Several prominent professionals from Philadelphia’s major sports teams attended the first Sports Professionals Networking Dinner Jan. 23 in Behrakis Grand Hall. The Good Idea Fund, a resource that allows students and faculty to use student activity fee funds for student life initiatives, sponsored the event.
After a brief introduction by a member of the Good Idea Fund, entertainment and arts management major and event coordinator Brett Axler took the stage to discuss how networking can help students get a dream internship in the sports industry.
“Professional connections make the world go round,” Axler said, a statement to which several attendees voiced their approval.
Two representatives from the Philadelphia Union, Carl Mandell, video production manager, and Nick Rotondi, video production coordinator, as well as Eric Long, event production manager for the Philadelphia Eagles, all gave brief overviews of how they came into their current positions.
Both Mandell and Long stressed how young professionals need to be willing to work anywhere in order to pursue their dreams of working in the sports industry. All three made sure to point out how small the job pool in the sports industry is and how anyone who wants to be part of it really needs to work hard.
Mandell said those trying to break into the industry should remember that “the first step is always the toughest.”
Philadelphia Phillies public address announcer Dan Baker was the first presenter of the night. Baker is the longest-tenured PA announcer in Major League Baseball after 42 years with the Phillies. He has also been the PA announcer for the Philadelphia Eagles for more than 25 years. Baker has served as the president of the Philadelphia Sports Writers Association and has been inducted into the Philadelphia Sports Hall of Fame.
The Philadelphia native talked at length about how he started out in the mail room of a local television station and eventually worked his way up to doing PA announcing for the Phillies. After his speech, Baker showed a slideshow of memorable moments throughout his career.
Famous sports figures, such as basketball greats Charles Barkley and Julius Irving, were featured in the slideshow, as well as the late, great Phillies play-by-play announcer Harry Kalas.
The next presenter was Mark Wyatt, who has worked as music director for the Phillies, Eagles, Flyers, 76ers and Wings for the past 15 years. Wyatt explained how he got his start playing music at discos before moving on to work for the American Hockey League’s Philadelphia Phantoms and eventually the Phillies, Flyers, Sixers and Eagles.
When describing how to select the music to play during the games, Wyatt said his first priority is that the tunes are “Disney clean,” meaning that no one in the audience could be offended by the music he plays. While this adds some challenge to his job, Wyatt said he is honored to have the position. When asked about music selections for the upcoming Phillies season, Wyatt replied, “You might hear more country this summer,” which received a few groans from the audience.
Phillies Director of Entertainment Chris Long was the third presenter. She has been with the Phillies since 1971 and has held her current position since 1998. Long plans all the entertainment before, during and after all Phillies home games. Long described how she has each contest planned out minute by minute. She told some humorous anecdotes about working with the Phillie Phanatic, Air Bud and national anthem singers who forgot the words.
Robert Keyser, a senior international area studies major and Good Idea Fund board member, said, “This event is the epitome of a good idea; it combines internship opportunities with historical accounts from local sports experts. Thanks to Axler and the Good Idea Fund, [the event] shows the diligence and leadership that Drexel University expects from its students.”
The night concluded with a brief question-and-answer panel consisting of all the presenters. Students asked about each person’s favorite sports moment that they were involved in as well as the best ways to go about getting internships.
Students had the opportunity to talk and network with the attending professionals after the presentations ended. “This was my first networking experience at Drexel, and it turned out to be a fun event with great presenters and good food,” Erin Arnold, freshman entrepreneurship major, said.
When asked about the event’s success, Axler said, “The positive feedback that I received from not only students and staff at Drexel but all the presenters and professionals who attended the event really made all the months of hard work and planning totally worth it. I can’t wait to see how this event will expand in future years.”
Over 240 students and faculty attended the event. Axler originally approached the Good Idea Fund with a proposal for this event, and then was awarded the funds to organize it.
Editor’s note: Shane O’Connor is a board member for the Good Idea Fund.