Working In Minor League Baseball - An Insider's Perspective

Interview with Theo Fightmaster, GM of Sonoma Stompers

STOMPERS.jpg
Sonoma Stompers

Theo Fightmaster is the General Manager and Chief Operating Officer of the Sonoma Stompers, an independent minor league baseball team playing in the Pacific Association of Professional Baseball Clubs

He recently answered some questions on how he got his start, his current role and advice for those looking to work in the sports industry.

You graduated from Arizona State a decade ago - but did not go right to work for a team or league.  How did your work experiences prepare you for the sports industry?

Fightmaster: I knew I wanted to work in sports, so even when I was filleting King Salmon for Whole Foods Market, or selling real estate for Re/Max, I found ways to stay involved in sports. I worked on production crews for ESPN and ABC Sports live telecasts, called play-by-play for Sonoma State University's basketball, baseball and softball games.

Retail taught me how to think on my feet. Real estate showed me how to handle pressure of high-leverage negotiations and transactions. As a sportswriter, I gained a lot of self confidence from earning reader's praise and winning a couple awards.

But the value came by having a variety of experiences and gaining knowledge on a variety of topics. I soon came to realize that no matter the field, the successful people shared similar traits; they worked harder than the next guy. And that you can't compare yourself to the next guy, because circumstances and context vary dramatically from person to person.


Can you give a brief overview of your responsibilities as Chief Operating Officer and General Manager of an independent league team?

Fightmaster: Being the COO and GM of a professional sports team sounds great to the average sports talk radio listener. But at this level, my charge is vast and daunting.

On any given night, I find myself more concerned with the condiment stations, and making sure we have enough mustard as I am how the starting pitcher is throwing.

In essence, I oversee the baseball operation -- hire the manager, help assemble the roster, deal with league-wide and inter-team issues. But unlike an affiliated club's GM, I also have business operations under my purview. Everything from writing press releases and managing media relations, marketing, the team's website, to overseeing our ticketing, concessions, merchandise, promotional and sponsorship department (for lack of a better term).

What is your favorite part of working in minor league baseball?

Fightmaster: The best part about working in independent baseball is the freedom. We aren't told which players have to sign, and be in the lineup, and we have the luxury of doing fun promotions. Last year Bill "Spaceman" Lee, the former Boston Red Sox all-star lefty, pitched for us. He went 5 2/3 innings to get the win. He batted for himself, and picked off a runner. Oh, and by the way, he set a world record becoming the oldest person to win a professional baseball game. He was 67.

What advice do you have for a student who wants to work in the sports industry?

Fightmaster: I tell them the same thing to any person that asks me what do they need to do to work in sports, just get in the building.

I'm fortunate to have the job I have, but it wouldn't have gotten here if I didn't take every single opportunity I had to work in or around sports. That includes coaching girls JV softball teams, calling internet-only play-by-play, and writing about sports.

When reviewing a candidate's LinkedIn profile or resume is there a common mistake you see?

Fightmaster: A common mistake I see is people emphasizing their fandom.  I don't need fans working for my organization. The real truism about working in sports is you don't get to watch. We're not here to be spectators or fans, we're here to ensure the fans have a good experience and we convert them into returning customers.

Thank you to Mr. Fightmaster for sharing his insights. You can follow the Sonoma Stompers on Twitter.

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