NIU today | Sports Management Careers Community Learning Series advises the public: Find an Opportunity, Grab “Those Baseballs”
Success, says Dan Migalais about the baseballs you choose to pick up.
Taken literally, it’s what launched the career of legendary Major League Baseball skipper Sparky Anderson. Figuratively, it is a mantra that encourages you to find and seize the opportunities that come your way.
For Migala, who gave the opening speech on October 17 at the NIU College of Education Fall 2018 Community Learning Seriesit’s a philosophy that landed him in the Baseball Hall of Fame at the age of 32 without ever stepping onto the field.
“If there is one person in this world you should trust,” said Migala, Co-Founder and Chief Innovation Officer of 4BEFORE“It’s you and your dreams.”
Migala shared details of his life at an event dedicated to sports management careers, a strong masters level program in the Department of Kinesiology and Physical Education It’s okay add an undergraduate degree next fall.
A trio of sports management alumni – Matt Gonzalez, Malcolm Neely and Mike Olejniczak – joined current student Allison Einhouse in the evening’s panel discussion, talking about their current jobs and internships and offering advice to students and even parents in the room.
Their stories performed well, especially Neely’s in response to a question about the importance of experience.
Now a marketing coordinator for the Chicago Bears, Neely previously completed an unpaid internship with the Chicago Sky. To support himself, he drove for Uber morning and evening. He knew he was ‘hungry’ for it – and that ‘if you really want it, it will come’.
“I could have given up,” he said, “but I wanted this experience.”
When he did an internship with the Windy City Bulls, he invited the president of the organization to lunch.
Later, while applying to the Bears, he wrote thank you cards to everyone he came in contact with during the interview and later wrote “pre-interview” letters to staff members at the reception he knew he would meet.
Gonzalez, meanwhile, encouraged the students in the audience to make the most of any opportunities that came their way. The Director of Sporting Events and Facility Operations for NIU Athletics originally completed an internship in the marketing department.
“Take the task they give you and do it to the best of your ability,” Gonzalez said. “Be proud of what you do and make it the most important thing you do because people will notice.”
Einhouse, who held positions in five states where she didn’t know anyone, offered succinct but powerful advice: “Be fearless. Olejniczak advised students to challenge themselves, raise their hands and say “yes” instead of “no”.
“You have to show a willingness to grow and learn,” he said.
For the evening’s keynote speaker, the road to the top of the sports industry involved a lot of these philosophies.
Raised in Schaumburg, Migala loved baseball but “couldn’t hit a curveball to save my life.”
A journalism graduate from the University of Missouri in 1996, he quickly landed a job at Team Marketing Report, where he wrote about the business and financial aspects of sports.
It took Migala – fresh out of college and just 23 – behind the scenes of professional and college sports as he covered events including the Olympics, World Series, Baseball Winter Meetings and NCAA Final Four. .
His company also published books, so he approached his boss with an idea. He would write a book about how sports teams could make money on the internet.
“No one will ever buy tickets on this video game machine,” the boss told him, “but I respect your passion. You could prove me wrong. I’ll post it.”
And Migala followed up on his proposal by interviewing NFL commissioners and team owners for “Interactive Sports Strategies.”
When published, the book caught the attention of the Chicago Bears, the latest NFL team to launch a website. The chairman of the board at the time, Mike McCaskey, telephoned Migala personally; this call led Migala to create www.chicagobears.com: “I built it from scratch.”
The suburban kid was also lucky enough to work with Walter Payton’s family to create a tribute page for the one and only ‘Sweetness’, who died in 1999. Eventually, Migala was given a game ball and found a mentor . in Bears President and CEO Ted Phillips.
“I was paid to learn – paid to build relationships,” Migala said. “It was one of those times when those baseballs show up in your life. You can write down all those moments that start to change your life.
While searching for his book “Wisdom of the Canoe”, in which he interviewed dozens of Baseball Hall of Famers, including Willie Mays, Ryne Sandburg and Kirby Puckett, Migala learned how Sparky Anderson worked his way into the game.
As a young boy, Anderson found baseballs left over from the University of Southern California team and then tried to resell them. He didn’t turn a profit – the balls were sadly inscribed ‘Property of USC’, but Anderson became a bat boy for the team as he began his Hall of Fame journey at the age of 8 years.
“Do you have time to pick up those baseballs?” Migala asked his NIU audience, encouraging them to “dream big” about “something you could never imagine happening to you.”
He also proposed five rules for success.
- Relationship Building vs. Networking. Find five people who have the job you want, he said, and write each an “old-school letter.”
- Focus on opportunities rather than revenue. Migala didn’t receive any extra money for writing “Interactive Sports Strategies”, but he made some pretty powerful friends doing it.
- be a nice person. When Mike Veeck, son of the legendary Bill Veeck, first heard Migala speak to an audience, he encouraged him to become a better speaker. Migala did this by volunteering to read books such as “The Little Engine That Could” and “Oh, the Places You’ll Go” to Ms. Johnson’s class at the Oscar Meyer Magnet School in Chicago.
- Be unique. As a journalist and storyteller surrounded by accountants, Migala was often the only person in the room with “the mentality of a journalist”. He might ask questions, such as “What if 7-Eleven owned the White Sox?” This ultimately led to his idea of starting White Sox games at 7:11 a.m. – presented by 7-Eleven.
- Faith. Kirby Puckett told Migala about his first batting in the majors, when he came out. Back in the dugout, Puckett realized he had been trying not to fail rather than trying to do his best. By replacing his fear with faith, he went 4 for 5 the rest of the game.
The NIU College of Education’s Community Learning Series brings together experts from a variety of disciplines and professions to discuss topics ranging from concussions and the time children spend getting started with technology to life transitions for autistic and suicidal young adults .