Episode 012 – Michelle Price, Director of Client Retention at the Washington Nationals

Michelle Price

This week on Leveling the Playing Field, Bobbi-Sue chats with a classmate from UMass – Michelle Price, Director of Client Retention for the Washington Nationals. Michelle has been with the Nationals for about 8 months. Her career began as an intern for the UMass Athletic Department, blimp crew and a stint as a customer service intern with the Hudson Valley Renegades, the Single-A affiliate of the Tampa Bay Rays. After college she worked with the Boston Celtics in a variety of ticket sales positions, eventually becoming #3 in group sales for the entire NBA. She moved over to the client retention side of tickets when she was with the New York Mets. Michelle talks about what making the move to a first-time manager was like and how she took the leap to department head with the Nationals. There is a lot of laughing! Bobbi-Sue shares a bit about her days as an intern with the UMass athletic marketing department including a wipe-out she took on the ice before a hockey game. Lots of good insight on a more traditional path in the sports industry. Lots of shout-outs to former and current UMass Mark H. McCormack Department of Sport Management professors!

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 Additional Show Notes:
  • Michelle played travel and fall softball.
  • The college search for her meant schools in New England. For each school, she wanted to pursue a different major: political science, history, sports management.
  • First impressions of Umass were that they had high powered female professors and the women in the major were elite. Most ended up in sports but the guys didn’t.
  • Bobbi-Sue and Michelle met in their days at the UMass Athletic Marketing Department. It was around the time that the school was debating a change in mascot/logo from the Minutemen to the Grey Wolves.
  • Michelle’s first job was on the blimp crew. She used that experience to answer “How do we know you’ll do anything to be successful at this job or make it in the industry?”
  • Michelle then went on to the Hudson Valley Renegades, the Single-A affiliate for the Tampa Bay Rays. On her first day of work she shows up in business professional attire and they put her in the mascot uniform. She did more than just customer service – did media calls, got people for promotions, and then dealt with regular customer service stuff. This was when she realized she enjoyed the fan interaction
  • Michelle started at the Celtics in the sales department after attending the NBA career fair. Her connections at UMass helped get her the invite.
  • She discusses how she knew she had to take a leap to develop in her career.
  • What’s it like when you become a manager? How do you become a better manager?
  • Michelle explains the difference between sales and retention.
  • Sometimes the team doesn’t do well and you have to make sales, retain clients. Michelle talks about her philosophy and management style in those times.
  • Most memorable moments for Michelle include game 6 of the NBA finals in Boston with her parents there at the game with her and playing catch in the outfield with her Dad in New York.
  • Advice to people thinking of getting into the industry:
    • Look for organizations that have opportunities and not just the brand.
    • Look for GOOD people.
    • Look for an organization/manager that will help you grow and develop.
  • In sports you need to get that first job – limiting yourself (geography, league, sport, etc.) makes it harder to get that job.
  • Michelle needed to develop new skills now that she is in charge of a department.
  • For self-care, Michelle likes to wander around DC and check everything out and running or yoga.
  • Closing action item: Use each other / pay it forward.

Quotable moments:

  • “Are you kidding me, how do you not do this?” – Michelle’s mom when they were visiting UMass
  • “I remember going in knowing that I was going to one of the best sports management programs in the country”
  • “Everything seemed really really great after that job” – regarding the blimp crew
  • “I was willing to do anything and I could prove it.”
  • “Some of it was fun, like on the ice and in the crowd, being apart of ESPN basketball game.. and there were other times when you were just driving around delivering pocket schedules throughout Amherst.”
  • “If you’re not interested in the revenue generating side of the business then it’s not the right place to start because it’s really hard to fake it.”
  • “My first day, I’m in my business attire, nice skirt, nice top, hair’s done nicely and I’m putting on a raccoon costume.”
  • “Understanding that you don’t want to sell tickets is just as important as finding out that you do have a passion for marketing and communications.”
  • “You have to have confidence in your abilities to impact someone else to achieve the goals you want. That’s hard at first.”
  • “Being a first time manager, an entry level manager, is scary but it’s also one of the most rewarding…”
  • “Control what you can control.”
  • “As a leader, you have to stay consistent, can’t get too high or too low.”
  • “Someone is going to be watching you for the first time. Make it count” – Nationals clubhouse
  • “Oh, right, yeah I get paid for this!”

Follow the Leader:

  • Michelle doesn’t do social media.

Extra Credit Reading/Watching:

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