Rafa Nieves is an MLBPA Certified Sports Agent and the CEO / Founder of Republik Sports. The Venezuelan agent moved to the United States when he was 16 years old to play baseball. Following his baseball career, he began working at Beverly Hills Sports Council. He then went on to become the Vice President of Baseball at Wasserman Media Group. In March of 2020, he left Wasserman and announced the formation of a new firm called Republik Sports. In January of 2021, his agency acquired Platinum Sport’s agents and clients. I recently had the opportunity to interview Rafa and discuss his journey in becoming a sports agent, how he maintains his clients and the future of his agency.
“What would your younger self think about where you are today?“
I think I would be proud. I feel like I made it to the big leagues, which was my childhood dream and goal in life. I just made it out on a different side of the fence.
“What does a normal day look like for you during the season, general off-season?”
During the season I watch most of my clients’ at-bats and innings they pitch, then usually talk to most of them at the end of the night about what went right and what went wrong. We are also on top of their endorsement opportunities, signings, appearances, etc. On the minor league side, we are always being in touch with the young guys, making sure they don’t have any needs like sports equipment, housing, transportation, etc. I also get to travel a lot, probably 3-4 times a month, to visit all our clients while they’re playing.
The offseason is totally different and much busier for us. The minor leaguers are usually in Florida and Arizona for Instructional League or the Arizona Fall League, so they still have lots of needs on the field, and we have to service those needs. On the MLB side, we work on player valuations during November and December with the MLBPA to prepare for arbitration while also doing preliminary work on the free agents. Then we do to the Winter Meetings where the market usually starts to heat up and most free agents deals start happening. Then we have salary arbitration season in January and February, and then it’s time to prepare everything for spring training, which includes shipping cars, booking housing, booking travel, getting their sports equipment contracts ready, etc. I also go down to the Dominican Republic 3 or 4 times during the offseason to visit our clients, meet with potential new clients, etc.
“How do you ensure you maintain meaningful relationships with your clients?”
I have a background in hospitality, so this is a part of the job that I really enjoy. There are lots of agents out there who are completely transactional, and they don’t maintain any personal relationships with the players. I believe that you can’t be successful that way in the long run. Perhaps it was sustainable 30 years ago when the job of the agent was just like a CPA, who you only see once a year when it’s time to do your taxes. However, the industry as a whole has grown so much over the last few decades that being an agent has become highly profitable and therefore very competitive. You can ask any of my clients and they would tell you we are a family and we don’t only service them, we also cater to their family. We don’t care if you are in Low-A, or you are in the Majors, you still get the same love and attention from us. Also, as a medium-size boutique agency, we get to service our clients at a personal level, compared to a larger corporate agency where there’s not a lot of personal touch. It’s like shopping at Gucci vs. Walmart, even though Walmart makes more money and is more “powerful,’ you will never get any personal attention while shopping there.
“What is one thing about being an agent that someone outside of the industry might not know? “
You need to have a very high pain tolerance.
“Who was your first client and how did you sign them?”
Luis Sardinas in 2011. He was playing Rookie Ball in AZL. We connected over Facebook, I met his parents in Miami and then flew to Arizona to see him.
“Where do you see yourself in 5 to 10 years? ”
Still, right here, I am just warming up.
“What advice would you give to an aspiring agent?“
I would recommend finding an internship at an established agency where they can shadow some agents with experience and see if this is something they really want to do before going all-in. While doing that they can also start networking, and perhaps starting to recruit and build a book of business.
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