Sports management lands major position with Washington Nationals World Series champion

Mike Scharfenberg ’20 says his teachers taught him to focus on the small details, in his classes and in his quest for an internship and a career in the field, and the lesson paid off immediately.

April 17, 2020

By Jackie Hennessey, Contributing Author

Mike Scharfenberg ’20

When Mike Scharfenberg ’20 was looking for an internship with the New York Yankees, competing with nearly 3,000 people for the job, he thought about what his sports management teachers told him to be resourceful and find a way to stand out.

Paying attention to the smallest details and making personal connections, they told him, makes the difference in the field of sports management, especially in finding an internship or a job.

In a final round of interviews with the Yankees, Scharfenberg heard everyone describe themselves as hard workers. He didn’t go that route.

“I like to say that I have an impact, that I want to leave a legacy wherever I’ve been, and I try to let people know that I was there,” he says.

He landed the internship, “a dream” for a lifelong athlete, sports fan – and Yankee fan. He spent last summer working in ticket sales for one of the world’s premier sports franchises, making 120 phone calls a day, making personal connections with potential customers because, he says, “I don’t sell no ticket. I am selling an experience.

When he needed a quick break from calls, he’d come out of his office, take a couple of turns, and stare at the expanse of the empty stadium.

He loved her.

Now, Scharfenberg has fulfilled a new dream: Last month, he was hired as an inside sales representative by the 2019 world champion Washington Nationals, a position he chose from six job offers he had. received. He plans to move to DC shortly after graduating and will begin work in June.

“You Gotta Get the Juice Flowing”

Scharfenberg says the lessons he learned in college helped him get into the big leagues. “Through the various courses I took, I developed exceptional skills in time management, verbal and non-verbal communication, and problem solving,” he says.

His sports management teachers pushed him to be creative, whether it was a mission or a major project. They gave him ideas but, he says, they let him figure out the best way to get there. This prompted him to strategize as he began his job search last fall.

He knew he wanted to work in Major League Baseball, so he researched and found the names of the league’s team sales managers. He sent them a message on LinkedIn, letting them know that he was a high school student, had interned with the Yankees, and was the sales project manager for GamePlanU, a startup founded by another of his mentors, Rob Thompson ’90, director of development for the University of New Haven.

Scharfenberg asked each sales manager if they could “just give them a quick call” so they could find out more about their sales department.

Almost all said yes.

“Nobody else was doing that,” he says. The messages led to phone conversations, interviews with MLB teams and, later, multiple job offers.

His interview with the Nationals lasted seven hours, including three hours of cold calling so the management team and sales manager could hear how he and everyone else interviewed was communicating. On calls, he told potential clients, “This is my first week here. I would love to hear your experience of this World Series. As a guy from Connecticut, I didn’t really feel that way. Tell me how you felt.

He could feel the bonds he was making. “You have to get the juices flowing and get people to relive their memories,” he explains.

Washington National Stadium
National Park Stadium (Photo by William F. Yurasko, used under Creative Commons 2.0).
“The University of New Haven was everything I could have hoped for – and more”

Scharfenberg says the meandering journey he took to get there makes the result all the more enjoyable.

He grew up in Newtown, Connecticut, a dual-sport athlete, baseball and basketball, and decided to pursue a degree in physical education at Central Connecticut State University. Three years later, he realized that teaching was not what he wanted to do. He left school and took a job selling memberships at Club 24 Concept Gyms, and he knew from the first five minutes that selling was his calling.

His investigation of curriculum in sports management programs eventually led him to the University of New Haven, and he was quickly sold on his stellar reputation and how it would allow him to study the business side of the sport.

“The University of New Haven was everything I could have hoped for – and more,” he says. He liked the department’s emphasis on experiential learning. He went after every opportunity and his teachers noticed his drive right away.

“Mike has been focused on his future from the first day I met him,” says Ceyda Mumcu, Ph.D., associate professor of sports management. “He understood the importance of hard work and recognized the connections between what we do as teachers in the classroom and how it would help him build a successful career. He took each assignment as an opportunity to build himself and prepare for the industry.

She says Scharfenberg made “an incredible impression within the Yankee organization. His supervisor said Mike exceeded their expectations and made the job easy, while uplifting his fellow sales associates and supporting the group for the collective goal.

“He works tirelessly, develops skills and builds relationships,” continues Dr Mumcu. “I admire his passion and work ethic. It’s no surprise to see him land a job with 2019 World Series champion Washington Nationals.

“I’m ready to go”

In her classes, Kimberly Mahoney, Ph.D., CVP, Associate Professor of Sports Management, urges her students to be proactive and take ownership of their education and career, and she says that’s exactly what has happened. says Scharfenberg.

“Michael is eager to learn and his work ethic is second to none, but he’s especially good at networking and creating opportunities,” says Dr. Mahoney. “We helped provide the basics through his education, but he took charge, developed the skills and made it possible.

“He developed transferable sales skills through his work with Club 24 Concept Gyms, which opened the door for him for his sales internship with the New York Yankees, and his internship with the Hartford Yard Goats,” she continues. . “Secondly, his proactive networking and engagement created meaningful connections throughout the industry, which directly led to many interviews and job opportunities.”

“Sport is about hope, it gives people a common reason to unite and come together.” Mike Scharfenberg ’20

Scharfenberg says he chose the Nationals among his many job offers because he was “blown away by the management team.” He knew he would learn from them and have the opportunity to grow in his career. It is already developing a five-year plan and a ten-year plan. Although still a Yankees fan, he loved the Nationals debacle and the fight they showed throughout their championship run.

While the world has changed dramatically in the short time since he took the job – with the coronavirus pandemic and the suspended baseball season – Scharfenberg says he is confident that when the sport returns, he will be able to remind potential clients of everything. that sport – and baseball – has to offer them and their customers.

“Sport is about hope,” he says. “It gives people a common reason to unite and come together.”

He is eager to get to work. “I’m thrilled to have the opportunity to continue my growth as a young professional by learning from some of the best business executives in the sports industry,” he said. “I can’t wait for that first moment, walk into the stadium and say ‘this is the start’. I’m ready to go.

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