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Job seekers descend on Indianapolis

Fair at Winter Meetings tries to match candidates with teams
December 9, 2009
INDIANAPOLIS -- As a rule, those seeking jobs within Minor League Baseball need to accept that the pay will be low, the hours long and much of the work unsavory.

Additionally, advancement in the industry often requires relocation to a new team in a new part of the country, making it very difficult to establish roots in an area. Sound enticing?

For many job seekers, it does. The annual PBEO Job Fair is underway at the Indiana Convention Center, in and around the 500 Ballroom. There, hundreds of aspiring front office employees are applying for jobs in hopes of landing an interview and, ultimately, positions in the not-so-glamorous world of Minor League Baseball.

And with more than 700 applicants vying for fewer than half that many jobs, the competition has never been tougher.

Small Fish, Big Pond

PBEO, which stands for Professional Baseball Employment Opportunities, describes itself as the "Official Employment Service of Minor League Baseball." The annual Winter Meetings Job Fair was established in 1994, largely in response to the number of seekers who had begun descending on the meetings in the hopes of a strategic run-in with a sympathetic front office decision-maker.

The process has become streamlined and formalized, and the basic setup is as follows: Job Fair attendees peruse available opportunities in the "Job Posting Room" and apply for any and all positions in which they may be interested. Teams then choose who they would like to interview and a list of these fortunate individuals is soon made available in the "Interview Posting Room." The interviews take place in the cavernous 500 Ballroom, with each team manning its own numbered table.

It's an intimidating process, which in the best case scenario leads to a job in an intimidating industry. To give attendees an idea of what they're in for, the PBEO kicks off the Job Fair with the Business of Baseball Seminar. This day-long event features speeches by Minor League owners, team presidents and general managers who share personal anecdotes as well as resume and interview tips.

The event is emceed by Seamus Gallivan, a veteran of three Minor League teams who recently founded an event company called "Good Neighborhood." Also a veteran of the Job Fair (he landed a job with El Paso after attending in 2001), Gallivan lends his expertise and support to those now trying to find their way.

"I've been in [the job-seeker's] shoes," he said. "Before the Job Fair, I had never felt like such a small fish in a big pond. What I'd like to be able to do is help them develop the perspective I have now. I'm living for this game and this business, no matter what the specific circumstances are."

This long-term perspective necessitates a spirit of cooperation among the job seekers.

"There's an amazing mix of competition and camaraderie here," Gallivan said. "One thing we try to instill is that these other people applying for jobs, they are not your enemies. If this is your calling, then you'll be spending the rest of your life among these people."

And given the intensity and close quarters of the job-seeking process, the four-day event inevitability turns out to be a supremely educational experience.

"I have so much fun throughout the week, just seeing how much the job seekers grow in a matter of days," said Gallivan. "I enjoy talking with them each day and hearing about their experiences. Really, this is something I'm honored to be a part of."

How the Cream Rises

One of the teams hiring at the Job Fair is the Omaha Royals, Kansas City's Triple-A affiliate. The two positions the club is looking to fill are both paid internships, one in ticketing and the other in group sales. Despite the unglamorous nature of these opportunities, the O-Royals received 80 applicants (in addition to 65 who applied when the team advertised the positions locally).

O-Royals assistant general manager Rob Crain, who plays a key role in the hiring process, took the time to break down the team's decision-making process.

Step 1: Sift through resumes.

Of 80 resumes received, the O-Royals interviewed 20 applicants. So what are the biggest resume no-nos?

"You can tell when people haven't proofread. ... We had one guy spell 'advertising' with a 'z,' and that immediately went in the 'No' pile," Crain explained. "It's also frustrating when they don't elaborate on previous experience; but on the flip side, no one wants to look at a 12-page resume that details everything that the person has ever done. There's a happy balance there somewhere."

Step 2: Conduct Interview No. 1

The first interview takes place in the 500 Ballroom, and during this process the team narrowed the 20 applicants down to four.

"We're looking for sales people, so they shouldn't be too conservative when they're talking to us," Crain said. "A lot of people won't even have one question to ask. If, for example, you're thinking of moving from California to Omaha, then I'd think you'd have at least one question to ask of me. And some people come across as too by-the-book, speaking in clichés and sounding unnatural."

So what makes for a good interview?

"The people we connect with are outgoing and good at speaking off-the-cuff," Crain said. "There shouldn't be a lot of 'umms' and dead time in the conversation. It also helps to show a genuine interest in what we're talking about. That way, it doesn't feel like an interview so much as just a good conversation."

Step 3: Interview No. 2

With the wheat separated from the chaff, Crain often moves his operation to a more unorthodox location.

"It's like my dad always told me, 'You don't know anybody until you've had a drink with them,'" he said.

So the next interview often takes place in a local drinking establishment.

"That second interview is less about the job and more about the person, so the conversation is more detailed and specific," Crain said. "My thought is that I'm going to be spending way too many hours with you, so we have to ask ourselves, 'Will this person fit with our organization? Do we see them clashing with anyone?'"

Step 4: The Hire

As of Wednesday afternoon, the O-Royals had not filled the two positions. But they had made offers to several applicants, well aware that the applicant may be weighing several offers of his or her own.

"It happens sometimes that we'll make an offer and get turned down, because [the applicant] has received a full-time offer somewhere else," said Crain. "But we plan on having these positions filled before we depart [Indianapolis]."

The Seeker

Job Fair attendees run the gamut in terms of age and background, but the most sizable demographic is young, college-educated males with relatively limited professional experience. Nick Gagalis, a 23-year-old aspiring broadcaster attending his second Job Fair, fits that description. A Boston University graduate, he has spent the last three seasons calling games for the Brewster Whitecaps of the amateur Cape Cod League.

"I think I have the same story as a lot of people," Gagalis said. "I stopped playing baseball but wanted to still do something within the sport. I know it well enough to talk about it and came to the conclusion that I would love to stay connected through broadcasting."

That said, Gagalis has developed an interest in virtually all aspects of Minor League Baseball game operations. Just ask the Hudson Valley Renegades.

"The Renegades had 21 open positions and I applied for 18 or 19 of them," he said. "I wanted to show how versatile I can be. If there's anything I can feasibly do, I'll do it."

On Tuesday, Gagalis interviewed with the Lynchburg Hillcats as well as the aforementioned Renegades.

"[The Renegades] first asked me about general stuff, like why would I be a good fit with their organization," said Gagalis, who was interviewing for a general internship position. "But when they asked, 'How willing are you to have fun?' I talked about how in Brewster I put together a video of me eating the donut burger that they had at the concession stand."

The interview with the Hillcats, for an assistant broadcaster position, was more straightforward.

"They wanted to know how dedicated I would be to doing hard things, right down to cleaning the toilets," Gagalis said. "It was clear that the position was about the team first and broadcasting second. ... I think I was able to show just how appreciative I would be for the opportunity to connect with the community and interact with the listeners."

As of Wednesday afternoon, Gagalis had not heard back from either team with which he interviewed. Regardless, he was already deeming his time in Indianapolis an unqualified success.

"Even if I don't get anything, I was really impressed by all the networking I've done. I didn't even know I had it in me," he said. "I gained so much firsthand experience here, and that's what I like the most."

Benjamin Hill is a reporter for