More than 165 million Americans, about 70 percent of the population, claim they follow sports. Each year, they pack stadiums and tune in to networks to watch their favorite teams. With a plethora of college teams and professional clubs from the five major sports, it’s no surprise Dallas is considered one of the best sports cities in the country. The games are an integral part of the sports industry, but they’re just a small part of the booming business. Professional athletes, sports marketers, agents and philanthropists from our neighborhood share what it’s really like to work in the industry worth $700 billion globally.
The first time Scott Lonergan arrived at spring training with the Boston Red Sox, he saw 80 other pitchers competing for a spot on the 12-man roster. “It was overwhelming not knowing where I stood on that depth chart,” he says. The right-hander out of Rice played three years with the club’s minor league teams before he went on to pitch for Germany’s Regensburg Legionare. He later worked at the team level, serving as advanced scouting coordinator for the San Diego Padres and as amateur scouting coordinator for the Chicago Cubs. But he never forgot his professional playing experience and wanted to help other young athletes succeed. In 2015, Lonergan moved to Lakewood as a certified MLB Players Association agent with the Ballengee Group. Some of his clients include Roger Clemens, Ryan Pressly, Chad Pinder, Caleb Smith, Garrett Cooper and Austin Slater.
Why he became an MLB agent: I worked in two different MLB front offices. When I left to join an agency, I wanted to leverage my playing experience and front office experience to help athletes maximize their window of opportunity. One of my biggest priorities is to help athletes understand what their player development plan is by communicating with teams, the general manager, farm directors — whoever necessary. MLB clubs provide a lot of resources to athletes in their player development system but can still become spread thin not getting with players on a personalized micro level. I take pride in helping supplement where teams fall short.
Biggest misconception about being an agent: The two things you hear about being an agent are, “It’s glamorous” because you get to hang out with athletes, and “It’s sleazy” because there’s a lot of stuff that goes on under the table. Both are true. People always think this industry is different than it really is. They watched “Jerry Maguire” and thought it was sexy. It’s fun to work in sports, but the reality is, it’s high stakes. It’s a cutthroat industry. We hired some interns, and one of the kids we hired ended up quitting. On his way out he said, “When I signed up for this job, I thought it was 9-5 p.m. not 9-5 a.m.” Games are played on weekends and holidays. By the time (athletes) shower, change and eat, they call at 11 or 12. If you’re not answering the phone, some other agent is. You have to have a very understanding wife and kids.
The dark side of the industry: A lot of times you’re lucky to work with players who are great people, but I’ve gotten burned along the way. I was given the advice, “Just get hired more than you get fired,” and I can’t buy into that.
Favorite sports memory: I think the most fun I ever had playing baseball was pitching for Rice in the College World Series. I was doing it with my best friends. College baseball was not just a team, but also a family. I did have the opportunity to pitch in AAA for the Pawtucket Red Sox and remember facing veteran big leaguers like Jose Cruz Jr. and Brett Gardner, but I would still give the edge to pitching in Omaha for the Owls.
Hometown: Poway, California
Job title: MLBPA certified agent
Alma mater: Rice University
Sports hero: Tony Gwynn
Position: Pitcher for Rice University and the Boston Red Sox
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