This spring we’re reviving our series of interviews with alumni whose Bethel History degrees have prepared them for a wide variety of careers. Leading off: Ben Beecken ’10, director of partner services for the Oklahoma City Dodgers — the leading minor league affiliate of the Los Angeles Dodgers.
We always start with your choice of major: Why history? Was that your original plan when you started at Bethel, or how did you change to that track?
History was my favorite subject in middle school and high school, and I was leaning towards becoming a high school teacher after college. I had always enjoyed sports — in fact, my long-term goal was to teach high school social studies/history and coach baseball and basketball. That overall love for sports, plus an interest in business, pushed me to shift gears when it came to my career path.
A lot of our graduates have interesting paths from college to career, but yours is pretty unique. How does one go from majoring in History in Minnesota to working for a minor league baseball team in Oklahoma?
Somewhere around the start of my junior year at Bethel I began to realize that I could make a career out of working in sports. I had no idea how my History major would translate, and truthfully, I interviewed for at least one internship with a local sports team that more or less told me that they were leaning towards only hiring interns with sports management or business degrees. It was discouraging, but I was still convinced that there had to be a path for a non-sports management major.
I attended the Minnesota Twins job fair in fall of 2009 – the last one held at the Metrodome. Most jobs were part-time roles and there were very few internships or full-time jobs available, but I spoke with the manager of the Twins ticket call center. He gave me a business card and encouraged me to follow-up with him closer to the move to Target Field that winter, when they would be increasing staffing. I reached out in November and landed an interview, and he hired me to begin working in the call center at Target Field in early January.
I worked part-time in the call center around classes until graduating from Bethel in May, and then worked 9am to 5pm on Mondays through Fridays until the end of December. I had just begun applying to a variety of sports jobs around the country, and was fortunate enough to be hired by the first team that I interviewed with. The then-Oklahoma City RedHawks had just come under new ownership and were staffing-up their ticket sales team in a strategy shift, and I was offered a sales job.
I wasn’t sure I’d like sales, but I knew this was my shot. I was recently married and my wife was still attending school in the Twin Cities, so I moved to Oklahoma City by myself in January 2011 prior to her moving down to OKC in May. It took me a few months to truly enjoy ticket sales and feel as though I had the hang of it, but I ended up loving it. After three years as a sales representative, I was promoted into a sales management role for the next three years before moving over to the corporate partnership side in the fall of 2016. I am currently the Director of Partner Services and oversee all of our corporate partner activations.
What’s the best part of your job?
Truthfully, the best part has to be having my office be a ballpark, and being able to look at a baseball diamond every morning when I arrive at work.
Outside of that, I would say that the reward of putting on 70+ successful events every year that impact the community, give our fans an awesome and family-friendly experience at an affordable price, and consistently over-deliver for our corporate partners. Plus, experiencing Opening Night each season, followed by another 25+ sold-out games with 10k screaming fans is extremely rewarding.
Do you run into any other History majors in your line of work?
Not often. I can think of one that I’ve worked with in 7+ years here (although I think he was an Art History major…), and I’ve encountered a handful at various industry conferences and forums. It’s always a fun talking point when meeting new people or introducing myself to current college students at events, etc. as a History degree certainly stands out among the sports management and business degrees.
Do you think your historical studies set you apart in any way? (Do you ever feel like you draw on the knowledge or skills you picked up at Bethel?)
I absolutely believe that being a History major was helpful. While I work in sports, my day-to-day job function is centered around business, just like any other company in any other industry. Our product is baseball/fun/entertainment, but we need to make business decisions for our organization and communicate with our fans and clients in an effective way. The skills I learned as a History major — primarily related to writing, public speaking, and working with others in group settings — were vital: first to land a job that usually requires a sports management or business degree, and they continue be important as I communicate with others every single day.
Any parting advice for our current students – either those who want to get into professional sports, or those who might not quite be sure what they want to do after Bethel?
History degrees are much more versatile than one might think, so if you aren’t sure what you’d like to do career-wise, don’t let your major deter you from trying anything out.
Professional sports is all about getting that first job and then kicking the proverbial door down. There are only so many pro sports teams to start with, and full-time roles are competitive and, generally speaking, don’t compensate highly. And once you’re in, you have to work hard, be willing to pitch in wherever needed/outside your job function, and network like crazy.