Graham Perkins has always wanted to work for the St. Louis Cardinals, and after his summer internship, he is one step closer to achieving his dream.
This summer, the senior sports management major interned with the Asheville Tourists, an affiliate team of the Colorado Rockies. He worked with five other general interns, so he got to experience several different aspects of the organization.
“Our jobs ranged from selling tickets in the box office, doing promotional games on the field with fans, stadium operations, greeting fans and welcoming them to McCormick Field and occasionally mascot appearances,” he said. “Every game day we had game day duties—getting ready for the game and getting things in order.”
Whether those duties included stocking suites, hanging the flags or prepping the promotional box, Perkins worked up to 16 hours some days.
One of the highlights of his internship was working the South Atlantic League All-Star Game, he said. The Asheville Tourists hadn’t hosted that game since 1996, so it was a celebrated occasion.
But other aspects of the job were less than ideal. Perkins said working the box office on busy nights when up to 4,000 fans passed through was overwhelming. Through those challenging nights, he learned the importance of customer service.
A self-proclaimed “people person,” Perkins said he enjoyed meeting new people and building relationships with season ticket holders.
“I had a season ticket holder make me a homemade cake for my birthday and my last game in Asheville,” he said. “The people there were so welcoming, and it made coming to work enjoyable because I knew they were going to be in their same seats every game, rain or shine.”
Perkins said it wasn’t easy leaving his internship at the end of the summer, but now that he is back at Union, he is able to apply his real world experience to the material covered in his classes.
That experience will also be helpful when searching for a job after graduation because it will stand out on his résumé and practically apply to any sports management position, he said.
“It is very important for students of any major to get an internship in your field and get some experience under your belt,” Perkins said. “You have to show others that you are willing to work and sacrifice a summer to better yourself in the future.”
For Perkins, his opportunity in Asheville came through networking. One of his fraternity brothers has worked for the team for several seasons and helped him land the position.
Making those connections is essential for any college student, no matter how far off their graduation date might be. Don’t be afraid to send an email to a potential employer to introduce yourself and share your aspirations, he said.
In January, Perkins will volunteer at a week-long internship with the St. Louis Cardinals’ Fantasy Camp in Jupiter, Florida.
“My dad has been going to the Fantasy Camp the past five years, and I went with him one year,” Perkins said. “While down there, I met a guy who works in the front office for the Cardinals and asked him how he got to where he was, and he was the one that told me about sports management.”
While Perkins was working in Asheville this summer, Clayton Martin, senior sports management major, took an athletic development internship at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. The school recently cut their football program, so when his internship started, he thought he would solely focus on the basketball program.
Over the summer, the university’s president decided to bring the football program back if the athletic department could gather sufficient funds to ultimately profit the university.
“So, our department saw this as a breakthrough and an unbelievable opportunity for us all,” Martin said. “When the summer was over, we had raised around $20 million through five-year pledges and generous one-time capital gifts.”
Martin said during his time at UAB, he learned something new every day.
Accepting rejection was a challenge for him at first, but by the end of the summer, he became comfortable with it and focused on telling potential donors why their donation would benefit the university.
“Eight times out of 10, we would get rejected, and people did not want to donate anything and did not like you calling them for money. People would say some pretty ugly things to you, but you had to just smile and say, ‘Have a great day.’”
Although he was pushed out of his comfort zone this summer, Martin said moving to a new city and working with a Division I school was worth the opportunity to utilize practical skills on such a realistic scale.
While he hasn’t quite nailed down his post-graduate plans, Martin said he hopes to pursue a people-oriented job that allows him to be outgoing and constantly on the move.
“I did sit behind a desk quite a bit [this summer], but the full-time employees were always meeting with people,” he said. “I could potentially see myself doing something like that.”
Martin urges college students to embrace the present and take advantage of open summers to get internship experience. Persistence is key in achieving career goals, he said.
When searching for the right internship, Martin emailed every school in the SEC as well as smaller schools in the C-USA to find out where his best opportunities were. Even though he ended up with UAB, he made connections with other schools too.
“Find out what you want to do and reach out to those people that are doing that,” he said. “Show that you are committed and interested in applying for an internship.”