The following Interview with the Agent piece was written by Richard Pallarino (@rpallarino). Richard is a student at CUNY-College of Staten Island and Assistant to the Director of Artist Management at Wilhelmina Models. The focus of the interview is baseball agent B.B. Abbott, an attorney/agent at Jet Sports Management.
Richard Pallarino: How did you get into the athlete representation field?
B.B. Abbott: It was obviously much easier for me, because I grew up with Chipper Jones. I owe this all to him. I went to law school with the intention of getting into the sports law industry. After practicing law with Foley and Lardner (who represents MLB) for four years, Chipper and I decided to go down this path, and I started representing him in 1999. I slowly built my firm through the draft, brought on two outstanding scouts as partners and we were on our way.
Pallarino: Can you give a description of what it is an agent does?
Abbott: It varies depending on the firm and structure. At larger firms, there are different levels of agents, employees and personnel that do different things from recruiting, marketing/endorsements, equipment, negotiation at the draft level, client development/relationship and then arbitration and contract work. In smaller and mid-size firms, those duties are typically handled by one or two agents and maybe one office employee, or in the case of very small firms by one agent.
Pallarino: How does the advising process differ from a player coming out of high school to a player graduating college?
Abbott: This is a generalization, but teams involve the entire family more when you are dealing with a high school player. The recruitment process is much of the same. While we strive to involve every family, the realities are that you deal more directly with the player in college because they are typically living on their own and their college programs are more structured in allowing for meetings with agents and teams. With high school players, almost everything goes through the parents (as it should). These are 17 year old kids that have a more immediate need to have their parents’ input and counsel. Many college players want their parents input, and it is something we wholeheartedly encourage, but the day to day individual contact is more separated because of the circumstances. Quite frankly, there is nothing like having an entire family involved with this process because it is such a wonderful and special time for these young men.
Pallarino: What is the pre-draft process that Jet Sports Management provides for their clients?
Abbott: First and foremost, we provide each player and family with information and statistics about the draft, MLB baseball, roster compilation, finances of teams, prospect data and development issues. Next, we try to share information with them that will allow them to enjoy this experience for what it is – a once in a lifetime opportunity that they should cherish forever. Finally, as the draft approaches, we give them private counsel about the ultimate decision that will certainly shape the young man’s life, while at the same time impressing upon the entire family that this is almost always a win-win scenario regardless of the choice.
Pallarino: How does Jay-Z partnering with CAA impact the sports agent business? Especially baseball?
Abbott: To ignore what Jay Z has done in the music industry and business world would be shortsighted. That being said, the representation field is a different and unique animal. Anyone that is planning on doing this independently of an established representation firm will certainly need to surround themselves with established and experienced agents that are going to have boots on the ground on a day to day basis. It is a severely competitive services and relationship industry that requires extensive client maintenance and interaction. I do not presume to tell Jay Z or anyone else how to run their businesses, and as I said, if Jay Z truly wants to run a successful representation firm, I have no doubt that he will do exactly that.
Pallarino: What advice would you give to aspiring agents?
Abbott: I have 100s of young men and women that email me each year asking me for jobs, counsel or information. I make it a point to email each one back, because I remember being in their exact position. I tell all of them the same thing – prepare to do something else and look for cracks in the door to break into this industry. I think every agent would tell you of a “break” or chance that someone took on them, and that simply comes with knocking on doors. For me, it was Chipper giving a friend and a young lawyer a chance to handle a Hall of Fame career for going on 15 years. For Stan Kasten, it was Ted Turner when he met him on a trip to Fulton County Stadium. Each person has that day when he/she broke into the business. However, you cannot ignore the probabilities that it is an extremely difficult industry to penetrate and each person must prepare themselves in school to do something else to earn a living in the meantime.