• T.J. Vela '19 spent his summer as a marketing internship with the Round Rock Express Minor League Baseball team.
    Southwestern University

There truly is no better feeling in the world than walking up to work every day and smelling freshly made hot dogs, hearing the crack of a bat as it makes contact with a white leather ball, and seeing a beautifully manicured field with grass so perfectly cut that it would even make your father proud. This may sound like one of your favorite ballpark memories, but for me, this was my internship with the Round Rock Express baseball club, which started many months before the first pitch of the 2019 season was ever even thrown. 

I began my in-game promotions and marketing internship with the Round Rock Express in mid-January 2019. This was going to be my third different experience working in sports, as I previously interned with Lone Star Sports & Entertainment, which is an affiliate organization of the Houston Texans, and the Corpus Christi Hooks, which is a AA baseball team in the Astros organization, during each of my previous three years at Southwestern. I somewhat knew what to expect in this internship due to my previous experience working with the Hooks: long nights, hot days, the occasional drunk fan, but lots of memories made in a ballpark. A big difference between this internship compared with my other ones is that I had the opportunity to see how a sports organization operates and markets to its fans when it is preparing for an upcoming season. Due to the proximity of Southwestern University to Dell Diamond, I had the opportunity to coordinate different community events to get people excited about the upcoming season, conduct tours of Dell Diamond, and deliver different promotional items like schedules and gifts to various sponsors in the Central Texas area. This all occurred before the season even began, so I gained a lot of experience and knowledge in various grassroots marketing techniques. However, once the season started, that is when the fun really began. 

Vela getting the Plucker's chicken mascot ready for its in-game promotion. Vela getting the Plucker's chicken mascot ready for its in-game promotion.  

During the season on gamedays, our team of interns, dubbed simply as the “Promo Team,” was basically in charge of getting fans super hyped and excited about being at Dell Diamond and rooting on the Express. Whether this was their first time at Dell Diamond or they had been to every game since the “first” first pitch in 2000, we all showed up and worked to make the fans’ experience at the game as enjoyable and memorable as possible. Our gameday tasks involved securing and setting up props for mid-inning events, recruiting fans to participate in these events, and distributing promotional items. I also continued giving stadium tours and promoting the Express at different community events while the season moved along.

I do believe Southwestern’s small classes, in which professors and students are able to immerse themselves in academic discussions, gave me the expertise that I needed to tackle real-life work situations. 

All in all, I learned a lot about the sports business throughout this internship; however, due to my experiences at Southwestern, I was fully prepared to succeed in my role. Various classes that I have taken at Southwestern, such as Foundations of Business, Philosophy of Business, and Digital Marketing, all gave me tools that I utilized in some way, shape, or form in this internship. There were other interns from other Texas schools working alongside me in this internship, but I feel that because of my Southwestern Experience, I was able to problem-solve and analyze different situations more efficiently than they could. This is not a knock on them or their education; however, I do believe Southwestern’s small classes, in which professors and students are able to immerse themselves in academic discussions, gave me the expertise that I needed to tackle real-life work situations. Along with this, the faculty and staff at SU were a big part in me getting this internship. Without my academic advisor, Dr. Debika Sihi, I never would have known about this internship opportunity. Also, without the Center for Career and Professional Development staff at SU, I might not have even gotten this internship. Mr. Orozco, Ms. Luna, and Mr. Gilden all helped me with my résumé, cover letter, and even mock interviews in preparation for this internship and every single other internship that I have had. Without all of these people, I may not have gotten the internship with Lone Star Sports & Entertainment in my freshman year, which ended up being a stepping stone toward me getting this opportunity with the Round Rock Express. 

This internship has only solidified my desire to work in sports after graduation. The front office at the Express are so nice and willing to help interns learn and grow in whatever we want to do in regards to working in sports. We were given opportunities to shadow employees to see what their daily routines were like, and we could even interview employees to gain insight on the business. I was fortunate enough to interview a Southwestern alumna, Taylor Shipp ’12, who is the digital marketing coordinator for the Round Rock Express, to pick her brain and see how she designs web pages and analyzes social-media metrics. All of these factors made this internship one of my favorite experiences working in sports. 

Vela and t-shirt launcher.

Like I said previously, there is no better feeling in the world than walking up to a baseball stadium and getting to call that your job. There are not many jobs in this world that can create memories that will stick with you for a lifetime yet bring back memories from your childhood that made you fall in love with the game of baseball in the first place. Each day that I walked into the ballpark, I got taken back to my childhood, when my father and I would go to Minute Maid Park every summer and watch the Houston Astros play. I was taken back to watching my favorite ballplayers, like Jeff Bagwell and Craig Biggio, make amazing plays on the diamond while I sat next to my dad eating peanuts in my right hand and holding on tightly to the ball that I got during batting practice in my left hand. I think about these things and cannot help but smile. Each time I clock in at work, I look forward to the opportunity to create an atmosphere that will create lifelong memories for a new generation of baseball fans so they can fall in love with America’s pastime as well.