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MIT grad chases low-tech Silicon Valley dreams -- in the baseball business

Mike McCarroll
Mike McCarroll

Mike McCarroll was among dozens of members of the MIT Class of 1999 to head for the Silicon Valley in search of professional growth.

Unlike his classmates, McCarroll was not lured by the promise of lucre. For him, the attraction was and the financially challenged world of minor-league baseball.

"I guarantee you I brought my MIT Class's average salary down," said McCarroll, director of marketing and promotions for the San Jose Giants in the Class A California League, a San Francisco Giants' affiliate. He hasn't regretted his career decision for a moment, despite the 90-hour workweeks. "When I talk to my buddies, many are jealous that I am doing something that I enjoy," said McCarroll, who has had moments when he was envious of the high tech paychecks his friends earned.

"Everyday, they drive to a corporate office building," he said. "I drive to a baseball stadium. They sit in front of their computers all day crunching code or some manner of data. I look at batting averages, make some phone calls and sell group packages or advertising. That means instead of discussing why company A's stock is dropping, I'm talking about the San Jose Giants' chances of winning the California League title, or communicating my opinion of one of our pitcher's previous games. My job is to sell the game of baseball to the public and that can be a lot of fun."

McCarroll, who played first base as a youngster in Hacienda Heights, Calif., competed on the water polo team for three years at MIT. He intended to study aeronautics and astronautics when he came to MIT in 1995, then flirted with mechanical engineering before landing in the Sloan School of Management.

How to utilize his management education presented a dilemma. Wall Street, high tech, strategic planning and investment banking did not spark his imagination. H. Wayne Huizenga and the 1997 World Series did. "As I watched on TV, I saw the owner of the Florida Marlins sitting in his luxury suite watching his team win the World Series," he recalled. "I decided I wanted to be him."

He conferred with Joe Bohringer (SB in management, 1993), then assistant general manager of the Ottawa Lynx in the Triple A International League. Bohringer, an elder in their mutual fraternity, Zeta Psi, suggested an internship. After an interview during the 1997-98 winter break, McCarroll skipped a semester to intern in San Jose, earning $25 a game for 70 games during the season, working 11-13 hours a day, six days a week. He also received a free room beneath the third base grandstand. "It had a shower, a toilet, sink and a bed, but no windows," he recalled.

The next summer, he returned to the California League as an intern in the front office of the San Bernardino Stampede. Upon receiving the SB from the Sloan School of Management in December 1999, he returned to San Jose as the public relations director. He was promoted before this season.

As director of marketing and promotions, McCarroll creates and develops promotions that will make the a night at the park more enjoyable,sells group packages and advertising.

"In minor league baseball, everyone wears many hats," he said. "One moment I'm talking to a prospective sponsor about throwing softee balls with their logo on it into the stands after each victory, and the next I am talking to someone about bringing their company out to the ballpark for a group event." It often is not a hard sell. "Once you find a person who enjoys and is a fan of baseball you will have a hard time not making him into a client or sponsor," he said. "What are the chances of selling a semiconductor and running across a person who really likes silicon wafers?"

The second place Giants, competing with the two Bay area major league teams as well as numerous other attractions for the public's attention and entertainment dollars, have averaged 1,909 in paid attendance this season, a 9 percent increase over last year. The capacity of San Jose Municipal Stadium is 5,000.

McCarroll, who grew up in Southern California, is a lifelong Dodger fan. "I have been since I was a kid," he said. "I definitely am not a San Francisco Giants fan. But I am a San Jose Giants fan."

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