Sports Career Spotlight

We've been featuring executives from the sports industry since 2001. Naturally, some of these executives have moved onward and upward in their sports careers. We believe these profiles remain relevant and valuable because they highlight the hard work, dedication, brilliant successes, and lessons learned in a variety of career paths through the sports industry.

Mike Nutter

Mike Nutter, General Manager

Fort Wayne Wizards Baseball Team


Being a General Manager for a minor league team is different than that of the majors. “If the team on the field performs poorly, I’m not the one to come after,” explains Mike Nutter, General Manager of the Fort Wayne Wizards Minor League Baseball Club. His job has less influence on the operations side and more on the business end.

“For the most part, everybody on our staff is a salesperson. However, probably myself more so than anybody, I lead the way in terms of corporate sales and season ticket sales. That is number one on my list of responsibilities.”

It is also Mike’s job to put together the group that will accomplish that mission. “Number two, or better yet, 1A, is the management and hiring of the staff. We’ve got a team that has seen an increase in attendance for three straight years after seven years of going down. It is a matter of all of us getting out and beating the drum in sales.”

Baseball is in Mike’s blood. He grew up in a family of “big time baseball fans” just outside of San Francisco and Oakland in a town called Danville. He also knew that if he were to have a career in baseball, it would most likely be off the field. “I knew in high school that I wasn’t going to be good enough to keep playing and make a living. I went to high school with a guy named Randy Wynn. He now plays for the Seattle Mariners and he was one of the guys traded for Lou Piniella. Another friend of mine is a big league pitcher over in Japan.”

Mike realized the talent level of these players was far above his own. “This was a chance for me to say, hey, I am not anywhere close to these guys, but it’s a passion that I have and I want to somehow make a career out of it.”

Nutter spent four summers as an intern with the Kane County Cougars, a minor league affiliate of the Florida Marlins based just outside Chicago. “My dad was transferred there from California so it worked out perfect. We moved to a town where I didn’t know anybody and a minor league team had just moved into town that year. It was a chance to get in on the ground floor with a team. Knowing that I was only going to be a freshman in college, they were happy to have me in their organization.”

Before starting his pursuit of sports management at Bowling Green State University, he spent two years at the California State University of Chico. “That wasn’t doing it for me so I did some research on sports management programs. I ended up selecting Bowling Green in Ohio and went there for a couple of years. I finished college with a sports management major and a minor in general marketing.”

When his internship was up with the Cougars, they didn’t have a position for Nutter. But his experience and hard work earned him a position with the Brevard County Manatees. “The Cougars were very gracious and called one of their affiliates in Brevard County and I went to work down there for one year. It was a bit of a culture shock for lack of a better term. Not because of the market, I loved the town, the people and everything else, but I left a Kane County Cougars team that was drawing 400,000 per year and went to Brevard where we led the league in attendance at 140,000 per year.”

If you are looking to “Work in Sports”, Nutter says it is best to get in the industry as early as possible. In other words, don’t wait until the last minute. “I am getting a lot of calls and emails from people who are saying, ‘I graduate this May and I need an internship. I am really excited about getting my foot in the door; I am really looking for an opportunity.’ I’m not here to tell anybody how to do it, but for us you need to show that kind of commitment early on. Not just to the Fort Wayne Wizards but in general.”

Mike added that a few of the interns they will be hiring for work this summer were interviewed late last year. “We have a couple of interns that are coming in this year that we started talking to last November; I would say the first interview was around Thanksgiving.”

Another suggestion is to test the waters and make sure this is what you want to do. “We’ve had a lot of proactive students here recently who have come in for a week or two during either Spring Break or Christmas Break that we don’t have any relationship with. They might call from Indiana University, or Purdue, and ask if they can come in for a week or two and just go to a few meetings. They just want to try to learn whether or not this is something they want to do before they get too far along in the program. They are also trying to get their name out there and get on the map as much as they can so when it is time to hire interns, maybe we will consider them.”

So again, the bottom line is to get a head start on your career while you are in college. “We just try to emphasize to get going on it early and try to lock on to something you’ll enjoy.”

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