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Dave St. Peter's Meteoric Rise and How to Get a Job in Sports


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If you're like me, you love sports and hope to make a career out of it. Dave St. Peter spoke at my school this week, and this is what I learned.

On Monday, Dave St. Peter was kind enough to speak about his rapid ascension through the Twins front office and his career at Saint John’s University in Collegeville, MN. Now, this was a very cool opportunity. St. Peter’s late father, Dom, was a 1954 graduate of Saint John’s, making this opportunity for St. Peter to speak extra special.

For those of you who don’t know, I am a sophomore at Saint John’s. As a lifelong Twins fan and someone who aspires to have a job in professional sports some day, I knew this speech would be very inspiring and educational to me. 

For those of you who also want to work in sports, or even if you are wondering just how St. Peter went from intern to CEO in only twelve years, I have a few main takeaways from this speech.

  1. Be willing to put yourself out there and create a portfolio

Growing up, St. Peter was a kid who knew he loved sports. He was always obsessing over statistics and was a sports fan no matter what the season was. He credited his father for passing the love of sports on to him.

St. Peter admitted that he was by no means a star athlete as a youngster. He played American Legion Baseball but was cut his junior year, motivating him to work harder.

He said he knew he wanted to work in professional sports and saw his path to doing so through the business world. So when he got to the University of North Dakota he decided to get a student job in the UND Sports Information Department and worked there for three years, covering various sports extensively. Additionally, he wrote for the UND student newspaper and was an aide for the Grand Forks Herald.

After doing all of these things, St. Peter knew he wanted a career in professional sports. However, being from Bismarck, ND, he did not have any local professional teams he could cover. So, in 1989 after college, he moved to the Twin Cities and lived with his sister in hopes of finding a job with one of the local sports teams.

One thing St. Peter had going well for him before applying for internships was that he had a great “portfolio”. At his speech, he told us that if any of us want to work in pro sports, we should build a portfolio. By portfolio, he meant a bunch of examples of your work that you could show to potential employers that showcase your skills and why you should be the one getting the internship. This could include projects, writing, even contributing on sites such as Twins Daily. It is important to put yourself out there, be confident, create a portfolio, and publish your work.

St. Peter applied for an internship with the Twins. Denied. He applied for an internship with the Vikings. Denied. He even applied for an internship with the new expansion NBA team in town, the Timberwolves. Denied. Finally, he was accepted on an internship to work for the Minnesota North Stars. After six months with the North Stars, he got an internship with the Twins.

  1. Be flexible in what type of job you take

In 2015, St. Peter said “When I started working in sports, if I had to pick one, I probably would have picked baseball. But I wasn’t at a point where I could be picky, I had to be broad. I was open to basketball, football, baseball, even the minor leagues, and certainly hockey.”

There are a lot of people throughout the country who want to work in sports. With a high demand for jobs in sports, it’s highly unlikely you’ll get to choose what job you want. St. Peter knew that hockey wasn’t his favorite sport, but he knew if that was his only opportunity to work in sports, so be it.

Additionally, people in sports have connections. It is likely that employees with the Twins know employees with the Vikings, employees with the Vikings know employees with the Timberwolves, etc. Below is a photo of St. Peter, Vikings GM Rick Spielman, Timberwolves President Chris Wright, Minnesota United President Nick Rogers, and Wild Chief Operating Officer Matt Majka at a community event in 2017.

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Even if you are offered a job that is not your first option, have a positive attitude and show your skills in that job because you never know what connections you may make. St. Peter’s first job with the Twins was managing a team pro shop. He said he wasn’t all that thrilled about working in retail but he knew he wanted to work in baseball so he kept a positive attitude and learned many valuable skills in this position including how to hire people, fire people, and deal with customers.

  1. Be Patient

Things won’t always go your way in the sports industry. That’s fine. St. Peter was turned down numerous times before he ultimately got a job in sports and worked his way up to Twins President of Baseball Operations. Recent World Series winning manager Brian Snitker of the Atlanta Braves has been a coach in the Braves system since 1982 and wasn’t named manager of the major league squad until 2016. Patience pays off.

Conclusion

Dave St. Peter being generous enough to come up to a college in the middle of November and speak to a bunch of college students shows why he has been so successful in his job. He understands the importance of giving back to the community that has supported his team so greatly over the years. He got to the top of the Twins organization not only because of his extensive baseball knowledge, but because he treats people right. 

If you want to work in sports, put your name out there, create a portfolio to showcase your work, be flexible, be patient, and treat people the right way. 

 

Thank you for reading, and Go Twins!

 


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Thanks Andrew, It's a bit too late for me but I encourage you to go for it. You have the ability, understanding and desire to do well. The Twins would do well to hire you. The Twins hired a young Andy Macphail and he was their best FO ever. If the Twin hire you in this capacity please don't move on.

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I'd encourage you, and anyone else, interested in working in sports to start now. Like St Peter did, get jobs at school. Look into different analytics companies for a job doing video review next season (some did remote work this year, but that may change next year so maybe not possible). Even if it's not baseball. PFF does their video review remotely so you can get a job for them anywhere. And be ready to work those jobs for pennies with crazy hours.

Follow, and interact with, as many people on Twitter and other social media sites as possible. Give them your ideas and become a regular respondent so they know who you are. Writing for TD is a great situation for you as well. 

Go to the Winter Meetings (this year being more difficult, obviously), but get down there and take interviews, shake hands, get your name out there. Don't expect to get a job, but learn from the process. Learn what teams are looking for and how to interview better. 

Learn the history of the sport you want to work in. I mean as much as possible. And not just the players, but how the game was played, CBA changes, FO strategy, pitcher usage, lineup construction (assuming baseball is your preferred sport), everything. Teams can find a ton of kids to come in and work for nothing and do the grunt work. They want the creatives who see things from a different angle and can bring them new ideas. To do that you need to know what ideas have already been out there. Everyone you're competing against knows the new stats so throwing around WAR numbers won't impress them. Create your own. Even if it's not great, have it be new. Challenge the norm in what you write for TD and how you interact with team officials on social media to stand out.

And, like St Peter said, and you're saying here, just get your foot in the door. Start in the minors. Start with the northwoods league. Start wherever you can as soon as you can. St Peter is an exception, not a rule. The sports industry is cutthroat and the sooner you get in the sooner you can learn and advance. Don't wait til you're done with school to start looking for internships and jobs. No offense to St Johns (it's a good school), but you'll be going up against people with much more impressive names at the top of their degrees. Don't bank on that degree meaning much. It's all about getting in, building connections, and impressing with the work you do once you're in the door. Don't put off waiting to get in the door. Kick that guy in now!

Good luck. It's not easy breaking into the sports industry, but it's also not impossible. If you're smart, willing to work for nothing early on, and good at expressing your ideas you have a real shot. Take every chance you get to add another bullet point to your resume. You never know which person you meet at which tiny job in the industry will set your path up the ranks.

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Heh, in my line of work, I more or less give the same advice. I work in a very specific field that is hard to get into and up the ladder, so when I speak to college students I tell them to get experience any way they can, even if they have to create it themselves. I also tell them what courses to take that would be specifically beneficial.

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Gotta figure out the emphasis you want to take, and don't feel bad if it is a different sport. Analytics/Information, public relations/press, operations of a ballpark, staffing and hiring, sales, marketing. If you can afford the minors, use that as a stepping stone, too.

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You’re young and able to chase your dreams. Good luck to you! I only hope Dave St Peter made it clear his unique rise is one in a million, not the norm. Another bullet point I would add is have a nest egg and support. Because as @chpettit19mentioned, you will start working crazy hours for pennies.

If you’re not already working for one of the St. John’s sports teams, do it now. Get the experience, and network like crazy. Maybe you’ll crack into it unlike myself, and tens of thousands of kids who graduate with a sports management type degree. 

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You don't even have to start out working in sports at all.  Kevin Mather eventually became president of the Mariners, and his Wikipedia bio says he spent his first 5 years after graduation working as a CPA (Deloitte, I found elsewhere), before getting hired into the Twins organization in a financial capacity.  (His Seattle tenure came to an unfortunate end but I don't think that's germane to the discussion of getting one's foot in the door.)

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Andrew, it is fun to read a nontraditional article on TD - and I agree with other comments that while getting to the very top like he did is an exception, there are a lot of cool and rewarding jobs along the way.  Find ways to round out your skills and give yourself an angle and make contacts that others may not have - work the team store, volunteer for their camps and events, and most certainly keep writing!  And while the Twins didn’t deliver as much on the field this year, St. Peter and the entire org are first class in how they interact with the community.  SJU may not be as well known nationally as other schools, clearly St Peter knows the school, the Twin Cities business community is very connected and Johnnies are everywhere.  Thanks for a wonderful weekend read!

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So much of what St. Peter talks about is really just perserverence. Be willing to take job risks. Be willing to move. Be willing to start your own business, even. Network with people. It's a recipe for higher income and more options in terms of where you want to be in any company or industry hierarchy across the board. If you remain committed, you'll eventually find yourself in a spot you want.

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