- Associated Press - Sunday, June 19, 2016

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) - Brandon Catherman graduated from Robert Morris University in the spring, but there was more he wanted to learn. So he came to Oklahoma City on Tuesday to participate in the Oklahoma City Dodgers’ sales academy.

The former basketball team manager knows how to host and organize events. He wasn’t as familiar with the sales side of sports.

“For me, it was all about building my knowledge base,” said the Pennsylvania resident.

From June 8-10, Catherman and 24 other participants received a crash course in sports sales. Their final exam was a competition, where Business Development Director Kyle Daugherty took some swings at their ticket package sales pitches.

The Journal Record (https://bit.ly/1U8mZ5E ) reports the participants scored each other on the two-round contest, with President and General Manager Michael Byrnes present for the final round.



Before participants take the mound for the final pitch, they have two days to learn about the Dodgers organization and become familiar with the script.

Daugherty, Senior Vice President Jenna Byrnes, and Sales Strategies Director Ben Beecken introduce them to answering objections. The Dodgers team has a list of about 15 common objections, but the academy students learn three: It’s too hot; my company has too many tickets already; and I’m not a baseball fan.

“We help them get down to the real reason that customer doesn’t want to buy tickets,” Beecken said.

For the sales pitch contest, Daugherty plays the role of the potential client. During the final round, Edmond resident Curtis Haddock responded to Daugherty’s objection about the heat with a reminder that he could trade his tickets for another cooler game. Another student reminded Daugherty during his pitch that University of Oklahoma football games and Oklahoma City Thunder basketball games are at different times of the year.

Catherman said he thought he did well during the first round, but he didn’t make it to the final contest. He blanked on his script.

“As soon as everything came back, I was good,” he said.

He said he’d be happy about getting a job because the Dodgers seem like a good organization.

“Being able to come learn from someone who carries themselves so well is amazing,” he said.

For Orlando, Florida, resident Justin McDonnell, the academy was a chance to fulfill his dream of working in sports. He went back to school three years ago and earned his bachelor’s degree so he could start pursuing his dream. He stands out in the group of young men and women as someone with a little more life experience.

McDonnell has been a real estate broker and also worked for the Walt Disney Co., but being in the sports business has always been his goal.

“The environment, the engagement, the sights and sounds - I want to be in the middle of that,” he said.

Catherman, Haddock, McDonnell and the other participants could be in the Dodgers’ front office following the academy.

Last season, the Dodgers needed to fill two spots on their seasonal sales staff. With four top-notch candidates, they created two more positions so they could keep everyone, said Michael Byrnes. The Dodgers’ front office has five academy graduates.

But graduates can be found in other markets. Several alumni are working for Major League Baseball teams, including the Minnesota Twins, the Houston Astros and the Arizona Diamondbacks. Another graduate is part of the Denver Nuggets’ front-office sales staff. Other past participants are in minor league baseball or college sports.

Michael Byrnes said he has noticed the applicant list grow since the former Oklahoma City RedHawks became the Dodgers in 2014. This year there were 80 people interested. Everyone was interviewed on the phone, and the final 25 were invited to Oklahoma City. The participants only have to pay the costs to get here. The team covers their food and lodging.

When it’s over, they could have a job with the Oklahoma City Dodgers. And if the Dodgers don’t have a position for them, they know enough people in the industry that there could be another team needing a sales academy graduate.

“Hopefully we like a number of candidates this year and we’ll find room for them,” Byrnes said.

___

Information from: The Journal Record, https://www.journalrecord.com

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