How To Get A Job In A MLB Front Office

Jul 02, 13 How To Get A Job In A MLB Front Office

At the 2012 MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference, Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban was asked his advice to college students and graduates who want to break into the sports industry. His answer was short, simple, and quite striking: “Don’t.”

Cuban cited factors such as ridiculously low pay and saturation of the market among other reasons why graduates should not seek entry level positions in sports. While his response seemed like a candid remark that came off as a joke, there definitely was truth to his words.

I laughed when I first read the story of Cuban’s response. I thought, well of course, it is easy for a billionaire and owner of a sports franchise to say that. What about the students who are passionate about sports? And the die-hard fans that just want to get into the game? I was one of those students. I was doing everything possible trying to crack into a baseball front office.

A month after the 2012 Sports Analytics Conference, I received an offer to join the LA Angels. I would spend one full season, offseason, and spring training with the Angels before deciding that it was best to leave the position.

Although I am out of the sports industry and I do not wish to get back into it, I continue to receive LinkedIn messages and emails from students and recent graduates who are trying to break into the baseball industry – specifically into the baseball operations or player development part of a front office. I have the same advice for almost everyone who contacts me, so I decided to take the time to write an extensive and concentrated post on what I learned from breaking into the industry and being a part of the game.

Before I begin, here are a couple important items to understand before beginning your search for a job in a front office.

1) Being a “die-hard” fan is not a good enough reason to want to work in sports. It takes just a couple months on the job before you realize that it’s just a job and you can no longer be a real fan of the game anymore. Don’t get me wrong, it’s awesome to wake up and roll into a ballpark every morning for work. It’s surreal to have conversations on the regular with current and former players and coaches, especially when they are all-time greats or guys you grew up watching. But what happens after some time is that you become desensitized to the awesomeness, the same way your brand new car becomes simply a means for transportation after owning it for a few months. Be prepared to lose the ability to sit back, relax, and enjoy yourself while watching a game.

2) Why should you be hired by a MLB front office? Does your answer have anything to do with the fact that you are extremely passionate and hard working… you are willing to work for free… you are willing to work an unlimited number of hours per week… et cetera et cetera? Well good for you, because none of that makes you special. All those points are minimum requirements that are expected for anyone who works in the front office. So it is in your best interest to never mention any of those points in an interview because it just makes it sound like you don’t have any unique skill sets or knowledge that will add value to an organization.

Becoming A Unique Candidate

First of all, never settle. Understand what your worth is. This isn’t just for sports, but it is important for life in general. People will tell you to do whatever it takes to “get your foot in the door”. I really don’t like that phrase for a number of reasons, most importantly because majority of the time that phrase is simply another way of someone telling you that you should settle for the easiest and quickest option.

When people tell you it’s tough to get a job in baseball – they aren’t lying. It’s really difficult to get a front office internship. And I say internship because the majority of people will have to start off as an intern unless you can show that you are extremely unique. To be categorized as extremely unique, you either need to have extensive work experience in an analytic or baseball-related field or you need to have a really good connection in the game.

Either way, you need to distinguish yourself in some way in order to truly be considered as a candidate for a front office internship. There are many ways to do this but the general idea is that you NEED to show a team exactly how you can add value to the organization the first day you step into the office.

How To Add Value

If you want to work in the front office, make sure you understand the rules and regulations on how the front office operates. That means, read, re-read and analyze the MLB Collective Bargaining Agreement. This is extremely important for both baseball operations and player development.

Focus on the transaction-related elements of the CBA. You should understand exactly how every single transaction (trade, free agent sign, amateur sign, international sign, waiver claim, etc.) works. What are the basic rules of the transaction? Is there a grey area in the rule that teams can take advantage of? Become an expert on this.

Next, you need to prepare yourself to create an analysis report which shows you identifying an issue a team is dealing with and gives a detailed solution on how you can solve that issue. This is tough, but it will nearly guarantee you a job if executed correctly.

There are many ways to do this, especially if you already know a topic that you are interested in researching, but here is a rundown of what this process might look like if you are starting from absolute scratch.

Try to categorize each team into general groups based on the way their front office operates. Do this by studying each teams’ payroll initially to get an idea whether they are a big spending team (NYY), small market team (PIT), or somewhere in the middle (ATL). Next, study the GMs of each to get an idea of their strategy and biases. Example – the Angels are a big spending team but their front office is composed of folks coming from smaller market clubs (GM Jerry Dipoto from Arizona and AGM Matt Klentak from Baltimore). Therefore you can understand that comparing the Yankees front office to the Angels simply based on payroll is not necessarily accurate. You getting the point?

After getting a general understanding of each team in baseball, you can start identifying the common issues that teams face each year. Maybe you find that big market teams are busting on blockbuster free-agent signings at an abnormally high rate. Why is that happening? Is there difference in performance between players who sign long term contracts with new teams in free agency versus those who sign long term extensions with their existing teams? If your preliminary research shows that there may be something interesting here then run some numbers to do a full statistical analysis comparing the historical results between free agent contracts and contract extensions.

Another example is performing an analysis on spending in the MLB draft vs spending on amateur free agents in Latin America. You can start by filtering historic comparisons based on position, age, signing bonus, and stats. Does any of the data show statistically significant correlations?

There is a lot of leeway here of course. You need to be creative to come up with a relevant problem to solve and a statistically significant answer the that problem. Even if your solution isn’t perfect, what’s important is the process you went through to find that solution and what you learned through your experience.

You will succeed with this step if you find a topic that you are really passionate about, whether it is the amateur draft, rule 5 draft, international signings, waiver wire, DFA, minor league free agents, injury history and prevention, defensive metrics, catcher defensive metrics, etc. There are hundreds of areas in baseball that are in need of far more research and analysis.

Statistical Analysis

I’ve thrown this term around a lot and I understand that it sounds scary for people who don’t have confidence in their math skills. Good thing is, you can have average math skills and still conduct valuable statistical analysis. What’s even better is that there are plenty of ways to master programming skills and analysis tools for free online.

Start by understanding what stats are important and why they are important – You should be familiar with everything on the Fangraphs Library and start reading as many Baseball Prospectus articles as possible.

Beef up your Excel skills. Knowing how to make pivot tables and how to use vlookup is cool but if you are serious, get your hands on a VBA book and learn how to program macros.

Get an understanding of what SQL is. If you are going to start anywhere, this is probably the best way to go because nearly every team in baseball employs people with SQL skills in the front office.

Test out your skills by downloading free raw statistical data from Sean Lahman. You can also purchase various data including minor league stats and college stats from The Baseball Cube.

Learn How To Program

Need to learn SQL or VBA from scratch? Start with YouTube. You will be amazed at what you can learn on YouTube.

Other places to learn programming for free: Udacity, CodeAcademy, and Udemy.

In short, the more programming you know, the better off you will be. But please, MAKE USE OF YOUR PROGRAMMING SKILLS. What I mean by that is exactly what I have stated throughout this post – find a problem on your own and solve it using your skills.

Example – Victor Wang of the Cleveland Indians

Victor Wang is a prime example of exactly what I am talking about in this blog post. Long story short, he never played baseball past Little League and now just a year after graduating from college, he is the Assistant Director of Pro Scouting for the Cleveland Indians. Listed below are some of his writings which showcase his analysis on prospects which was good enough to catch the eye of the Indians front office while Wang was just a freshman.

Prospect Evaluation

Hidden Value of Prospects

Valuing the Draft

Prospects and Imperfect Information

Get People To Know You

Send your resume and sample work to everyone. You never know who is interested and who can get you a job. This may seem daunting because you will have to send (literally) hundreds of emails out, but it is actually not that difficult. Just a little time consuming.

Each team has a specific format for the emails of their front office employees. You just need to find out the format each team uses and then you have the email address for everyone in the front office. Here are some examples for the name Matt Smith: matt.smith@team.com msmith@team.com mattsmith@team.com

Using the front-office information pages on each team’s website along with a little research on google, you should be able to find out the email-address format for every team in the league.

Some teams change the format just for the GMs, Presidents, and Owners but that is fine because you really have no business sending them emails anyways. So who should you email?

I found the most success emailing people with the title Director of Baseball Operations and anyone below them. Very rarely (almost never) is the Assistant GM the right person to email. Don’t be shy to email multiple people in the same front office. I would suggest going for the Director of Baseball Operations, Director of Player Personnel, Coordinator of Baseball Operations, and any Assistants of Baseball Operations. These are usually the people who are reviewing resumes.

Don’t just email. Using snail mail can definitely be a winner. Some front offices have old school folks who will actually open up your mail and read what you have to say. It’s too easy to delete one of hundreds of emails that these folks are receiving on a daily basis. I recommend emailing at least 2-3 people in each front office and sending mail to at least two people in every front office.

Don’t Fall For The “Sport Management” Nonsense

What I mean by this is: There is never a right reason to get an undergraduate degree in sports management or even worse (dare I say) graduate degree in sports management. No degree can teach you what it is like to work for a front office, you simply just have to do it to learn how to do it. If that makes sense. The sport management degree is a waste of time and isn’t even respected by front offices these days. The only team I know that specifically targets sports management majors is the San Francisco Giants. They hire interns specifically from sport management programs in the Bay Area. Trust me though, those internships are not quality ones that you want to get.

Also, please don’t go to law school just because Theo Epstein did. If you want to add a degree or add skills to your arsenal, the best thing to do is study computer science and engineering with a minor or double major in Spanish. Every team needs statistical analysts who have love for the game, a thorough understanding of the Collective Bargaining Agreement, mastery of sabermetric statistics, and programming knowledge to manage and manipulate data. Law school or sport management degrees won’t directly help you with that.

Assumptions

You do not come from a professional playing background: Typically players fresh off the field are able to jump right into a player development / scouting role with a front office.

The hiring team is in the 21st century and embraces advanced statistical analysis. This is the case with almost all teams with some exceptions being Philadelphia, Seattle, and Miami (I believe). Possibly Atlanta as well.

Feel free to contact me if you have any questions. Please send me a message if you currently work in baseball and feel that I left something significant out of this post.

51 Comments

  1. Garrick /

    Enjoyed the piece. If you are already interning in baseball do you have any recommendations on moving from another department to baseball ops?

  2. Nirav Bhardwaj /

    Thanks Garrick. If you are already interning for a team but not in baseball operations, your situation is pretty similar to someone trying to break in from outside of baseball. The same point applies: you need to find a way to show teams that you have unique skills and you can add value to the front office on day one.
    The positive of already interning with a team is that you can easily get in touch with people who work in the baseball operations department, even if it is just a brief chat over lunch. Ask about their story breaking into baseball. What skills do they consider as “difference makers” when filtering through applications. At the very least this will help you understand what you need to do to make yourself a better candidate for front office positions.

  3. Josh /

    I’m having a hard time finding the email formats for front office personnel. Could you provide more examples of how to go about finding the email formats for a team? Thanks.

  4. Nirav Bhardwaj /

    Apologies for the late response Josh. I just returned from a lengthy trip abroad. Here are some things to try – look through MLB websites, LinkedIn profiles, and Twitter accounts of people who work for teams. Don’t filter your search for just people who work in the front office because usually they are trying their best to hide their email addresses. Try searching for people within the media relations department or even folks who work in IT. The format for the email addresses will still be the same even if they work outside of baseball operations.

    If you still have trouble finding the email address format for a team then you can always do the guess and check scenario where you try sending an email using each of the different email address formats to people in the front office. For example, start with jon.smith@teamname.com. If that doesn’t work, you should receive an error message as a reply. Then move onto jsmith@teamname.com or jonsmith@teamname.com.

    I understand that teams are starting to do their best to keep this info hidden so it may be a lengthy process to compile the format for each team. Finding people on LinkedIn who accidentally post their email address as public or visible to connections definitely helps.

    • Magnus Grigor /

      thank you for the post. what do you recommend for college degrees that would make me valuable to the team’s organization? what should i study in college that gives me and advantage over others? i already have a passion for the game and i know basically everything about it.

      • Nirav Bhardwaj /

        Hi Magnus,

        I still believe that an education in computer science / computer engineering is the best thing you can do to put yourself in a position to stand out as an applicant for a front office position. I would probably suggest adding a double major / minor in Spanish (ie, do whatever it takes to become conversational in Spanish).

        The important thing is learning computer programming languages as well as statistical analysis software like R and SAS. The reason I say this is because most MLB front offices are pretty far behind when it comes to collecting, organizing, structuring, and manipulating statistical data. And one of the best ways to make a front office more efficient in what they do is by writing code and developing software that simplifies the statistical analysis process. Trust me, every team needs people to do this and the reality is that there are not too many programmers in MLB front offices (yet).

        If you have a strong understand of the game as well as a solid background in coding, you will be able to put together and implement some creative tools that will help MLB front offices make better decisions more efficiently.

        Being conversational in Spanish will be a huge bonus because then you can add significant value on the player development and scouting side of the game as well. It will be you “in” to being exposed to the player development side of the game by working with the development of young Latin players.

        While I put strong emphasis on the Baseball Operations / Analytical side of baseball in my writings, I must also make it clear there is absolutely no better experience in the game than working on the player development side of baseball because it allows one to thoroughly understand the developing process of a player from high school the big show. I believe the most important thing an organization can do is figure out how to increase the % of draft picks and amateur signings that reach the major leagues – it’s more important than signing the right free agents, negotiating the right salary, making the right trades, etc. Sustainability comes from being consistently successful in scouting and player development.

        That’s why there must be equal importance in preparing yourself to succeed on the baseball operations side as well as the scouting and player development side of the game.

        Hope that helps!

        -Nirav

        • Magnus Grigor /

          That’s a lot of help. One more question. Would studying sabermetrics also be a requirement?

          • Nirav Bhardwaj /

            Absolutely. Especially if you are coming from a non professional-playing background. As I mentioned in the post, use the Fangraphs Library and Baseball Prospectus to begin learning what sabermetric stats are important. Once you become familiar with sabermetrics, then you can really start to break down the formulas for sabermetric stats which will help you in your baseball analysis.

  5. Josh Hooley /

    Hi, I really enjoyed your article. I have a few questions if you don’t mind, 1. Is Immensely understanding sabermetrics enough to set yourself apart or is a computer sceince/ spanish major what really sets you apart?
    2. Why isn’t a degree in sports mangement something to set you apart? is there another way to go other then the computer sceince/spanish degree path.

    • Nirav Bhardwaj /

      Hi Josh. No problem at all; I will do my best to answer your questions.

      1) It depends on what you mean by “immensely understanding sabermetrics”. I would lean on saying no that is not enough, mainly because there is a key difference between just understanding sabermetrics versus mastering sabermetrics. Someone who masters sabermetrics will be able to develop analytical tools to help teams interpret and better understand sabermetrics. Does that make sense? Ask yourself: what can you do / build / develop (by using your knowledge of sabermetrics) that will help a front office make better decisions on a more consistent basis?

      And this is where I believe the comp sci and programming knowledge comes into play. You don’t necessarily have to be a programming guru but I do believe you need to know enough to build statistical based programs and at the very least manage data using SQL. This is what majority of teams have their baseball ops interns do.

      Spanish on the other hand is more important on the scouting and player development side. Analytical skills are less important in this side of the game but still highly recommended if you are looking to separate yourself from the rest.

      2) OK, maybe I was a little too harsh on Sports Management programs in the post but there is a reason for that. If you are trying to get into the operations side of a front office (Baseball/Football/Basketball Ops, Scouting, or Player Development) then absolutely a Sports Management degree is worthless. The reason is that Sports Management degrees tend to focus on the business side of sports operations i.e. accounting, finance, general management, etc. None of that will really help you get into the operations / analytics / scouting side of the game.

      There definitely are many different ways to break into the game. Most of them involve luck though. I got lucky – no lie about it. So what I am trying to do (with this blog post) is help people minimize the luck factor (or help put people in a position to increase their chances of getting lucky) if that makes sense. The way I see that happening is by doing whatever is possible to truly differentiate yourself from your counterparts.

      It’s no joke because you are going up against people who graduated from Harvard, Stanford, Princeton, Dartmouth, etc. There is a huge bias for Ivy League kids in front offices right now. Imaging myself: I graduated from University of California Irvine. I’m an Anteater and I somehow wound up with an opportunity of a lifetime with the Angels. But it was through a ton of networking mixed in with some luck, mixed in with me proving myself and developing a strong relationship with our coaches during an internship with one of the Angels minor league affiliates. Luck was a big part of that. The problem is, you can’t necessarily take anything concrete away from my path into the game (or most anyone else for that matter). You need to do the best you can to prepare yourself to be able to get in front of a front office employee and convince him or her why you should be hired. You can do this by explaining exactly how you can make an impact on day one in the office without any training.

      Hope that helps answer your question. Feel free to fire back with more questions!

      -Nirav

      • Nirav Bhardwaj /

        One other thing I wanted to mention since you asked if there are any other ways to break into a front office. If you played ball at a collegiate or professional level and you also have a thorough understanding of sabermetrics and baseball analysis then you instantly become a pretty unique candidate for a front office position – especially on the scouting side.

        My suggestion to those who play college ball is to become a student of the game while playing – similar to the way catchers need to be students of the game. Learn all the nuances of the game from your coaches, players, alum, scouts, or anyone else with extensive baseball experience who you can get in front off. This will definitely take you a long way during conversations with front office executives.

        • Josh Hooley /

          Wow this is great thank you for taking the time to really thoroughly awnser my questions, if you don’t mind i have a few more. Back to 1. If i were to show a organization various scouting reports that i have deveolped with sabermetrics (almost like my own system) that would create success is that something that would set me apart? 2. Okay that is interesting, so your saying with a sports mangement degree you could work within an organization but not in operations correct? 3. Alright what advise could you possibly give me, i am currently a sophomore at pasadena city college i am on the baseball team. Last year i was at simpson university and played ball but left to try to get to a more affordable school. i am currently a business major as well.

          Thank you for your time

          • Nirav Bhardwaj /

            Hi Josh,
            1) Doing scouting on your own will definitely help. I highly recommend getting in touch with current pro scouts to learn the art of scouting from them. The reason I say this is because there are many intricacies involved in being a good scout. There definitely isn’t one right way to do it, but I strongly believe that learning from good pro scouts will give you a foundation to build off of – without that foundation it is extremely difficult to master the craft of scouting.

            That said I am very big on one thing when it comes to scouting – never take any particular scout as being the “ultimate expert” who knows everything – even if it is a GM of a team. I’ve seen this happen in the game a lot, where young folks in the front office begin to mimic all the same beliefs as the AGM or GM who they look up to. Every GM has been wrong on multiple occasions. You need to learn to pick out the things that they do best and leave behind their weaknesses in order to develop your own framework for successful scouting.

            2) Absolutely. Sports management programs are not worth it to get into the baseball operations side of the game.

            3) First advice: keep playing as long as you can regardless of how much playing time you actually receive. Think like a coach when you play. Learn from your coaches to develop an analytical perspective on every aspect of the game.

            Figure out what you are best at doing. If you have a good feel for the game and are able to evaluate talent pretty well, then specialize in that area and try to break into the game as a scout. With that in mind, study sabermetrics and statistical analysis intensively because that is starting to become an integral part of scouting in todays game.

            If you are really interested in the numbers side of the game, then I would say you should definitely start learning programming now. Create projects and analysis that you can conduct on stats (or even on scouting, amateur draft, international amateur players, etc). You can do a multiple of things.

            If you can find ways to incorporate advanced analysis and analytics with the scouting / amateur draft side of the game, that might be a great way to stand out.

            This post has had a lot of hits – I may do a more extensive write-up to help people better understand the nuances within the different areas of baseball operations.

            Hope this helps!

  6. Phil K /

    Currently I am a freshman in college studying civil engineering. It has been my dream to work in major league front offices for the past 4 years now, ever since I realized I had no shot at making it as a player (I played through hs). I was wondering if my engineering degree would still help to separate me even though it’s not computer related. Engineering degrees in general show that you know how to solve problems using numbers. The reason I ask is because I know that getting my dream job would be difficult, and I may not last long, so being an engineer is a solid backup plan for me. I’ve also researched BABIP and the ‘luck’ in baseball for 2 years now, and would probably come up with a presentation dealing with that. Let me know your thoughts and if you have any suggestions. Thanks!

    • Nirav Bhardwaj /

      Hi Phil,

      Looks like you have a pretty good plan so far. Civil engineering is not bad at all. Let’s take baseball out of the picture for a second and let me ask you – is civil engineering something you are passionate about? Has computer engineering or electrical engineering came into your mind at all? In general (career wise) I would recommend comp sci or electrical engineer over civil simply because the job market on the civil side isn’t too great. It definitely isn’t nearly as great as it is for computer engineers.

      Anyways, back to baseball stuff. Yes being an engineer will look enticing to front office execs, even if it is civil engineering. I definitely recommend continuing with your research on advanced statistics, such as BABIP. Try and get your work in front of baseball people – even if it is writers / editors at Fangraphs or Baseball Prospectus.

      One of the best things you can do right now is start u[ a blog. Doesn’t have to be anything fancy, but just something enough to get your work published online and in front of as many people possible. Once polished, submit your work to sites like BP and Fangraphs, etc. to see if you can get published as a contributor.

      Getting the opportunity to write for big sites like that is a great accomplishment while still in college. It will give you a ton of exposure, access to all the stats databases and analytic tools you could imagine, and allow you to network with really smart people within the game.

      If you ever would like my opinion on any specific project that you are working on, feel free to shoot me an email at nirav@sabergm.com

      Hope this helps!

  7. Drew /

    Thank you so much for your post. Currently I am a Junior in High School very interested in working in baseball. It is unclear whether I will be able to play in college, if so it will be at a smaller school. The real question I have for you though is that I understand your belief is that it is much easier to be unique and get noticed with a more technical degree in something like Computer Engineer but in my case, while I am very capable in math and science, it is not very appealing to me. I would much rather have my back up plan be in something like Management or Finance. What would you reccomend for me or someone like me that very much prefers the Business/Finance end of things but has a dream of working in baseball?

    • Nirav Bhardwaj /

      Hi Drew,

      I think first off, try your best to play in college, unless you have to give up an education at a top university.

      At the end of the day it is definitely important to study and pursue what you are ultimately passionate about because that is where you will find success. That said, studying finance or economics is not a bad option at all. Depending on what route you take within business/finance’economics you will find yourself working with Excel a lot. As I mentioned in the post, becoming an Excel master is a huge plus to getting a job in baseball – that goes the same for getting a job in finance.

      Nonetheless, suggestion overall is to pursue whatever major you are most interested in and passionate about. If you don’t care for programming or computer engineering, then it’s a waste of time to study it and simply go along the motions. It is most important to find out what your strengths are and then dominate in that area, whatever it is.

      I hope this helps! Feel free to shoot back with more questions anytime, and I will make sure to respond more promptly next time!

  8. James /

    Thanks for this piece. I am currently 19 years old and a junior at my university pursuing a triple major in mathematics, actuarial science, and finance. I have been working on studying more and more with sabermetrics and some of the programming aspects of the game as much as I can, along with emailing certain teams and connections to front offices. Are there any recommendations you have to get your “foot into the door” and help me to stand out as I try to get internships but without the Spanish and programming backgrounds that you mentioned? Also I also do not want to undervalue myself by seeming over-zealous to organizations, so is there any advice to help me in this way as well?

    • Nirav Bhardwaj /

      Hi James,

      I think you definitely have a strong background given your education, now the key is finding a way to apply that background to topics that will help MLB front offices. The best way to stand out is to do projects – research and analysis – and then publish your work to try and make a name for yourself while you are still in school. Or by mailing and emailing your projects to teams (along with your resume) explaining how you can add value to the organization.

      Most teams hire baseball operations interns every offseason. Now is the time to email/mail every team’s front office. Keep pestering them so they put you on their radar. Try and schedule informal meetings at the very least (like 5 minute meetings) with front office personal during the winter meetings. It is never too early to start scheduling meetings for this winter.

      In regards to no being over-zealous, it’s definitely a fine line. My best advice is to stay confident in your abilities and what you bring to the table for front offices. You will never look over-zealous if you have ways to show how you can add value to a team. You can do this by showing examples of projects you did and how the results of your projects tell you X, Y, or Z. Ideally it’s something that hasn’t been done before but even if there are other people who have published research on the same topic, you can mention what you did differently and give proof to how your analysis adds value overall to the baseball community.

      Refer to the example of Victor Wang from my post. Take a look at some of his writings from before he was hired by the Indians.

      Hope this helps. Feel free to shoot back with more questions and I will make sure to get back to you in a more timely manner!

  9. Jeff /

    Great article; I really appreciate your insight.

    I’m a senior in college at a very good university, majoring in communication and minoring in business administration. I originally intended to get into the sports media industry, but I’m extremely passionate for the analytical side of the game, and a large part of me wants to go in that direction. While my degree doesn’t necessarily reflect an ideal degree for a front office position, I have a lot of experience on the playing side. I’ve played through college on my school’s club team (Not like Division I, but still playing at a decent level). I’m a catcher and have a job as a bullpen catcher at a workout facility, catching collegiate, minor league, and major league pitchers. I also have internship experience working for an association that studies the development, health, and science of pitchers and players and how to improve their health and success. As a catcher I have a very strong understanding of the game – both position players and pitchers. I’m a creative person and thinker, and have a strong grasp on saber-metrics and financial nuances of the game. Taking the information I have given you, how do I put myself in a position for a front office to overlook my lack of experience on the education side (Not majoring in computer science, mathematics, etc) and value my playing experience and knowledge of the game? Do I even have a chance if I didn’t study a major that’s typical for a front office? And just in general what would be your advice for breaking in to the industry given the brief background I gave? Thank you for your help.

    • Nirav Bhardwaj /

      Thanks Jeff, appreciate it.

      I first want to make it clear that studying computer science is by no means a pre-requisite for breaking into an MLB front office. The key is finding a way to add value to an organization, and I am just saying that the best way to do that in my opinion is by coming in with a programming background. This is because there aren’t many programmers in the game right now even though almost every front office needs it.

      I think you have a great background because you’ve played college ball number one, but more importantly because you’re a catcher who has a good grasp of the game. Don’t be too worried about not having programming knowledge.

      Here’s what I would recommend: if you are really interested in the analytics side of a front office then you should start by doing research on something that you are particularly passionate about. Find a project or task that you think a front office would want their employees to do and, just do it. Publish your results or at least get it to the hands of people within the game to see what their feedback is. If you need ideas of what kind of projects I am talking about, then refer back to Victor Wang, or browse through Fangraphs and Baseball Prospectus to see what people are writing about. Trust me, what those guys do is pretty much exactly what goes down in a front office!

      I think your background is particularly good for player development / scouting roles. The beauty is that these days, player development and scouting is getting meshed in with advanced analytics – advanced analytics is taking over all parts of the game. That said, I would try and get in front of some good scouts who are willing to help you learn what they do. Pick there brains apart, you’ll really learn a lot about how to visually, subjectively analyze players – something that is very important to learn, whether you are in baseball operations or player development. If there aren’t many scouts that come out to your school’s games, go to the games of your local minor league affiliates and get tickets right behind home plate. You’ll notice the scouts, sitting with radar guns. Strike up a conversation with them and see where it goes.

      Hope this answered your question thoroughly – feel free to shoot back with any more questions!

  10. Jesse /

    This was an awesome read, very eye opening for me. I wanted to ask you for advice on my current situation and how I can somehow break into the business aspect of sports. I am currently a sophomore at a respected state school in NY. I am majoring in sports management and your opinion on that major has me concerned. I played baseball throughout my senior year, but decided to try to focus strictly on school work in college. My current plan was to receive my undergrad degree in sport management and then try to pursue a law degree. Law is something i am also very passionate about as well, although i am most passionate about baseball as well as football and i feel like i have a lot of knowledge when it comes to the business aspect of sports. I’m determined and hungry to somehow break into this field in some capacity, whether it be with a baseball team or another sport. What is your advice on what i should do to get there? Thanks.

  11. Nirav Bhardwaj /

    Thanks Jesse. Glad you enjoyed the post.

    The path to a position on the business side of baseball (or any sport franchise) is definitely different than getting in on the operations side. I want to make it clear that I do not know as much about breaking into the business side of baseball but I will do my best to give you some insight.

    One thing that I have noticed for the business side of the game is that there are not many, if any at all, entry-level or early-career positions available. The exception is with positions within sales and marketing. Interestingly enough, there is at least one former GM that I know of who started as an intern in marketing and ended up as the GM of the Angels – Tony Reagins. That’s obviously a very rare case but it goes to show that once you are inside the organization, you have the opportunity to become a difference maker.

    Working in entry-level sales or marketing is definitely not a glamorous position. Most people spend a couple years as interns and then grind it out for more years to come while receiving modest pay at best. The better option is getting a good degree, working in the corporate world in an analytical role like management consulting, and then jumping into baseball when the opportunity arises. Or even better, you join a start-up company that gives you a management role early on. This gives you the chance to make a name for yourself and can put you in a position to start at a management level, rather than at an internship level in baseball. It will also provide you with a financial cushion so you can afford to take less pay to work in sports.

    Regarding the sports management major: I am not a huge fan of it because I haven’t seen it being practically applied within sports franchises. In your case though, I don’t think studying sports management is too bad of an option. If you are set on law school, I recommend majoring in whatever gives you the opportunity to earn the highest GPA possible. As you probably know, law school acceptance is heavily based on your GPA and LSAT score. So if you are loving your sports management classes, then stick with it. It shouldn’t really hurt you for getting a job on the business side of sports.

    If you end up getting a J.D. then you should have many doors open for getting into sports. Baseball teams value brand name degrees from brand name schools. But keep in mind that sports jobs have terrible salaries. Absolutely terrible. Don’t take out excessive loans and expect to be able to pay them off by working in sports; it will be a miserable experience.

    My overall advice is to continue pursuing whatever you are passionate about making sure to earn the best grades possible. Also, try your best to stick with top schools, if you pursue a J.D. That said, I would not recommend sinking yourself in student debt for the sake of working in sports – it’s just not worth it.

    While you are in school, start a blog, and/or write research papers related to sports business. Study the business side of sports as much as you can outside of the traditional education you are receiving in the classroom. Train yourself to be a creative thinker so you can pave your own path into baseball. Lastly, network with as many people inside the game as possible so you can learn first-hand about their experiences.

    Hope this helps and feel free to shoot back with any additional questions.

  12. Chris /

    Nirav,

    If you have the time, I’d love to ask some questions of my own!

    I am 25 and have a bachelors degree in journalism. I chose that major initially because I wanted to write about sports(baseball and football). I feel now that I should pursue something more directly involved with sports as it has always been my passion. Currently I teach English in South Korea and will come home to the USA in March 2014.

    After reading your article and the comments I now have a much better idea of what it’ll take. I realize that investing in a sports management degree isn’t a slam dunk idea and to put my efforts more into how I can become a valuable asset for a MLB Front Office. The idea excites me greatly and I can’t wait to get to work on how I can accomplish that.

    So here is a bit of my plan, and I want to know what you think:

    1. Study! Statistics, programming, understand SQL/VBA, learn the MLB Collective Bargaining Agreement, understand all transaction types, etc.

    2. Start a blog and begin working on projects focused on issues a Major League organization are dealing with and how to solve them, along with projects that I personally find interesting and may prove beneficial to a team.

    3. Begin learning and playing baseball. I have never played outside of slowpitch softball, and I’ve always wanted to learn the game. I would take lessons at baseball academies, whip myself into great shape, and get to a point where I can compete in local amateur leagues so I can more understand the game on the field. I was thinking about learning the catcher position for this reason.

    4. Learn Spanish! Yes, I have always wanted a solid reason to learn this language. There is a chance I may spend a few months teaching English in Spain or perhaps a South/Central American country so I could use that opportunity to learn the language as a means to help my resume.

    5. Volunteer/intern at minor league organizations. I live in the Tampa Bay area so there are many minor league teams within close proximity to me. There is also the Tampa Bay Rays of course and maybe I could even get lucky enough to intern with them.

    Well, that is the rough plan that I came up with after reading your blog. Any advice would be great! I am under the assumption that this will take ~10 years before I can get to the point where I am realistically a candidate. Does that timeline sound right to you?

    Also, what kind of job do you recommend I pursue while I am studying baseball? Should I begin a job in journalism and work on this baseball dream on the side, or would it be better that I take a less demanding type of job that can allow for more time/energy?

    Any advice would be amazing and thank you so much for taking the time to help people like me!!

  13. Isaac /

    NIRAV,

    Thanks for the article, I found it extremely helpful. I really want to get a career in Player Personnel and I already have a team which I am really gunning for. I am a Freshman in college right now and I do not plan on wasting any time. I took your advise and I plan to master the CBA. I’m currently a Marketing major and I plan to double major with a Management degree. I am really good with people, I can talk, charm, persuade, and have people like me very easily. I am a very big fan of not just the sport, but my team, the one I wish to work for. I took into consideration what you said that once it becomes a job, that is just what it is, a job. My first question is what if I am not so much of a numbers guy. I’m good at math, but not so much of the coding type. How can I make myself unique to a team other than the whole numbers thing, As I said I really plan to master the CBA, and I have a blog in the works. I really really want this, and I will do anything to get it. How soon is too soon to start getting myself out there? What are Front Offices looking for, for player personnel? Anything I can do, or I should do, I will. Thank you so much for the advice, I can really use all of it.

  14. AJ Zanas /

    Hey Nirav, my name’s AJ, I am a sophmore in high school, going to be 16 soon. I have been studying baseball statistics and baseball itself for the past 3 years, and i feel like i have a ggood understanding (at least for my age) of the game. You may think I am just a simple kid, but I would really like to talk to you sometime about what I should do right now to prepare myself for attempting to get into the baseball world. I read this article, and it really did challenge me to think well, if i’m just a passionate fan or if I really want to go into this profession, and im still not sure of what I am. Your advice really helped. You most likely wont see this, because of how late this post is but if you do, one simple advice would be the world for me.

  15. Keith /

    Thank you so much, this article has answered so many questions. I do have just a few more though:
    Would a business degree help me to get into the front office?
    Would an MBA be any better?

  16. Caleb /

    Hey Nirav! I just read the piece and enjoyed your advice thoroughly. I am an incoming freshmen at York College of Pennsylvania and am majoring in their sports management program. I am not just an avid baseball fan, I really enjoy the business and statistical side of baseball as well. As far as you saying that a degree in sports management is not appealing to a Major League team, if I took the other steps like minoring in Computer Science and/or Spanish, putting together analysis reports etc. would the sports management program be just as helpful at that point?
    Thanks again!

  17. Begin as an analyst in the IT department and you will be there for the next 20 years. Forget all this programming and SQL crap, high school graduates these days are proficient in these skills. You succeed in the front office the same way you succeed at any other job…by being bright, fast on your feet, attractive, personable and the ability to think out of the box. Luck and connections don’t hurt.

  18. William Sutton /

    What do you have to say about the three current MLB GMs Chris Antonetti, Ben Cherington, and Neal Huntington that all have Sport Management degrees from UMass-Amherst?

  19. Luis Rodriguez /

    Hello Mr. Bhardwaj,

    I am currently in my senior year in college, where I will soon get my bachelors in Electrical Engineering, as well as minors in Spanish and Physics. I am in the process of applying for jobs, and recently came across this article. I was very excited when I read the line that said that the best thing to study is “computer science and engineering with a minor or double major in Spanish”

    As an electrical engineer, I am proficient in high level math, statistics, microsoft office tools like EXCEL, and have experience with different programming languages. Having been born in the Dominican Republic, I am fluent in oral and written spanish, and have a natural passion for the game of baseball.

    Given my credentials, I believe I am qualified to work as an MLB statistical analyst, but I do not know how or where to apply. Can you give me some guidance as to where I can apply, or what teams are hiring, etc.?

    Sincerely,

    Luis A Rodriguez

  20. Tyler /

    Why do you say the internships with the Giants are not desirable? I am starting in the USF Sport Management program in January and have aspirations of working for the Giants.

  21. Jesse S /

    Nirav,

    Found this piece insightful, helpful, and honest. I have already held an internship with an MLB organization and want to break into a front office position after this, my senior year. I am a Political Science major so my analytical skills aren’t comparable to econ or other math majors. However, I am considering working on an independent study involving the game (it is currently slated for the internationalization of baseball with a focus on China/East Asia, but the game is not popular enough over there and no team will be interested). Any suggestions for a project I could undertake involving my polisci background and incorporate it with the baseball operations aspect? Thanks for your time.

    Jesse S

  22. Joseph /

    Hello, I want to work in a front office for the Texas Rangers, I live in Plano Texas. I’m going to start online school for a degree in business and sports management. Do you have any contacts or know anyone with the Rangers front office. Do you have any advice. I’m a die hard sports fan. Thank you for any advice you give me

    • Kurt Schweizer /

      It’s best to not focus on working for any particular team. That will just limit your options. As far as contacts, if you are in a good college program, that should give you all the contacts you will need. But, it’s good to always try to find more. No amount is too many.

  23. Jackson /

    I very much enjoyed the article and am very interested to hopefully one day break into the baseball front offices. I currently am 15 and starting to look into the future of where I will be headed post secondary. I am a die hard blue jays fan and would love I work for just about any team…(but the royals) I also play the highest level of baseball for my age although I’m not sure I would get to play in college. I am very smart (currently in the international baccalaureate programme) I have a love for the game, I am not to familiar with programming but that is something I can work on and I have an abundance of knowledge on the ins and outs of the game that will keep growing. I am curious if you have any specific tips for me as well as any specific universities or programmes that you suggest for a person in my situation

  24. magnificent submit, very informative. I wonder why the opposite experts of this sector don’t realize
    this. You must continue your writing. I am confident, you’ve
    a huge readers’ base already!

  25. Justin Gonzalez /

    Hello thanks for writing this article its very helpful I would like to know if majoring in Business would be helpful to get a job in the front office

  26. Joe Kircher /

    Would you be able to help me, and talk to me about my current situation that I am in?

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  28. CHRIS /

    How much do you think being in the military would set someone apart, even though their 2 different worlds, based off of what you’ve seen or heard. Thank you

  29. Ryan /

    I am currently an eighth grader and I will most likely be attending a private high school next year and do you have any advice for what classes I should take there? I would also want to know if student managing the school baseball team would help because I can not play due to a physical disability. Thank you for the article and thank you if you respond back

    • Kurt Schweizer /

      I am a former broadcaster in the Twins org. I would say not to even worry about which high school courses you take, other than to take as many “college prep” courses as possible. Other than that, it does not matter. Just take what you take and get a good GPA and then worry about which major(s) to take in college. In spite of what this article says, the Sports Mgt major is a good one to have for one main reason: networking. And that is all the reason you need. To answer your question about student managing the baseball team: it can’t hurt.

  30. Hey what about going to business school in the finance area or getting a masters in business analytics?

    • Kurt Schweizer /

      The first thing to learn is not to say “masters”, unless you are actually planning to enroll in more than one Master’s degree program. Generally, the degree is called a “Master of Science” or “Master of Arts”. But, it’s best to kick the habit of calling it a “masters”. This is something for which employers watch out. I can assure you of this.

  31. Joshua Bradshaw /

    I am a 10th grader, hoping to go to the University of Washington when I graduate and get a degree in computer science and engineering. I am trying to get a solid foundation with my ability to manage data for making reports. Currently I am working on a report having to do with the draft and specifically why the Mariners have been so bad at it in the past 20 years. How/can I find the players’ High school stats? What about their physical capabilities?(40m time, vertical, eyesight etc.)Do you have advice of what to consider in this report?

  32. Kurt Schweizer /

    It’s true that the Spo Man/Admin courses don’t truly teach what it’s like to actually work in a front office. But, what they DO teach, for example, (for those with a keen eye and willingness to learn) is proper grammar and sentence structure. I didn’t read your entire article but I am guessing you do not have a graduate degree. And, if you do, the school failed.

  33. Thank you for the advice. I have been in the industry since 1999 and currently working as an intern for a minor league base baseball team. I have reach out to all my supervisors and no one know what happens at the end of the season which I continue my frustrations. I have worked for numerous times in Philadelphia, PA as a game day employee. This internship is an hour away from home and have an hour to drive each way. I have worked 12 to 14 hours and then a hour drive home. I would like to find out of contacts within teams that will be looking to hire. The last day of my intern will be August 31 then I do not know what happens. I would like to stay full time but there are budgets for all the departments. This industry is competitive but I am not giving up for what I want. If any of you have contacts within teams that are looking to hire full time please contact me on Linkedin or email at joemcgrathjr@comcast.net

  34. Robert Gregory /

    I’m a recent university graduate in Criminology and Economics, looking to do further study in the latter. Would the mathematical skills one develops in this field be good preparation? Also, do you have any special advice for someone who has only been able to follow baseball from outside North America (in my case the UK)?

  35. Patrick B /

    I am a high school student looking going through the college process. I want to go to a school that is good at what I am studying. I’m 99.9% sure I won’t get into an Ivy League school, so what should I study to work somewhere in an MLB front office?

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