Name: Benjamin Jones
Current Job Title: General Manager
Company Name: Kinston Indians Baseball
First sports job: Intern Ė Johnson City Cardinals
College education: B.S. Sport and Leisure Management, East Tennessee State University
Executive most admired: Lee Landers Ė President of the Appalachian League
Benjamin Jones currently serves as the General Manager of the Kinston Indians baseball team. The Kinston Indians are the Advanced Class A Affiliate of the Cleveland Indians. This is his first year in this position, recently making the jump from collegiate summer baseball back to Minor League Baseball after spending four years as the General Manager of the Wilson Tobs in the Coastal Plain League. Prior to Wilson, Jones spent three years in various roles with the Johnson City Cardinals of the Appalachian League.
Tell us a little about your first job in the sports industry. How did you land it?
My first job was an intern for the Johnson City Cardinals in Tennessee. I needed a 48 hour practical experience to meet class requirements and I just walked into their offices and asked if I could volunteer. The team was being led by a new ownership group and a new management team, they were looking for more full time interns as the season was fast approaching and asked if I would like to do more than the practical experience and be an intern. Once I was able to secure permission from my university to do my internship early, I was onboard. I spent the summer in various places around the ball park. I sold concessions, merchandise, and tickets. I pulled tarp when it rained and set up the stadium on game days. It was everything that an intern can be expected to do in Minor League baseball and it was great. It changed my life, and I have always been happy that I just walked in and asked.
How does working in sports differ from working in other industries?
Iím not sure that it is different as I have never worked outside of sports. I would find it hard to believe that another industry could ever make you feel as much a part of a team/family as you do when you put in the hours that are required to work in Minor League Baseball.
What advice would you give to students looking to make sports their career?
Do whatever it takes to gain the experience you will need when you graduate from college. I worked for the Johnson City Cardinals for a year and half before I ever received a single pay check. I did receive school credit, but I went beyond what was required, and continued to work during the off season after my internship was finished. It paid off in the summer of 2005 when I was offered a seasonal position as the Director of Stadium Operations. Once that summer ended, I continued to volunteer at the office and was rewarded with a job offer to be the assistant general manager of the Johnson City Cardinals three weeks before I graduated from college in December of 2005. Another piece of advice: do not be afraid of taking a chance or moving somewhere that you are unfamiliar with. If you want an opportunity, you may have to chase it.
We all know that working in sports generally involves long hours. What are the perks that offset this?
The hours are long, but I find them to be enjoyable because they are centered on sports, and my staff is wonderful. I am fortunate enough, and I believe that many teams across the country are the same, that we are like a family here. We are friends, and we have fun, but we get work done, and we do it right. Other perks include access to tickets for other sporting events, a true offseason, where things arenít as busy as they are during the season, and the biggest for me is just doing something that I love.
When hiring, what major traits do you look for in a candidate?
The biggest thing I look for is if they can hold a conversation. So much of this job is talking to others and resolving small problems that fans run into each night. It is essential to have a strong set of intrapersonal communication skills. Somebody who can make a fan feel better about a situation and keep anything small from escalating into a bigger problem is always nice to have on staff. Candidates also are more attractive if they have even the smallest amount of experience prior to applying for a position. Doing something as small as volunteer experience in the ticket office at your school is good to see on a resume. If a candidate has any game day experience, it makes me more comfortable, because they should have an idea of the amount of preparation and work that goes into each game day.