Calling the Shots
Working in the front offices of professional sports franchises, prominent alumni have been able to turn their love of sports into careers.
The 2008 World Series is only a few days away, and the Tampa Bay Rays are due to host the first two games. It’s the first time the Rays had been put in the international spotlight since Brian Auld ’95 began working for the organization.
Auld paces in his office in St. Petersburg, Fla.
It’s his job to make sure everything runs smoothly for the biggest games of the Rays’ season. His mind churns with all the possible scenarios of what could go wrong.
What if the lights don’t work?
What happens if the TV feed cuts out?
We’ll look really bad if anything happens, and it will all be my fault.
But despite his worries, the games go off without a hitch. Yet another success in Auld’s career in professional sports.
Auld went to Tampa Bay to work with Matt Silverman ’94 as Silverman took over as president for the Tampa Bay Devil Rays. Auld attributes his career with the Rays to Silverman, who pulled him away from his job as a teacher in Palo Alto, Calif. to join him in Florida.
“I tell people all the time that, when I was graduating business school, we thought it would have been cool to go run a sock factory,” Auld said, “so it was above the coolest thing in the world that we had the opportunity to run a Major League Baseball team.”
FC Dallas President Dan Hunt ’96 believes the school set him on a path toward success in business, especially owing to the rigor of the multifaceted curriculum.
“Obviously the standards that are set there — the personal, academic and athletic standards — teach you to expect more from yourself, and they teach you that you are capable,” Dan said. “St. Mark’s truly prepares you for life.”
Dan’s brother, Clark Hunt ’83, who currently serves as chairman and CEO of the Kansas City Chiefs and FC Dallas, said his time and experiences at the school are what set him on his way to a career in professional sports.
“My experience playing competitive sports was important to the career that I ended up choosing,” Clark said. “It taught me a lot about what it meant to be part of the team and the importance of the team as opposed to the individual for an organization to have success.”
Clark took over the Chiefs after he and Dan’s father, Lamar Hunt, for whom the main athletic complex here is named, passed away in 2006. His favorite part of being involved in professional sports and what brought him into the industry is the chance to be a part of a company that feeds off a winning mentality.
“I think being a part of those successful organizations and the type of culture that allows teams to be successful is probably what I've enjoyed the most,” Clark said.
Silverman feels the same way about the mentality of professional sports, and he attributes a large portion of that attitude to the environment that the Rays have created in recent years.
“It comes down to the people I work with on a daily basis. We enjoy each other’s company, we respect and challenge each other, and we’re all oriented towards common goals,” Silverman said.
Clark’s most exciting moments come when a team he is a part of wins a championship. During his ongoing tenure as a part of Major League Soccer, three of his teams won either the MLS Cup or the Supporters’ Shield, won by obtaining the best regular season record in the league. But much of his excitement stems from the satisfaction of the players, coaches and the team’s supporters.
“First of all, I'm happy for the fans because they are the lifeblood of every professional franchise, and they invest so much of their time in the organization,” Clark said. “Second and very close behind, I'm happy for everyone in the organization who is part of it and who has worked so hard to make it a reality.”
The high points of their careers have not, however, been without low points. Auld and Silverman consistently face the challenge of competing in the same division of the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees, two of the biggest-budget teams in the MLB. It’s a challenge that makes their jobs harder each day, but they also relish the difficulty.
“Being a small market club is the reason Matt and I were given the opportunity to run a baseball team in our late 20s,” Auld said. “We have had to be innovative, become smarter, make more out of less, and that is a really, really big challenge.”
For Dan, the hardest part of working in professional sports is that a typical team takes on more layers than a typical business.
“In your typical business, you’re driven by financial results,” Dan said. “You either make money or you lose money. Then in sports, you add on the layer of winning or losing. With those four things you can have multiple results, like you could win on the field, but lose money, or vice versa. That, at times, can be a huge challenge.”
During both winning and losing seasons, Auld, Clark, Dan and Silverman return their offices daily to keep their franchises up and running, almost always receiving far less acclaim than the athletes on the field. But for them, the thrill of the game never vanishes, and none of them think it ever will.
“I have a passion for the sports business,” Clark said. “I don't know if I picked the career, but the career certainly picked me, and I love what I do every day.”