Meet Alexander Zapata, Founder and CEO of Z-Axis Sports, a Latino-owned and operated agency. Originally launched as a baseball agency in Boston, Massachusetts, alongside his wife, Jhoancy Veras-Zapata, the two are taking their talents to South Beach and expanding their service line into two new sports: soccer and combat sports.
Alexander is a young entrepreneur and adjunct professor at both Suffolk University and Boston College, as well as a partner and General Manager of Baseball Operations for the Aguilas Metropolitanas, a professional baseball team in Panama. Jhoancy is a powerful and passionate Latina with an entrepreneurial spirit whose passion for baseball runs in her family. She is the niece of Quilvio Veras, the former franchise leader in stolen bases of the Florida Marlins. Z-Axis currently has clients around the world and has representation in New York City, Raleigh, NC, the Dominican Republic, Panama, and Japan. Z-Axis represents talent such as William Cuevas, former Boston Red Sox and current KT Wiz pitcher in the KBO League, Michael Martinez, Cleveland Indians player, and Michael de la Cruz, catcher for Tigres Del Licey (LIDOM Winter League) and the Arizona Diamondbacks, in addition to other baseball talents. “We have noticed that Latino athletes, especially newly arrived foreigners, sometimes have a difficult time adjusting.” said Zapata. “Traditionally this isn’t a focus for agents. Z-Axis Sports prides its self on working with these athletes and helping them strive on and off the field. With former MLB Players and MLS Players on the board of directors, we seek to compete at the highest level in the US Soccer and Combat Sports markets.”
SAB recently had the opportunity to interview Alexander. The conversation is transcribed below.
SAB: What interested you and how did you enter the sports agency industry?
Zapata: I’m a Dominican-American who grew up playing and watching baseball. I remember it was when Alex Rodriguez received his mega-contract with the Texas Rangers when I first knew I wanted to become a sports agent. Fast forward a few years, I was working Citi Bank as Vice President when I decided to get my MBA at Suffolk University. To graduate, I had to present a capstone; since Citi Bank had announced their exit from the Boston financial market, I knew I had to change my capstone.
At this time, I was looking around to see what to do my capstone on and I let the kid inside me revive my love for sports. I had the epiphany I always wanted to be a baseball agent. From there, I started doing my research and had the opportunity to speak to fellow Dominican baseball moguls such as Pedro Martinez, Manny Ramirez and David Ortiz. They told me their stories about their agents having strictly transactional relationships and nothing else. That’s where the idea of Z-Axis Sports then came in and I knew I would be devoted to the athletes, for the athletes.
SAB: What intrigued you to branch out your services to other sports, including soccer and combat sports?
Zapata: Soccer was always in my house. My dad is from Panama and always had more of a passion for soccer, rather than baseball. I was considered “the rebel” of the family. Once in the industry, I felt there were many similarities between soccer players, baseball players and combat athletes: many of them come from Latin and South America and at times are unsure how to manage the opportunities presented to them. I wanted to be able to act in a financial and consulting manner for these athletes. Now, we are in the process of seeking talent for the MLS, USL, Championship League, and USL One League, as well as federations such as the UFC and Wrestling.
SAB: You pride yourself on working directly with the Latin American community. Considering cultural differences, what business skills and tactics do you use differently than those you would with an American-born athlete?
Zapata: The first thing is family. Family is crucial to the Latin American community. My wife and I really push that belief and go out of our way to first meet and get to know the families of the athletes we seek to represent, whether domestic or international. When conducting this type of business, everyone in the family has some form of involvement in the athlete’s decision. I understand the value of my family and I know having the right tools to make these connections allows us to thrive and create relationships.
SAB: What services do you provide athletes to give yourself a competitive advantage?
Zapata: We’re striving to be a one-stop shop. We recently added a training facility in Orlando and are seeking to expand the facility to add our new sports. We are also grateful to have team members who had professional careers in sports, including super slugger Manny Ramirez, who are able to provide our young athletes with the proper guidance and experience needed to succeed at the professional level.
SAB: What is a piece of advice you tell your students or others who may be interested in building their own sports agency?
Zapata: Jump into it. When I first did research about being a sports agent, I found a lot of deterring information which almost pushed me away from it. At that point, I said “why not?” and took the leap of faith. I also inform my students to make relationships early and if you really do want to start your own agency, be weary of opportunities with big time agencies. I found sometimes you can end up attached to a specific agency rather than the athlete.
Zapata has currently been a certified agent for four years and hopes to continue to use his “back to basics” theory to find hidden talent and provide the proper guidance for those from his humble Latin American roots.