I am currently recruiting PBEO Job Fair attendees to write about their Winter Meetings job-seeking experience. With that in mind, throughout the next week I’ll be running guest posts from last year’s crop of Job Seeker Journal writers. Today we hear from Darius Montez-Thigpen, who recaps an exhilarating and unpredictable year.
About this time a year ago I made a bold move, a bold move in a year that was defined by bold moves. I called the 2014 Orange Bowl for Ohio State student radio (one of the greatest football games I’ve ever seen live), I underwent surgery, I graduated from college, I took a part-time job in a town I had never heard of and then I decided to go to San Diego to find a job in baseball. It was a crazy year, but a great one.
That November I decided that I wanted to go to the Winter Meetings to find a job in baseball. I knew what I wanted to be — a play-by-play broadcaster — but didn’t know what the path would be. Then it dawned on me that the Winter Meetings would be a tremendous starting point to find a legit play-by-play job. I’d heard Colin Cowherd talk about how he got his first job in baseball after showing up to one of the meetings and marketing himself to executives in the minors. He found work, so why wouldn’t I?
I had already completed an internship under Columbus Clippers broadcasters Ryan Mitchell and Scott Leo, and was at the time working with IMG in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. I felt like I had a good shot to get a job, or at the very least leave an impression on several people in the industry. I ended up applying for 15 jobs, which resulted in seven interviews. I felt pretty good about the situation.
I didn’t get a job. That wasn’t fun.
As disappointing as that was, things did work out. I ended up taking a job with the Lehigh Valley IronPigs for the baseball season. I worked under Matt Provence and Jon Schaeffer and had a great experience in The Valley. As it turned out, a chance conversation with Jon would change my life.
Before working with the IronPigs, Jon was a broadcaster with the Lynchburg Hillcats. During the offseason he called basketball games for the then-Division II Longwood University in Farmville, Virginia (don’t worry, I hadn’t heard of that town either). Jon got a heads-up from one of the guys at Longwood that there was an opening for a position that is very similar to what most Minor League broadcasters do: a Sports Information Director position with play-by-play duties for the now Division I Lancers of the Big South. The position would be full-time. Jon said I should apply. I did, thinking that it would be similar to the Winter Meetings. I could meet some influential people and, at least, become someone that they’d heard of.
I got the job.
It’s not that I wasn’t prepared for an offer or that I was even particularly nervous about going through the application process (the Winter Meetings got me ready for interviews in a rapid, speed-dating type atmosphere). It was just that it was simply too good to be true. Over the course of 17 months I went from a recent college graduate facing unemployment to a man getting to do exactly what he always wanted to do. I’d say I’m blessed beyond measure, but I think that still doesn’t do justice to just how amazing this all is.
The Winter Meetings prepared me for interviewing and it prepared me to go through a rigorous process of preparation and anticipation. Most importantly, getting rejected by seven organizations allowed me to focus on my weaknesses. I got great feedback from every organization, which helped take me to the next level. I also got to meet a ton of great people.
Seriously. The people in baseball are awesome. Ben Hill (in addition to apparently being a teacher back in the day) is a fantastic wordsmith with wordplay that packs a pun-ch (I had to).
I met Ben Gellman-Chomsky and Brandon Liebhaber at the Winter Meetings as we were each looking for jobs. They were 1000% more successful than myself. Ben landed with the New Hampshire Fisher Cats of the Eastern League. Brandon became THE guy (like, the No. 1 guy) with the Jackson Generals in the Southern League.
I also met Jesse Goldberg-Strassler in San Diego. He wasn’t looking for employment (he holds down a position with the Lansing Lugnuts), but it was awesome connecting with him as he knows Ryan Mitchell from back in the day. I’m an Ohio State alumnus and Philadelphia sports fan. He’s a DMV guy who’s all about the Maryland Terps (B1G) and Washington teams, so there is direct competition between our favorite teams. Plus, we’re both all about Aaron McGruder’s “Boondocks”. Jesse has a way with the art of written language. I own his “Baseball Thesaurus”, and without any prompting or bribing I recommend you buy it.
I can go on for a while about how great the people I’ve met in Minor League Baseball are, but Ben gave me about 1000 words as a cap, so I’ll be brief. You need to work at least one season in the minors to experience what is almost too great for words to describe.
Going to the Winter Meetings is perfect if you’re in need of a first job, looking to meet new people, learn what else is going on in baseball or even if you just want an excuse to reconnect with friends from across the country that you’ve made within the industry. There’s something for everyone.
If you’re at this year’s Winter Meetings say hi to my man Antonio Venegas (he’s the guy to the far left in the above group picture).
Whether you are hired on the spot or if you go without an interview, you’re definitely making the right decision by going to Nashville. Good luck!
Throughout this year’s Winter Meetings in San Diego, four attendees of the PBEO Job Fair agreed to keep a journal chronicling their employment-seeking experiences (meet them all HERE.). In this, his fourth and (for now) final installment, Darius gives thanks, ponders his options and makes movie references aplenty.
Read all of Darius’ posts HERE.
Day Four at the Winter Meetings: Where in the World Where Will Carmen Sandiego Be?
“Boy, that escalated quickly. I mean that got out of hand really fast.” –Ron Burgundy.
Come on. You had to expect a bevy of Anchorman references at some point. Sixty percent of the time those jokes work every time.
I’m done. Just allow me a BAXTER!!! And I love lamp. Now I promise I’m done….
So today’s title is more clever than I thought when I initially planned another way to work a “San Diego” reference into my final journal.
At the moment I feel like an ACME Detective trying to figure out where the newest chase will take me. Plus, there was a Thigpen who starred in the show as The Chief. Works for me. Now that I’ve gotten the awful allusions and such out of my system let’s get serious.
“It’s competitive, but not cutthroat.” –Several broadcasters, on breaking into the field of baseball broadcasting.
That’s real on both fronts. It’s hard to get into broadcasting. Ben Gellman-Chomsky was here for his fifth Winter Meetings as a job seeker and he gave me great advice throughout the stay. He was fighting me for several positions. We did a podcast together each day. We each made the first cut on broadcasting jobs which only one person could get.
I’m happy to say that he will not walk away empty-handed. Ben was offered a job and accepted it Wednesday. I’m excited for Ben as he continues to grow in baseball and he takes on his new endeavor.
Competitive, not cutthroat. He and I became good friends during this trip to San Diego and hopefully we’ll stay in touch as we each try to move up in the world of broadcasting even if we’re on rival teams or competing for jobs. Maybe we’ll wind up working together one day.
As for me? No job offers yet, but I had seven interviews and that’s something I’m thankful for. After talking to some of the people in hiring positions I can say that the “broadcast” category was the slimmest in terms of jobs available, but by far the most popular to apply for. One team had 174 applicants for 15 interviews and only one person will get the job.
Looking ahead, just knowing I made the cut in a situation like that makes my day. I came here seeking employment, but even if I don’t get a job directly from this trip to California it’s not a failure. I loved getting to spend time with the other job seekers, broadcasters, GMs, sales representatives, graphic designers, promotions team members and everyone else at the Winter Meetings. We all love baseball, love sports and are willing to work hard at jobs we love to do. Meeting a bunch of other like-minded people who were all genuinely nice throughout this taxing process made this trip great. No matter what else happens, this experience was not a waste.
So as I say my final goodbyes to the wonderful city of San Diego and I prepare to depart for the airport in 90 minutes at 6 a.m. PST today (Thursday) I know this experience was definitely worth it.
I appreciate everyone for taking time to check out the blog posts and thanks for stopping by. You stay classy, Ben’s Biz Blog readers.
I don’t want to say goodbye or anything cause I don’t wanna leave… so see you later, San Diego https://t.co/FFpa45T40m
— Darius Montez (@Thig08) December 11, 2014
Thanks to Darius for taking the time to write about his job-seeking experiences throughout the Winter Meetings. We’ll check back in with him, and his three employment-seeking compatriots, later in the offseason. Stay tuned!
Throughout this year’s Winter Meetings in San Diego, four attendees of the PBEO Job Fair have agreed to keep a journal chronicling their employment-seeking experiences (meet them all HERE.). In this, his third installment, Darius Thigpen plays the dating game and the waiting game.
Read all of Darius’ posts HERE.
Day Three at the Winter Meetings: The Dating Game
“I hope the rest of your interviews go well… but not too well.”
Up until this point for me the Winter Meetings had been a lot of applying, conversing, shaking hands and waiting. There was lots and lots of waiting. Tuesday was finally the day I got to run around and actually interview for positions I applied for. It was truly a great problem to have.
I had four interviews scheduled for Tuesday and two for Wednesday at the time of writing this. That’s about half of the jobs I applied for or what I consider to be a whole heck of a lot.
Most of the broadcasters at the Job Fair have been frustrated. There are something like 60 (probably a lot more) broadcasters here all applying for a dozen positions and only five to 10 for each position will even get an interview. I’ve heard from other broadcasters that it’s a totally real scenario to show up to the Meetings and walk away without so much as an interview. Broadcasting is a very competitive industry to break into and tough to move up in, but us broadcast guys and gals can’t get discouraged; we have to stick with it.
Personally, I’m thankful just to have interviews lined up. It’s my first PBEO Job Fair, but in the past when applying for jobs I’d send out 40 applications. I’d hear back from five of those teams and be told within a week from three of them that I wasn’t the guy. That leaves two that would give me an interview and one where I’d get a job offer. Not exactly “show up and get interviews and job offers thrown at you.”
Still, what the Job Fair provides is an opportunity to network. In the end, most of these teams will hire someone that they know. For us broadcasters the team’s Director of Broadcasting is making the decision. He will want to work with someone he can trust and generally get along with over the course of a baseball season. You’ll be together every day over the course of a long, long, baseball season so the two of you should probably like each other.
So, regarading the whole interview process. Many hirers (that’s a word, right?) opted to make use of the interview room in the convention center and some decided to go a different route and meet up at one of the hotels or the Trade Show. Both had strengths and weaknesses.
Meeting in the interview room was straightforward. The teams were assigned to a number of tables and even if you didn’t know who you were interviewing with the board outside the room had the team interview tables so you at least knew exactly where to be. Simple.
The problem is that the whole thing kind of felt like speed dating. There are hundreds of other conversations going on and inadvertently some of those bleed into yours. I overheard someone else reference Ohio State and it distracted me for a second. (I should probably just get checked for Buckeye Fever, though.)
Meeting away from the interviewing room was nice. It was more relaxed, and we enjoyed the weather and light ocean air of San Diego at dusk. It was a warm day leading into a crisp night with not a drop of humidity in the atmosphere. A picture perfect day.
The only problem was that it came with its own distractions. Joggers ran by, and I think Theo Epstein passed by my interview a couple of times (was he scouting me?) and there was the ever-problematic yet unavoidable staring-into-the-sun issue. No matter how you arrange seating someone will have the sun staring them in the face.
Overall the interviewing process was good for me. I got my questions answered and no one laughed me off or told me to get lost. If this was a speed dating session I would have gotten a hug and maybe a phone number or two rather than a slap to the face.
I have no clue what happens at speed dating, but that at least sounds like what could happen.
Stay tuned for one more update from Darius this week, which will run on the blog Friday. (Thursday is a travel day for all involved). In the meantime, check him out on Instagram.
Throughout this year’s Winter Meetings in San Diego, four attendees of the PBEO Job Fair have agreed to keep a journal chronicling their employment-seeking experiences (meet them all HERE.). In this, his second installment, Darius Thigpen compares, contrasts and makes an apropos reference to the pride of Tallahassee.
Read all of Darius’ posts HERE.
Day Two at the Winter Meetings: Can I Buy U a Drank?
Juxtaposition (noun) — An act or instance of placing close together or side by side, especially for comparison or contrast. In a sentence: The juxtaposition of the frantic, nervous energy of job seeking at the Winter Meetings and the relaxed nature of the veterans of the meetings plus the beauty of San Diego made for a curious day two.
In my Vine attached to this entry I initially pointed out the madness of the job seeking compared to beauty of the San Diego area. First off, I couldn’t get any shots inside the job posting room because I don’t want to get kicked out (no photography allowed). Secondly, Ben Gellman-Chomsky, who graciously invited me onto his podcast for the meetings, corrected me by responding to the Vine with “Not enough madness in my opinion.”
Dude was spot on.
— Darius Montez (@Thig08) December 8, 2014
After going into the job postings room and checking to see if teams wanted an interview, job seekers did A LOT of sitting around. We’re here looking for work so hanging around the events we’re not invited to (league meetings, owners meetings, the set of Baseball Tonight) doesn’t do us a ton of good. However, most of the people hiring the job seekers ARE in those meetings so we have to wait around for them to get done before we take the bottled up anxiety from hours of waiting for the interview that could change our lives and let it loose on the people who have been in meetings all day. It makes for an interesting scenario.
So you like the title of this post, right? For those who don’t know it is a reference to T-Pain (Tallahassee’s finest!) who had a song by that name reach number one on the Billboard Hot 100. It’s also a good summary for what happens at the Winter Meetings after dark, sort of. You don’t have to drink to be able to socialize, but you have to be able to socialize to make it in this industry.
The people hiring have to know they can trust you over the course of the longest season in sports and if they’d like to be around you that whole time. I’m not saying go to the bar and try to drink the first executive you see under the table, but definitely show that you can hold your own in conversation and be comfortable in a room full of (pretty important) strangers.
I loved getting to meet other broadcasters. Jon Chelesnik, CEO of STAA, is one of the nicest guys you could meet. He is energetic, personable, understanding of where we are in our careers and willing to help us take the next step. He’s the guy who you want to talk to about breaking into the industry because he knows it well. He’s willing to give you as much time as you’d like to talk and ask questions. He gives off the vibe of someone you’d love to hang around.
Meeting the creator of this very blog, Benjamin Hill, and the other job seeker writers was awesome. You can pepper Ben with questions about Minor League Baseball because he’s lived it. He travels around the country to different parks capturing the best the minors have to offer.
Sean was the first of the job seeking journal writes that I met. In his job hunt he’s kind of my mirror opposite. He wants to find jobs in media relations, writing and do everything that doesn’t have a broadcast element to it. He wants to be the guy who would make my job a whole heck of a lot easier as a broadcaster. That makes him my boy right off the top.
Then Katie entered. She and I were able to talk college baseball. Yes, many people scoff at the thought of the silly “ping” of a ball being barreled up, but Katie and I had a connection to the collegiate game. She works for Stanford baseball and I broadcast Ohio State games as an undergrad. Stanford beat Indiana in the NCAA Tournament this year, but Katie actually had a vested interest in the Hoosiers. She knows Sam Travis and Joey DeNato, a couple of the Hoosiers who helped lead Indiana to its first College World Series in 2013, leaving my Buckeyes in the wake. Thanks for reminding me of that.
Finally Julie arrived. She and I spent a short time gushing over how awesome Wayne Brady is (seriously, I wish I had his kind of talent). She has experience with improvisational comedy. Some of her skills from improv are being able to make adjustments on the fly, being entertaining and being able to roll with the punches even when the critics get unruly. Those are skills any professional should have, but in broadcast those are especially valuable tools. While she’s not looking to be a broadcaster I still learned a great deal from her.
On the one hand the Winter Meetings is intimidating because there are so many important people walking around, but on the other it comes down to whether or not you can get along with people. That goes a long way in this industry.
The next post from Darius, as well as posts from his three Job Seeker Journal compatriots, will appear on Wednesday. The saga continues…
Throughout this year’s Winter Meetings in San Diego, four attendees of the PBEO Job Fair have agreed to keep a journal chronicling their employment-seeking experiences (meet them all HERE.). In this, his first installment, Darius Thigpen details how Sunday was a day that started off great and got even greater.
Day One at the Winter Meetings: The Business in Baseball Workshop
“Today is the first day of the rest of your life… Don’t screw it up,” – Rob Crain (a.k.a the greatest emcee you could possibly hope for).
At 8.a.m., the tension within Ballroom 20 of the San Diego Convention Center was so thick that you could cut it with a knife. Then in comes the brash, Bostonian awesomeness that is the president and general manager of the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders. Talk about a wake-up call. Crain displayed so much energy and such a relaxed attitude that it set the tone for a great, productive day at the Professional Baseball Employment Opportunities Job Fair.
Now, for me, I was having a great day before knowledge was dropped on us. If you’re a college football fan, then all I have to say is THE Ohio State University and you know why Sunday was great for me.
Even without the thrill from the Buckeyes I was going to have a great day. The 11 speakers, two panels (of 10 total participants) and Crain made for an intriguing day.
The best thing for people in our shoes is to learn from people with jobs in the field we’re pursuing, especially from those at a high level in the industry. It’s that much more encouraging when nearly every one of the speakers could relate to us since they were once in our shoes.
The biggest takeaways, for me, are captured in five words: personality, self, sales, money and passion.
As an applicant and eventual new hire it’s critical for us to show what we’re about. Many of the speakers said they want to hire someone who they would like to be around 100 hours a week. In case you didn’t know, working in baseball entails long hours and little time off.
“Sell yourself without selling yourself.” – Robert Ford, Radio Play-By-Play, Houston Astros.
Almost every speaker stressed being yourself, while still being professional, to show that you can be trusted and are hirable. Almost everyone touched on the fact that those in hiring positions want to see what an applicant is really like and how they would handle pressure situations.
“Who are you?” – both Carol Melendez Clark of Devry and Todd “Parney” Parnell, Vice President and COO of the Richmond Flying Squirrels.
Clark’s advice was to write down your goals for the next five years, 10 years and even 15 years. From talking to other job seekers many of us know we want to work in baseball, but aren’t exactly sure in what capacity. Everyone who is hiring wants to see what talents we have, how we can contribute and what our aspirations are. Your resume will show your skill and the person hiring determines our worth to the organization based on our resumes. Only we can figure out and articulate our aspirations.
Parnell advised to think of three words that you would use in an interview to describe yourself. For instance, mine are loving, faithful and dedicated.
If you don’t know what your goals are yet, take some time to figure it out. Also realize that many people have a plan initially and end up doing something else. This was another theme of Sunday’s speakers.
Working in sales is a big part of these jobs. Sorry. Selling a product isn’t everyone’s idea of a rewarding career. But if “sales” is convincing other people how awesome baseball is and that they should invest in your team, plus you love baseball, is it really all that bad?
Money will be an issue. Since most of these jobs are internships, part-time and seasonal we’re not making a ton of money. If you want to work in sports to make Mike Trout money you are in for a rude awakening.
You have to have a passion for this career path because you will work long hours and holidays and not have a ton of off days. I worked with the Columbus Clippers as a broadcast intern this summer. We had something like 14 days without baseball all season, five due to awful weather (which were made up), meaning we had about 144 games in 153 days.
Quick side note, anyone who is looking into broadcasting, play-by-play, reporting or anything related to radio or television should find some time after 4:30 p.m. today (Monday) to head to the Odysea Lounge at the Hilton Bayfront (next to the Convention Center). There will be a meet-up for the Sportscaster’s Talent Agency of America. I know I don’t want to miss that.
This is going to be a great week and many people will make connections that will not just get them a job, but will lead to lifelong relationships. I’m looking forward to it.
As Crain said in conclusion Sunday, “Today is the beginning of the rest of your life. Don’t be stupid.”
— Darius Montez (@Thig08) December 8, 2014
Look carefully, as not one but two Vines are linked to within the above Tweet. The next post from Darius, as well as posts from his three Job Seeker Journal compatriots, will appear on Tuesday.