The Business of Baseball
The crack of the bat. The smell of a freshly mowed field. Many sports fans spend hours daydreaming about their favorite team and the thrill of the atmosphere. Although a fantasy baseball league might be as close you’ll come to “managing” pro players, Brandon Baker is one of the lucky souls who has been able to work in an industry that he’s always loved – baseball.
For the last 8 years, Baker has successfully moved up through the ranks. As the Triple-A team for the Texas Rangers, the RedHawks opportunity fulfilled a childhood dream – to be in the business of baseball.
Baker lives in Edmond with his wife Erin and their son Benjamin, and he says he’s always been a baseball fan. “My first memory is watching the St. Louis Cardinals win the 1982 World Series on TV when I was 5 years old,” he said. “My family grew up going to Cardinals games and Kansas City Royals games. I wanted to play shortstop for the Cardinals like Ozzie ‘The Wizard of Oz’ Smith.”
Don Mattingly, New York Yankee’s first baseman from 1982-1995 was Baker’s all-time favorite player. He was lucky enough to have met Mattingly at a Royals game, shake his hand, and even get his autograph.
“I always wanted to play professional baseball but I knew I wasn’t good enough,” said Baker. “I was a scrawny guy and couldn’t hit very well, but I could play great defense.” Although he wasn’t a star performer on the field, Baker knew he could still achieve off the field.
In 1998, when the Diamond Jaxx came to Jackson, Tennessee, Baker found his chance, seeking out an internship with the team after his junior year of college. “As with most internships, I was the low man on the totem pole,” he said. Baker did it all – worked the ticket office and clubhouse, even picked up trash on the grounds crew, and served inside the suit as the mascot a time or two.
After finishing school, Baker was invited by the RedHawks to interview for a job opening as the Ticket Office Manager. In 2001, he moved to Oklahoma City for his new job. He later moved up to selling group and season tickets, then corporate sponsorship, which was followed by organizing the in-game activities and managing the press box while occasionally filling in as the Public Address Announcer. Most recently, Baker has been handling baseball operations, which include coordinating team travel and taking care of player needs.
“On a daily basis, most of my work consists of searching out potential new sponsors and meeting with them to advertise in the ballpark at a variety of events,” said Baker. “During the season, I accompany players to public appearances. If there’s a game and I have a sponsorship for the night, I’m at the stadium helping coordinate the elements of the sponsorship.”
The off season is reserved to plan for the upcoming season, as well as find new sponsors and renew existing ones. “There’s not a lot of downtime in our jobs. Baseball season is 7 months of the year, so that doesn’t leave much time at the end of the season to sit around and do nothing.”
Baker believes to succeed in this industry you first have to be a salesperson at some point. “Even if that’s not your strongest asset, you will need to be able to sell, whether its season tickets, sponsorships, special events, or just be able to forge relationships with clients and keep them involved with your organization. Baseball is a business of networking.”
For those looking to break into the baseball industry and enjoy a fast-pace environment, Baker says an internship is a great way to start. “You’ll do a lot of things you don’t want to do, but every job in baseball is necessary, even the smallest detail,” he says. “For example, the only way a game gets played on a rainy day is by every person in the organization being available to help pull the tarp on and off the field.”
According to Baker, the best part about his job is the variety. He’s involved in many unique events and he gets to interact with the community, players, and major league personnel. “I love helping put on major special events at the ballpark, like the Big 12 Baseball Championship and the Triple-A National Championship Game. Those events take a lot of planning and a lot of on-site coordination, but are very rewarding to see in action and to look back and say that I was involved in helping make those events a success for Oklahoma City.”
Baseball isn’t just about hot dogs, peanuts, crackerjacks, and fancy uniforms. It takes many man hours behind the scenes to produce just a single baseball game. Baker is one of those hard-working individuals putting in the time and effort to see the rewarding pay out as hundreds of fans flock to the stadium every season. “I love what I do. It is a very unique job that I never imagined I would have the opportunity to do. I have met so many people through this job who I consider friends.”