The impact we can have on people’s lives is the most important. Whether that is preparing your staff and interns for a future career in sports, creating engaging partner initiatives, or just putting smiles on fans faces, we have the ability to impact thousands of lives each year.
×This interview was completed before the World Health Organization (WHO) declared COVID-19 a global pandemic.
The interview with Tyler Parsons was conducted via a typed conversation. Editing changes were made to make it easier to read while maintaining the voice of the interview.
Tell us about your role as the General Manager of the Lansing Lugnuts.
My role is really to oversee the business operations of our organization. That ranges from sales and marketing, to working with our grounds staff to ensure our field is top notch and our food and beverage teams to make sure we are offering guests a first class “Eatertainment” experience. I’m heavily involved on our marketing side and take the lead on our advertising strategy, marketing plan, promotions and gameday atmosphere.
Oversight is just a piece, and we really want to empower our different directors and staff to take ownership of their departments. And we have the trust in them to meet and exceed expectations. Just like the game on the field, our operation is a team effort and takes everyone chipping in to fully maximize our efficiency.
I also serve as our liaison to our MLB affiliate (Toronto Blue Jays), and work with our Director of Stadium Operations on team duties such as bus travel, hotel arrangements, player housing and day to day communication with our coaching and support staff.
And finally, my role is to be the best Lugnuts ambassador in the community that I can be. I firmly believe that if you support your community and get involved, they will support you and your organization. Whether it’s Rotary, speaking engagements, volunteer opportunities or looking at ways to utilize our facility as a community asset, we want to dive in fully as an organization.
What does a typical day look like for you?
I often tell people that one of the main reasons I love my job, is that no day is the same. Each day brings a unique set of challenges, and I may be focused on the marketing side one day, and then working with our sales or ballpark operations team another day.
On a typical gameday, I get to the ballpark early to catch up on emails, look at our ticketing reports and make any final adjustments to our operation for the upcoming game. I find this is also a good time to read any newsletters or interesting industry articles before other staff arrives.
I take a walk around the ballpark and do a sweep downstairs in our locker rooms and team facilities. Once our coaching staff arrives, I have a daily connect with them to catch up and go over any plans for the week. I also make a note to check in with the visiting team and umpires as well.
Throughout the day, it’s a mix of internal meetings with our staff and departments, and marketing/sales/operation prep for our upcoming games. I’ll meet with our sales staff to discuss group and venue usage that day, and check in with our box office and field staff. Usually will have my fingers crossed on the latter that we won’t have to talk about any potential weather issues.
Outside of that, its really people managing and oversight. I always have a list of sponsors and fans to connect with each game, and make a point of being accessible to anyone and everyone. I check in with each of our departments during the game, will stop back downstairs to check on coaches/umpires, then will end the night with a few recap meetings and sending a daily gameday report to our owner.
When was the point you realized that you were meant to do this career? Take us through that realization.
This is a tremendous question. I don’t know if there is a specific moment, more of a culmination of a series of events. For me, sports were an incredible passion growing up my entire life. Due to my family structure, I moved around a lot in my youth, and sport was always the thing that brought everything together. Moving to a new community or school, sport became the way I was accepted and made friends. It’s always amazing to me how sport can bridge anything and develop a bond between people. I grew up loving sports, loved the Detroit Tigers, Detroit Lions and Detroit Red Wings. And like any 90’s kid, I was all in on MJ and the Chicago Bulls. Looking back at my early school photos, I have a rotation of every other year in a jersey. That was a big battle with my mother and I guess every other year was the compromise.
In college, I initially wanted to be a sports writer and started out in journalism. But I quickly realized I love the business side of sports more and was fortunate to go to a tremendous college that gave me amazing resources and mentors.
What are the most rewarding and the most challenging aspects of your role?
The impact we can have on people’s lives is the most important. Whether that is preparing your staff and interns for a future career in sports, creating engaging partner initiatives, or just putting smiles on fans faces, we have the ability to impact thousands of lives each year. It really is amazing and is 100% the most rewarding part.
The most challenging part is probably the hours and work/life balance. Everyone who works in sports has this challenge, and it really is important for individuals to find that balance. There has been a huge shift in the last five or six years to activate facilities year-round, and for good reason – it’s a huge revenue generator. But on top of 70 games, we might have another 100-200 events and a handful of those are large scale concerts, festivals and shows. So many of us in this industry grew up grinding and wearing a badge for all the hours we worked. I’ve seen too many people burnout recently and we need to do a better job of balancing.
What surprised you the most about starting a career in the sport industry?
Not a ton honestly. I would just say how much overlap our industry has with other businesses. Sometimes I marvel at the ideas people come up with in our industry, and there really are a lot of amazing individuals. That has helped put the spotlight on our industry in recent years.
I felt like early on in my career, every in sports was pigeon-holed into working for a team or league in their career. The areas people can work in the sports world has expanded incredibly, and there are a ton of opportunities beyond just working for a specific team.
What are 3 essential skills someone needs to succeed in the sport industry?
I would say:
Lack of Entitlement: No matter your role in sports, you’ll run into the phrase “All other duties as assigned”. You’ll be asked to jump in and help in a number of places – it’s a total team effort. And sometimes those might not be glamourous or fun. But it will help in the long run and prepare you to move up the ladder in your career.
Willingness to Move: Especially early on, your best opportunities might be in places far away or non-glamourous locations. Be willing to move and explore – it will be incredibly rewarding to build new connections and get out of your comfort zone. I lived in four states in four years to start my career and was in places like Forest City, NC or Martinsville, VA. Met a lot of amazing people and will cherish those experiences forever.
Find Your Fit: I always disliked the notion that you would take a position to “get your foot in the door”. It can be challenging, but don’t accept a job in sports unless it’s in an area you would really enjoy. If you don’t have a passion for your role, the hours will get monotonous and you’ll end up working elsewhere. You really have to enjoy what you do and find the fit that doesn’t feel like work when you get up every morning.
If you could have a superpower to help you in your career, what would it be and why would you choose to have it?
I work in baseball right now – so this one is easy. Control the weather. Being in an outside venue, we have an amazing template to welcome fans into for any game or event. But weather can be a giant wrench sometimes. If I had a power to make it 75 and sunny every day we had an event? Sign me up haha!
Finally, which three words would you choose to describe your career in sport thus far?
Creative: Creative for the process of always looking at new ideas or new ways to generate revenue or make an impact with our fans. You constantly want to be looking outside the box and pioneering new ways to operate your business.
Relentless: Relentless for the proactive mindset and drive to better everything your touch in your career. I told myself a long time ago that I would never accept effort as a reason I failed at something in my career.
Passionate: Passionate for the WHY in my career. What makes me get up every day and guides you through the negativity that you will inevitably encounter? And that is the influence you can have on people, and the mission to have a positive impact. And you have to have a passion for people – whether that’s your staff, fans or partners.
Hayley's Final Thoughts
Tyler Parsons is the General Manager for the Lansing Lugnuts, the Class-A minor league affiliate of the MLB’s Toronto Blue Jays. And although the role of a General Manager is extensive, it’s clear that much of Tyler’s focus is on being a community ambassador for the Lugnuts in the Lansing, Michigan. By supporting his community in various aspects, Tyler finds they reciprocate. One of the reasons Tyler finds working in sports so rewarding is the fact that he can have an impact on the lives of others. Through his community efforts, Tyler has the ability to create lifelong memories while promoting the brand that is the Lansing Lugnuts. A great leader needs to be in tune with those who follow. Tyler’s willingness to be available to not only to his community but to his staff, partners and fans shows exactly why #LUGLIFE is what he’s all about!