Opportunities abound at Cactus League job fair

October 24, 2019 / by / 0 Comment
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The Oakland Athletics, who train in Mesa every spring, were one of the teams on hand.

By Rick Vacek
GCU News Bureau

One year later, Tyler Whittaker was standing behind the Milwaukee Brewers’ table as a recruiter, not a job seeker.

One year later, Debbie Diveney again was talking to students, but this time some of them are her students in the Colangelo College of Business (CCOB).

Tyler Whittaker got his position with the Brewers at the same job fair last year. This year, he was recruiting.

One year later, Elliott Sweitzer was looking for another batch of Grand Canyon University students to fill his team at the Peoria Sports Complex.

All around them, in the crowded hallway of the CCOB Building on Wednesday at the MLB Cactus League/CCOB Sports Business Fair, were students eager to have similar stories to tell next fall. If they’re lucky and they’re plucky, they just might.

Whittaker came to the very same job fair last October and secured a Guest Services and Promotions position at the Brewers’ Maryvale complex. That went so well, he used his supervisors as references and got a job on the hockey development and street hockey team of the Arizona Coyotes.

“If I didn’t get this job, I wouldn’t have gotten the Coyotes job,” said Whittaker, whose 20 hours a week for the Coyotes are filled by helping at-home games and teaching children how to play the game. “Whenever they need me to help out, I’ll get there.”

The 2018 Cactus League fair was equally helpful to Diveney, who coordinates marketing and business operations at Goodyear Ballpark, the spring training home of the Cleveland Indians and Cincinnati Reds. She met Dr. Mark Clifford, Assistant Dean and Director of Sports Business for CCOB, and now she’s a sports marketing instructor for the college.

“I read the syllabus, and I’m like, ‘I do this, I do this, I do this,’” she said. “I love it. And love what I do, so I love to get people excited about what I do.

Debbie Diveney’s trip to the job fair last year turned into a teaching position at GCU.

“I always wanted to teach in some capacity, and I know that GCU has such a great sports business program. I wanted to be involved in some way. We had been talking about potentially changing our internship program so we could involve more GCU students, so I wanted to work with the University in that way, but I was pleased to be a teacher.”

Both of Diveney’s parents were educators, so the GCU opportunity has fulfilled a lifelong goal.

“I always thought I’d be doing something in that,” she said. “But when this opportunity presented itself, I thought, ‘I still can do what I do and love what I do, but I also can share that passion with others who want to be in that.’”

Sweitzer, Stadium Operations Coordinator for the Peoria Sports Complex, hired five students last year to supervise operations – and all five were from GCU. Three of those students graduated and now have jobs in the sports industry.

“It’s a great opportunity to learn a lot in a very short amount of time, and I think it really helps them learn what it takes, especially in spring training,” Sweitzer said. “I’m from Indiana. We didn’t have anything like this.

Elliott Sweitzer filled all five of his supervisorial spots last year with GCU students.

“They have a great opportunity to work for a baseball team at a complex like ours and understand what it takes to not only do baseball but events in general. We give them opportunities to start their careers and be able to springboard that into different internships, full-season internships, so when they graduate they’re ready to go – they have a leg up on everybody else.”

The tasks include everything from checking the metal detectors to choosing the batboys, and doing the seemingly mundane can lead to far greater experiences. Sweitzer told the story of one student who asked to learn more about social media and broadcasting and was put in touch with both teams’ social media directors, got to oversee a broadcast and met the president of the Seattle Mariners.

“You get as much out of this as you can by how much you put in,” Sweitzer said.

Those are the types of things that can happen at an event where the recruiters are so eager to hire GCU students. And it all starts by doing the most basic thing – showing up and talking to the people who can make those experiences happen.

“This is such a great opportunity to get a foot in the door,” Whittaker said.

Just as he did. One year ago.

Contact Rick Vacek at (602) 639-8203 or rick.vacek@gcu.edu.

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