–By Jocelyn Hopkinson
Prospective students will hear how helpful the Wabash faculty and alumni are when they visit for Honor Scholar Weekend. Admissions and students advertised the same things to me when I was a senior. Part of me thought these advertisements were exaggerated, but I recently discovered I was wrong—all I needed to do was take the first step and reach out.
I reached out to Professor of Economics Kealoha Widdows about potential summer-school options. I met with Professor Widdows and discussed my post-Wabash ambitions. She told me to work with Career Services and required I report back to her. I’ll admit my mother had urged me to visit Kane House for a year, but I never made it over. However, I found I was much more accountable when a professor requests something from me!
I worked with Scott Crawford and other Peer Career Advisors to update and improve my resume. More importantly, I was urged to contact Wabash alumni. Again, I took the first step and reached out to Mark Osnowitz ’12 via LinkedIn.
A few summers ago, Osnowitz interned with the Normal Cornbelters, a professional baseball team in the Frontier League in Normal, IL. I have an interest in sports business and thought an externship with a small organization would be very beneficial because I could absorb all the business’ aspects.
Osnowitz was more than willing to help and played an instrumental role in me landing the externship. After a few messages on LinkedIn, Osnowitz contacted team President and Owner Steve Malliet and General Manager Kyle Kreger. Osnowitz put in a very good word for me. From that point on, it was up to me not to screw up and fortunately I was able to avoid any mishaps.
I spent between two and three hours per day with the office staff over spring break. Each day consisted something new and ranged from stadium management to ticket sales. The Cornbelters’ front-office staff only has seven full-time employees so the different departments are a one or two-man operation with the help of a handful of interns. The staff provided me with personal attention every day and was excited to help me learn, similar to the Wabash faculty.
My week started by shadowing Kreger. He oversees an umbrella of responsibilities including ticket sales, corporate sponsors, and community relations. He also holds the power to make personnel decisions, but leaves them to his coaches and scouting department.
“Ticket Sales Tuesday” occurred the following day. I met with Vice President of Ticket Sales Joe Rejc. Always looking to improve, Rejc explained how the team planned to increase ticket sales from last season. He reiterated what Kreger had told me, that more groups (churches, businesses, youth baseball teams etc.) would be targeted this season. After laying out the strategy, he showed me March’s game plan. Rejc and other sales members are required to hit specific sales numbers and if everybody accomplishes their goals, the team will increase its sales.
The other part of the revenue stream is corporate sponsorships. Director of Corporate Partnerships Lori Johnson met with me Wednesday to explain her job. She sells advertising space inside and outside the ballpark for local businesses such as outfield signs, box suites, and billboards. She also handles trades, which occur when the Cornbelters give advertising to a local business in exchange for that business’ services. For instance, if a new player has nowhere to stay, he may live in a hotel for a certain amount of time and the hotel will get free advertising at the Cornbelters games. The team doesn’t receive revenue from trades, but costs are less if not zero.
Kreger harped about starting out in ticket or corporate sales. He said every employer wants to know how he can increase his revenue and if you intern in a sales position, you can put that number by your name and quantify your skills.
Stadium Operations Manager Ryan Eberle showed me the Corn Crib on Thursday. Eberle is responsible for a variety of tasks—stadium and locker room cleanliness, utilities, dugout and field conditions to name a few. He is also in charge of event and game-day logistics.
I spent my last day with Business Manager Heather Manint. She handles the team store, accounting, and other general business activities. Friday alone entailed of meetings with a health-care provider and sales tax auditor.
I finished my job-shadow experience with a much better idea of sports business operations and where my interests lie. I plan to heed Kreger’s advice and look for an internship in ticket or corporate sales in the future—possibly even with the Cornbelters. The gentle shove from Professor Widdows and enthusiastic help from Osnowitz and Career Services made this possible.