Evan Gwartz is the Coordinator of Client Services, Premium Hospitality for the Toronto Blue Jays. I know Evan from his time at the Hamilton Tiger-Cats (in fact, he was my boss!). That’s how I know he’s an excellent choice to discuss the role of a Coordinator of Client Services while providing upbeat, motivational and insightful access to his sport management career thus far. Scroll to see the fantastic conversation I had with Evan Gwartz just before Major League Baseball cancelled the remainder of its Spring Training games and announced a delay to the start of the 2020 regular season.
×This interview was completed before the World Health Organization (WHO) declared COVID-19 a global pandemic.
The interview with Evan Gwartz 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 Coordinator of Client Services, Premium Hospitality of the Toronto Blue Jays .
At a high level, my job is to help bring Blue Jays fans together and create an enjoyable, shared experience for them at the ballpark. Specifically, I work in our Executive Suites department, which is responsible for the sales and client service of our Executive Suite products. Each day, I’m connecting with a variety of clients, including corporate clients (e.g., banks, law firms) looking to host customers or staff in a suite, as well as everyday fans who want to host a special event in a suite (e.g., milestone birthday, bachelor party). Our department supports them through their entire experience, starting with their first call, continuing with their booking and finishing with their event at the game.
My specialty within our team is client service, meaning I help craft systems and resources that we can use to better serve our clients. These include our ticket/CRM systems, client benefits program, fan insights research, and the relationship with our catering vendor. We’ve succeeded when our clients have had a simple planning experience and our fans have had fun at the ballpark!
What does a typical day look like for you?
One of my favourite parts about working in sport is that it’s a dynamic workplace where no day is the same. I find many sport industry professionals are generalists, as opposed to having a specialized skillset. We’re a collaborative team where each of us is involved in sales, service and strategy. On a given day, I could be working with a variety of departments, including ticket sales, corporate partnerships, fan services or catering. It can be difficult to task-switch between all the different projects, but it’s also energizing to have a new challenge each day.
The off-season is the most dynamic change in our workflow, as we shift away from working with fans in the stadium and move back to our desks for strategic planning. I like the change though; by the time I’ve been at my desk planning for the off-season, I’m excited to get back to working games. By the time the season is done, I’m tired and ready to spend some quiet time at my desk again.
Your undergraduate career started in Canada in a Sport Management program. You then landed an international exchange at West Virginia University, and then back to Canada. How did you schooling in Canada differ from your schooling in the US? How did both programs prepare you for a career in sport?
I experienced so much development over the course of my university education. I appreciated my Sport Management studies for the depth of information we were exposed to. My classmates and I had the chance to dive deep into sport industry topics and learn how to think critically about sport organizations. At WVU, I loved the campus lifestyle and being able to experience the community that’s built through NCAA sport. The Sport Management program I was in equipped me with the skills and knowledge to start a career in sport, while WVU helped me learn work-life balance and reminded me of how to enjoy sport as a fan (instead of thinking critically about it all the time).
How does the team’s performance affect the work environment for you and your colleagues? What examples do you have to support this?
One of the early leaders in my career would say, “when the team wins, the seats become wider and the beer becomes colder.” I agree with that sentiment. That said, my colleagues and I can’t control what’s happening on the field, so we focus on the elements of a fan’s experience that we can control. If there’s a friendly stadium staff to greet you, the in-game entertainment is fun and the food tastes good, hopefully you’ll enjoy your night at the ballpark regardless of the on-field outcome!
In premium hospitality, it’s all about bringing people together to enjoy an enhanced experience. How do you provide a worthwhile experience for your clients?
“An ‘enhanced experience’ can mean something different to each client, so I try to understand their hospitality objectives and craft their experience accordingly.”
If a client’s goal is to connect with their customers, I need to ensure their suite experience fosters a feeling of connection to their company.
If a client is hosting their company’s summer social, I need to help them create a fun and memorable outing for their staff. It’s an exciting challenge to get to know each client and help them create a successful event, whatever success means to them.
What is the most impactful situation that you have had in your role to really make a difference to others?
I find people use professional sports, including the Blue Jays, to connect with others. Whether its talking about last night’s game at the watercooler or going to the game with your friends, sport brings people together. I’m lucky to watch people come together in that way every time I work a game. For a corporate client, I’ve watched suite events bring their staff together; I like to think someone became best-work-friends in one of our suites. For everyday fans, I’ve watched families reunite in suites after relatives have travelled from across the country to be together at the game. It’s a privilege to have a role where I can help facilitate those connections.
What are some tools you and your team use to identify and develop new business opportunities for the Toronto Blue Jays?
The professional sport industry is very collaborative and we are in frequent communication with other teams throughout the MLB. I was surprised by this early in my career, but sharing knowledge and best practices allows all teams to experience greater success, which ultimately elevates the league.
When faced with an organizational problem, my first action is typically to benchmark us against other teams and understand what they’re doing. As well, I’m always watching how other entertainment businesses (e.g., theme parks, concert halls) are crafting their experiences and try to identify best practices (my friends make fun of me when I take photos of directional signage at concerts). We’ve been able to improve our business in a variety of ways from benchmarking like this; anything from how we craft our email communication to how we renovate our suites.
What advice would you give to prospective sport management professionals looking to work in sport at a similar level to yourself but just starting off in their career?
I’ve seen myself as a student, even after I left school. I strive to be a lifelong learner and to get better every day. I understand that starting a career in sport is tough and there are a lot of factors beyond your control. I’ve always felt its in my control how much I learn from each opportunity and it doesn’t cost me anything except my focus and attention. Ultimately, a sport organization is looking for an employee that will make their company better, so my best way to prepare for that has been to soak up every lesson I could and to stay committed to getting better every day.
What would you say are the top five biggest moments or accomplishments in your sport management career?
I’ve never thought about this, so here is my best attempt. These are chronological – not ranked:
Inflating 700 promotional footballs for the Hamilton Tiger-Cats’ season in one afternoon (note: I did use an electric pump)
Presenting my Master’s thesis at the European Association of Sport Management’s conference in Switzerland
Sharing my career experiences with Sport Management students at a professional development conference
Each day I walk to work on the same path my Grandfather, Dad and I used to take on our way to Blue Jays games when I was a kid
Being featured on SPort MAnagement (SPMA) Hub, obviously!
You’re never hesitant to help young sports professionals. Why do you believe it is important to inspire and teach the next generation of sport management graduates?
My time working in sport has been everything I hoped it would be, but I understand how challenging it can be to build a career in this industry. I was fortunate to have great mentors early in my career that believed in me and help guide me on my journey. If there are students or young professionals who feel like they can learn from my experience, I want to do my part.
Hayley's Final Thoughts
As Coordinator of Client Services for Premium Hospitality, Evan Gwartz strives to make an impact on his clients. Through this spotlight on Evan, the role of a Coordinator of Client Services in sport is clear. What’s also clear, is that Evan Gwartz is constantly learning and coming up with new ideas to enhance the experiences himself and the Blue Jays offer. I admire Evan’s drive to not only better himself as a sport professional but also to lend a hand to mentor aspiring ones. As long as I’ve known Evan, he has always helped the ones around him (even me, with this article!) and put everyone else first. I can see why he’s been excelling in his role with the Blue Jays! Hopefully soon, we can visit the ballpark in Toronto to see Evan Gwartz at work. And of course, Hyun-jin Ryu, Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and Bo Bichette. 😃