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July 29, 2013
A group of Northwest Missouri State University students took advantage of an opportunity to explore sports management further July 24, gaining firsthand insights to the administrative side of a Major League Baseball franchise.
The eight Northwest students visited Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City, the home of the Kansas City Royals, where they toured parts of the ballpark and interacted with four members of the team’s front office staff, including 1972 Northwest alumnus Mike Arbuckle, who has enjoyed a long and successful career in Major League Baseball and now serves as senior advisor to the general manager for the Royals.
The visit was an optional capstone experience for students enrolled this summer in Principles of Sport Management, a special topics course taught online by Allison Hoffmann, an instructor of management in Northwest’s Department of Business. Students earn three credit hours for completing the course, which was developed with the assistance of a Center for Information Technology in Education grant.
The course provides an overview of the sports industry and insight into various industry segments, related operations, functions and career opportunities. The course covers marketing, community relations, legal and ethical challenges, contracts and negotiation, and corporate sponsorships, among other topics.
“Sport management is an area our students are extremely interested in,” Hoffmann said. “We receive a number of requests for information on sport management, and it was also my area of interest as an undergraduate and graduate student. When information on the CITE grant came out, I thought it was a great opportunity to connect student interest and my interest to develop the course online.”
With the course ending this week, Hoffmann extended the opportunity to visit Kauffman Stadium as a way for the students to hear professional baseball executives discuss some of the topics studied during the course.
“The students were able to hear firsthand from professionals with years of experience in the sport industry,” Hoffmann said. “I’m hopeful the students saw the many connections and application of course concepts during the trip to Kauffman Stadium. I truly believe this is a trip and experience the students will remember well past their time at Northwest.”
Hailey Kenkel, a senior recreation major from Maryville, enrolled in Principles of Sport Management as she prepares to enter Northwest’s athletic administration graduate program this fall. She says the sport management course provided her with a solid understanding of a broad range of skills needed in an athletic administration position.
“Through reading the textbook and participating in class discussions I’ve been exposed to several new concepts,” Kenkel said. “Since I’ve mostly been exposed to high school and collegiate level sports, it was helpful to learn about how professional sports operate. When people in the profession reiterate what we are learning in class it assures us, as students, that what we are learning is valuable.”
At the stadium, students toured the .390 Club and suite areas, where the Royals offer enhanced fan experiences and use innovative techniques to capture fans’ attention. The Royals benefit from some 2 million impressions each year in Kauffman Stadium with the help of 350 television screens throughout the ballpark that display advertising and promotions before, during and after games.
Students heard from Ben Aken, the Royals’ senior director of community relations, about how the team works with area non-profits and charity organizations to build their brands. Marketing Coordinator Matt Schulte shared with students how the team’s marketing staff promotes the Royals through giveaways and community events as well as traditional advertising and social media.
Additionally, the students gained insights to the organization’s philosophy and strategy related to player and personnel development. The Royals emphasize education throughout the organization, and more often sports management roles require a master’s degree, Arbuckle said. Staff members also put in long days and rarely get time away when the baseball season is underway.
“There are a lot of jobs in sports and a lot of opportunities in baseball,” Arbuckle said. “But the standards are pretty high in these positions. A lot of the positions start as internships.”
Arbuckle entered sports management after an arm injury derailed his aspirations to be a Major League pitcher. Through a personal connection, he began scouting for the Philadelphia Phillies in 1977 and joined the Atlanta Braves in 1980 for a 12-year stint that had him scouting at all levels. In 1992, he returned to the Phillies as director of scouting and contributed to team’s World Series championship in 2008. Arbuckle joined the Royals after that season and received a Legends of Scouting Award from the Professional Baseball Scouts Foundation earlier this year. Arbuckle earned his bachelor's degree in education from Northwest in 1972 and a master’s in secondary education from the University of South Alabama in 1979.
Dean Taylor, vice president of baseball operations and assistant general manager of the Royals, also talked with students about how he began his professional sports career, at age 22, by founding a minor league sports franchise. Taylor quickly worked his way up, joining the Royals’ front office staff in 1981 and later becoming assistant to the general manager. After a year as manager of baseball operations in Major League Baseball’s Office of the Commissioner, Taylor spent nine seasons with the Atlanta Braves, contributing to eight consecutive National League Eastern Division titles and the Braves’ 1995 World Series title. From 2000 to 2002 he was general manager of the Milwaukee Brewers, and he spent stints with the Los Angeles Dodgers and Cincinnati Reds before rejoining the Royals in 2006. Taylor graduated from Claremont McKenna College (Calif.) in 1973 with a bachelor’s degree in economics and from Ohio University in 1975 with a master’s degree in sports administration.
“It was fascinating to hear how Mr. Arbuckle had to work up the ladder in baseball from an area scout to where he is now,” said Kyle Goodburn, a junior business management major from Roeland Park, Kan. “It gave me a whole new perspective of sport management. Hearing those stories that the Royals’ executives told and hearing what they do on a daily basis made me think of what I would do if I was in their position.”
Mark Hornickel, Communication Manager
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Northwest Missouri State University
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