Sports Business student’s leadoff job is a hit
By Rick Vacek
GCU News Bureau
Molly Jordan loves football. Huge Philadelphia Eagles fan. It’s her favorite sport.
Dr. Mark Clifford loves helping students find jobs in the sports industry. Huge fan of building liaisons with every franchise in the Valley. It’s his favorite task.
So that’s how Jordan wound up with a job in … baseball.
Jordan, who graduated from Grand Canyon University last spring with her bachelor’s degree in Sports Management, just completed her first season as a ballpark operations specialist for the Cleveland Indians even though she says that before this experience, “I was not a big baseball fan.”
It is a classic example of how this type of work works. Like a good athlete, you have to be versatile and go where the jobs are rather than target a specific sport.
Clifford, Assistant Dean and Director, Sports Business for the Colangelo College of Business (CCOB), says it all the time in class. He is like a coach dishing out some tough love along with all that industry knowledge. Students get it from the college’s namesake, Jerry Colangelo, when he speaks to classes, and they get it constantly from Clifford and the rest of the faculty.
“That is 100% my story because I know how tough and difficult it is,” he said. “It may not be how well you do in class or what your GPA is. It’s all about who you know and what experiences that you have. If our students don’t pursue the opportunities and gain the experiences now, then they’re going to fall behind a lot of the other students that are out there looking for sports-related jobs post-graduation.
“It’s important for us and our students to do something that sets ourselves above – meeting Mr. Colangelo’s gold standard. We’re lucky to have all of the different sports teams and agencies in the Valley that support us and throw opportunities our way all the time. (Case in point: the Cactus League hiring event on Oct. 23.) It’s up to our students to take advantage and not focus solely on their favorite sport.”
Jordan became one of those students when she approached Clifford after his Sports Event Planning class and told him she wanted to get some experience in the industry.
“I would post jobs or volunteer opportunities in class,” he said, “and she was one of those students who would say, ‘I need to do that.’ I said you can do that, but you need to sign up.”
When the class chose Hoophall West, the annual high school basketball tournament in Scottsdale, as its work project, Jordan signed up to spend part of her Christmas break staffing the event. That was her first taste of it. She liked it.
It also started the ball rolling … except that the type of ball changed. Soon after, Clifford heard that the Cleveland Indians had two open positions for spring training at their Goodyear facility a few miles west of campus. He told Jordan, helped her get one of those positions and, lo and behold, she was kept on after she graduated.
Except there was one little detail. The job was now in Cleveland, not Arizona. It was like being called up to the majors.
“My first time in Cleveland,” she said, “was the day I moved there.”
But, hey, that’s another aspect about being good at sports – you have to be flexible. Off she went on her summertime adventure and quickly learned how challenging it is to manage a single baseball game, let alone 81 home games over the course of a season. Her hours are pretty much 9-to-5 when the team is on the road, but when the Indians are home … well, most of the games are at night. You get the idea.
She manages the game day staff – ushers, ticket-takers, security, anyone who has a role in helping about 30,000 fans enjoy the experience. The Indians were in the playoff race all summer before falling just short, and the team is popular.
“It’s a great organization, great environment,” she said. “I’m really happy and really enjoy what I’m doing.”
But it’s not easy, such as the weekend when a Friday night game was postponed after a long rain delay and had to be made up as part of a day-night doubleheader the next day. Here was Jordan’s schedule:
- Left Progressive Field at 11:30 p.m. Friday.
- Was back at 8:30 a.m. Saturday.
- Had to stay for both games, of course … and there were fireworks after the night game.
- Left the ballpark at 12:30 a.m.
- Returned at 8:30 Sunday morning.
“It was a long weekend,” she said.
Little did Jordan know she would be working those types of hours when she used to watch sports with her father in Denton, Texas, near Dallas. That’s Cowboys country, of course, so how on earth did she become a fan of the Eagles, one of the Cowboys’ biggest rivals?
“My dad wasn’t a huge football person,” she said. “So when I was younger I spent a lot of time with a close friend, and her father was a huge Eagles fan. That was the most football I got to watch, and I fell in love with the game and the Eagles.”
But now baseball is her career path even though before she started, she admits, “I really didn’t know much about the Indians.” She does now.
She also knows this:
“You have to do what it takes. It’s going to be a lot of odd hours and a lot of long nights and weekends.”
“I really appreciate Mark Clifford for pushing me to get out there and try things.”
But Clifford is just happy she took his advice. He has worked hard to build a pipeline to the four major pro teams in the Valley as well as other sports entities, such as ISM Raceway in Avondale, and it’s flowing with GCU students.
“She found an opportunity,” he said, “and worked her butt off.”
As Dr. Randy Gibb, the CCOB dean, noted, Molly’s story “depicts the mentoring by our great faculty and the opportunities provided to our students.”
But it’s up to students to take advantage of it. If they’re smart like Jordan, they’ll become a huge fan of one thing – going where the job is.
Contact Rick Vacek at (602) 639-8203 or [email protected].
GCU Today: Sports Business students get in the game(s)