most helpful, and overall my favorite article I have ever read on this site. I mean, being a gm is what I’m aspiring to be. I have read many articles, and have done a lot of research, and the typical thing is to learn at least one other language (I have that: spanish). And they also say to go to the winter meetings, and even if you can just get in touch with somebody lower in the org, they’ll be doing interviews, and maybe you can land an internship. Great article, I’m glad to hear some different thoughts straight from the horse’s mouths.
My parents have sent me to Spanish classes on Saturdays since the first grade. I thought it was useless at first because we don’t even have any Spanish relatives, but there’s something satisfying about knowing a language others around you don’t.
Of course, it’s another thing entirely to live in Canada where we learn French instead of Spanish in schools and that my parents would never allow me to travel to the US alone.
At our school we had a choice of Spanish or French. Being in Texas it is obviously more useful to learn Spanish.
I’ll probably take a Spanish course in high school because the lessons only stretch to the end of grade school.
100% proceed with your Spanish….its almost a prerequisite not a luxury to have now
Seems like it helps to be a white dude who comes from money, plus going to the Ivy League schools (part and parcel)
Cue the people calling me an SJW for making this observation
You’re not wrong, but you sound incredibly bitter.
I think they might all be white guys who went to ivy league schools lol.
But I said it once, and I will say it again. If you look at the ages of all of the gms, I’d say the medium is around 40 for a collective average. And yes, one day there is going to be a few black gms and Japanese gms and Mexican gms, but that’ll take time. It’s like the people who have been pushing for woman’s equality, and asking why there aren’t more woman CEOs, and here’s the answer. It literally just takes time. There are tons of women in the workforce, but they just have to be qualified to do the job, men too. You can’t let some random person step up and fill the highest ranking spot in an org just to make a point about gender. Man or woman, if you fill a spot with somebody not qualified, they won’t do a good job.
So just give it time, is all I’ll say, and I bet in the next 5-10 years we will have a black gm or a Mexican gm or a Japanese gm, (btw I’d love to see how a Japanese gm -who formerly worked in the npb- would run an mlb team)
Michael Hill, an African American, served as the GM for the Marlins before being promoted to his current position as president of baseball operations in 2013. Ken Williams was GM of the White Sox before being promoted as well. Dave Also, Stewart was GM of the Diamondbacks.
*Also, Dave Stewart…
I propose that from now on we can him Dave Also or Also Stewart.
Jeez, *call. I can’t joke about your typo if I make my own in the joke lol
Michael Hill obviously isn’t white, but did go to Ivy league school (Harvard), fwiw.
All American Johnsonville Dogs
Corporate America is more about
WHO you know than WHAT you know.
Been that way. NFL is the same way. Hiring circles are limited.
But when you own and operate multi billion dollar industries and services you can pick and choose who you want. Their business their choices.
Go to a game. Sit next to a GM. Strike up a conversation.
“I met Joe when the Mets were in town to play the Astros, and we just talked about some of the players on the field before the game, sharing some observations,” Barr said. “He asked me if I would consider working in professional baseball, and I told him, “don’t kid about that.’” Barr had a critical choice to make: stick with Merrill Lynch or follow his dream. He was already successful, newly married and with a mortgage payment, while the alternative required a two-thirds salary cut, a move to New York, and a life on the road.
The rest is history.
Is admitting there is some element of “luck” to obtaining a job in an MLB Front Office going to stop them from burgling hot takes?
Seriously people Brodie Van Wagenen is a GM now
His first move as GM was to get absolutely roaded by Jerry Dipoto in a salary dump
You want a “job” in an MLB Front Office?
Go to Yale
Or sell kids….
Human trafficking helps you become a GM???
… IDK if it’s appropriate to say the joke that I am thinking of…
Should I say it…
Step 1: Play MLB The Show’s Franchise Mode. Sadly, they don’t give a crap about that mode anymore. All they want to do is make money off microtransactions in Diamond Dynasty.
I only play franchise mode.
Once I won 7 world series in a row with the Rays.
Quick manage is actually stressful in big games.
What I like is how you can play in the new Rangers stadium, before it even opens.
i’m not buying another show until they change the rtts like it used to be.
Welcome to profit at all expenses. They live for the Big Whales (not your or me.)
Thanks, Tim. I’m actually graduating from college this semester and it’s always been my dream to work in baseball operations, so this is actually perfect. I could also use a little bit of optimism at this point since there’s so much uncertainty in my life (and everyone else’s) at this point.
I’ve had a lot of experience in different areas (writing, stat keeping) in baseball, and I spent a few years as a manager with my university’s basketball team doing day-to-day stuff. I’ve done whatever I can to learn as much as I can and to prove how passionate I am, but I’m also willing to do whatever I can to help a team, even if no one else wants to. I’d clean toilets to show a team how much I want an opportunity.
I’ve applied for a ton of jobs and sent my resume more places than I can count, but all I need is that one chance. The interviews I’ve had so far have been about ticket sales, but I know that if I just get an opportunity, that I’d make the most of it and succeed.
The *Stros,, GM said there is no “secret code”……ummmm (really!)
I’ve led teams to at least 50 World Series titles in OOTP. Should I just send my direct deposit information now?
Am I the only one who laughed out loud at Dick Williams’ advice? His grandfather owned a majority stake in the Reds. His father owns a minority stake in the Reds. It would be like asking Katie Blackburn (daughter of Mike Brown, grand daughter of Paul Brown) how she broke in with the Bengals.
Sure, Williams had both legs and an arm up over everyone else.
But at least his advice comes from the perspective of a current GM who can be convinced a candidate can “solve a problem for me that I may not have even known I had” and not some fictionalized “do what I did” story.
agentx…Could have been a little of both…
I knew someone had to be a Richard Noggin about Williams… (eye roll)…maybe the advice he offered was the path he himself chose to take when he submitted his resume. He’s done a damn fine job. Has he made mistakes? Of course, but he had Jocketty as a mentor at that time. He’s done a damn fine job IMO since being promoted and cut loose on his own. And thank you Mr. Castellini…
“A damn fine job” ? Uh, six straight seasons with a losing record, count ‘em six, four as President of Baseball Operations, one as GM and one as Asst. GM to WJ. And yes, Dick is where he is due to good old fashioned nepotism. (Submitted a resume? Ha!) Dick Williams might know a lot about investment banking but has no previous experience whatsoever let alone success running a Major League (or any league) baseball team. Anywhere else and he’s most likely already fired. I’m not sure in what upside down world this equates to doing a damn fine job but ok sure, he’s done a damn fine job. (Eye roll)
Paul Beeston, former CEO of the Blue Jays, and Vice President at MLB was an accountant when he was chosen to run the Jays. He wasn’t a typical baseball guy, but his biggest talent was the ability to hire good people then leave them alone to do their job.
I think all who really know the Reds ownership situation are discussed with any hint that Dick Williams is in his position based on any previous results. His grandpas wealth is the only qualification.
first requirement is testing negative to covid19
Great article, Tim!
ghost of dave kingman
I have a bit of familiarity with this. My advice is to try and get an unpaid internship with one of the teams in the Cape Cod League. I’m sure they are filled for this summer but reach out. Many contacts to be made at the Cape.
Relentless is a word that applies to a lot of top baseball execs, and it is necessary in their daily work, signing free agents or draftees, or trading p[layers.
Alex Anthopolous started his baseball career as an unpaid intern looking after fan mail, mailing out pictures, and so on. Once he was in the door, he never missed an opportunity to sit with a scout to pick his brains about baseball, players, and the inside of the game. That worked pretty well for him.
i got my job in baseball the easy way. went to see the gm for an interview and was turned down. so i just plopped down on the floor and started kicking and flopping around screaming and crying, pounding the floor with my fists. low and behold, i got the job.
signed, s n o w f l a k e
Just here to give big shout out to MLBTR. Thanks for this kind of content. Makes passing the endless isolated time easier.
I also liked every comment on this forum. Keeping the positive vibes (and clickbait volume) flowing!!!
To aspire to the ranks of GM, it probably helps to be of the sociopathic/psychopathic variety, like most upper ranks.
Dombrowski looks like Jepstein
What one piece of advice would you give to a furloughed retail worker who hopes to work in baseball operations one day?
go to college