This interview is presented to you by the University of Nebraska - Lincoln Master of Arts in Business with a Specialization in Intercollegiate Athletics Administration
By: Chase Kostellic, @kostellic
If you were to open up a dictionary and look up perseverance, it would be no surprise to see a photo of Ryan Ritchey, Director of Media and Public Relations for the Louisville Bats, Triple-A affiliate of the Cincinnati Reds. Ritchey is a recent graduate of Spalding University in Louisville, KY, where he was awarded a B.S. in Communication. Throughout his studies, Ritchey’s steadfast and determined mindset helped place himself in a position that many aspiring sports business professionals dream about. We are proud to have been able to speak with him and share his story.
Before starting college, Ritchey knew that he wanted to work in sports with a focus in baseball. He started putting these plans into action during his senior year of high school by landing a position as a staff writer with FanSided.
“Back in that time, I wanted to be a sports writer. That was something I enjoyed doing. I would only write about baseball, but I felt it was something that would lead me in the right direction.”
In his freshman and sophomore year of college, he continued working at FanSided and became a site editor for their Washington Nationals fan site.
“I covered the Nationals on a daily basis and was in charge of staff writers, getting stories on the site and tracking the analytics. As a team, we also were able to put together a few campaigns to see what worked best and what times of day to share content.”
In conjunction with being a site editor at FanSided, Ritchey knew he wanted to help with the school baseball team and see what he could offer.
“When I watched a game, I noticed patterns. I noticed things that were happening and needed to be fixed. I brought it to the coaching staff and they later decided to bring me on as a student assistant. I got to have my hand in recruiting, keep stats and make note of patterns during games. We learned what we could do to help the team win.”
Although the opportunity to help the team directly was great, Ritchey knew that in order to move forward, he had to a make a more career-minded move.
“The spring hit and an individual I was connected with wanted to start broadcasting games. After he got it approved, I had the opportunity to take part in it, but as a result, had to step away from helping the team. It was better for me in the long run, keeping my career in mind.”
As a busy baseball season came to a close, Ritchey then put his feet forward again and reached out to the individuals in charge at Spalding Athletics to see if he could be granted permission to broadcast basketball games as well.
“Broadcasting seemed to be where I found my niche. I went to the necessary individual and told him we should broadcast basketball games. We got approval from the athletic director and department of communication to put these plans into action. I was the analyst and my partner was the play-by-play guy.”
During this time, Ritchey also pushed himself to take on even more by landing an internship. Little did he know, that extra push would end up leading to where he is now.
“My sophomore year, I started interning with the Louisville Bats. I was a Game Day Media Relations Intern. I was able to start one month before the other interns and stay one month after. That extra time helped me learn more about the business and build connections with the front office.”
At this point, his journey was only still beginning. He made another big step during his junior year to go along with everything he was already taking part in.
“I started working in the Spalding Sports Information Office, covering fall sports, such as soccer and volleyball. That carried over into my senior year, where I also kept traveling with the basketball team and broadcasted all of their games.”
Working hard and keeping his plate full started to show signs of paying off when another opportunity with the Bats presented itself at the beginning of the 2015 season.
“The director of media and public relations emailed me my junior year, offering me to be his assistant and work in the office full-time, plus continue to work games. This was an opportunity I couldn’t pass up. Being a full-time student with a full-time job and working on the side with Spalding Athletics, I had a full plate and had to switch to online classes to make more time. It was a busy junior year.”
As Ritchey’s senior year started rolling along, he continued working in the Spalding Sports Information Office and had plans to continue working his position with the Bats as an assistant director of media and public relations, but when March of 2016 hit, things changed drastically for the better.
“We found out the director of media and public relations was leaving. I was still in school at the time, so I didn’t know if I would be considered. At the end of that same day, the people in charge offered me the position and I accepted. It was hectic to fill this role right before the season started and while trying to finish school, but I’ve graduated and things have calmed down since then. I couldn’t be happier.”
As many know, working in Minor League Baseball means that you have a great deal of unique responsibilities that go beyond the basics and result in long hours spent at the ballpark on a daily basis. A day in the life of a 22-year-old Minor League Director of Media and Public Relations on game day goes a little something like this:
9:00 A.M. - 12:00 P.M.:
- Arrive to the office and put together the current stat packet, consisting of about 20 pages of statistics that are made available for the media and staff.
- Update headshots for teams coming to town/make sure they fit the video board.
- Prepare team rosters.
- Coordinate any plans with the media.
12:00 P.M. – 1:00 P.M.:
- Jump on the organization’s “lunch train,” where the front office picks a spot to go eat together at.
1:00 P.M. - 4:00 P.M.:
- Begin daily game notes (game number, patterns, transactions, etc.) to make the current status of the team available.
- Put together the pitcher page that includes notes on the pitcher, his statistics, levels played, etc. for broadcasters to utilize.
- Include player profiles into game notes with specific points on what they’ve recently accomplished (ie: hitting streaks, trends, etc.) for broadcasters to utilize.
4:00 P.M. - 6:00 P.M.:
- Finalize any adjustments to the rosters and bring to the managers/front office.
- Present stat packet to clubhouse.
- Bring media to individuals they wish to speak with.
- Prepare lineup cards.
- Brief interns on game day expectations.
6:00 P.M. (Game Start) - End of Game:
- Manage interns (social media, stat packet, story writing).
- Manage the scoreboard and ensure accuracy.
- Watch the game and make note of anything worthy of writing about.
- Provide game updates on Twitter.
End of Game:
- Help interns put together game story to publish on the team site/social media.
- Bring media to talk to manager and players.
- Oversee interviews to ensure no media-related rules are broken.
- Attain worthy information from team manager that can be shared.
- Address any concerns and begin preparations for the next day’s work.
For Ritchey, these busy days are all worth it because he’s doing what he loves.
“I’m around the game that I grew up loving. Every single day, I come here to Louisville Slugger Field and enjoy what I’m doing. When you’re working, you want to love what you do and I can confidently say that I do. I wouldn’t change anything.”
Being young and still in his first season as the Director of Media and Public Relations, Ritchey has a lot to learn, but still holds the dream of going to the big leagues.
“I will hopefully be in the big leagues in the future, but I have a lot to learn where I’m at. I’m in a great spot for my age, but my dream is still the same-get to the big leagues. For now, everything and everyone at the Bats is great. There’s still a lot to be done here that can help me learn and become better as a person along the way.”
With everything that Ritchey has been able to accomplish in a short amount of time, he knows that his internship with the Bats was the most important part of his development.
“Internships are very important. That’s how you’re going to get your foot in the door somewhere. They’re the most important thing that you do in college. You can take that curriculum you’re learning and put it into action. Do as many and as much as you can.”
To go along with internships being a great way to apply what you learn, Ritchey also noted that they present a big opportunity to build long-lasting connections.
“Don’t burn any bridges. Internships may not always be exciting, but it’s a chance to build meaningful connections. Those are people you can use as references or even as sources to help open more doors for you. Everyone in sports has multiple connections, which means the ones you build can lead you to others, and those others could be where the job opportunities are.”
Ritchey left us with a final piece of advice for aspiring sports business professionals: ensure you are well rounded.
“No matter what time of year it is, do as much as possible and don’t feel restricted to one thing. You want to build a background in multiple aspects. Marketing, operations, media relations and so on are all related and very important. Have a vast variety of skills that you can pull out of your hat when the time is needed.”
Front Office Sports would like to thank Ryan Ritchey for sharing his story and insight. We wish him the best of luck in meeting all his goals.