By Joanne Collins
Special to the Toronto Sun
Is it possible to get paid to watch major league baseball? What sounds like a fantasy is reality for John Matthew, marketing producer for Major League Baseball Advanced Media.
| JOHN MATTHEW|
Marketing producer for Major League Baseball Advanced Media
Although Matthew is responsible for all Toronto Blue Jays' website marketing, he reports to Major League Baseball, which is based in New York City.
I met with Matthew at his Rogers' Centre office (formerly known as SkyDome), home of the Blue Jays' corporate headquarters. Matthew admits that he has a dream job: "What other job would allow you to watch baseball and get paid for it?" he asks with a smile.
It's hard to believe that only six years ago, Matthew was working as a computer consultant. A graduate of the University of Waterloo, he majored in mathematics and minored in computer science. Despite the fact that he had a stable and well-paying consulting job, baseball was always his first love. He recounts the exact day when his passion was ignited: "It was August 17, 1973, and the Montreal Expos played the Atlanta Braves -- it was at that game that I fell in love with baseball."
Unable to ignore his dream of working in baseball, Matthew parlayed his skill for tracking baseball stats into a part-time stint recording score sheets for a sports media company called Total Sports. In return for recording stats, he got paid a nominal fee and gained free access to Blue Jays' games.
Total Sports evolved into a website, and Matthew was asked to contribute stories. "Here I was writing a column every couple of weeks for the baseball site. I was no longer enjoying my computer consulting, and I realized I could actually get paid to write about baseball. It was then that I decided to become a sports journalist. I wasn't sure how or where, but I knew I had to do it, and I was hoping it would be with the Blue Jays.
"For the first time, I knew what my heart wanted, and I was prepared to do it," he says.
HOW TO DO IT|
John Matthew's suggestions on how to break into the sports industry:
Keep track of people and stay in touch. It's all about building relationships.
It's hard to land baseball jobs in Canada because there are so few teams. Apply to work in the U.S. if possible.
If you can work in the U.S., there are baseball industry job fairs that can assist you in landing a job.
Canada has more hockey franchises, so it may be easier to find a job in hockey.
Many people who work for major sports franchises break into the business by starting in the minor leagues.
Always be passionate and look for every opportunity to get your foot in the door.
Matthew hung in at his consulting job and wrote baseball stories on the side, all the while hatching a plan to break free from his day job to work full time in baseball.
Soon, a twist of fate created the perfect opportunity. Total Sports announced it would no longer operate the Blue Jays' website because it was being taken over by Major League Baseball.
"I knew the Jays would need someone to run the site, so I went to them and said 'Pick me, pick me.' "
In January 2001, Matthew flew to New York City to be interviewed by Major League Baseball. The interview went well and he returned to Toronto to await an offer. After two nerve-wracking weeks, the call finally came and he received his dream job offer to run the Toronto Blue Jays website for Major League Baseball.
Even though people are envious when he tells them what he does for a living, Matthew admits there are some drawbacks to the job. Contrary to the belief that there would be a lot of downtime during baseball's off-season, the demands of the job rarely ease up.
"Apart from a couple of weeks off in December, this is a year-round job, and it's definitely not a 9 to 5 job," he says. He even admits to working during vacation time.
Although Matthew no longer writes baseball stories because of his new marketing role, he is still happily surrounded by the game he loves.
"It took a long time to get here," he says. "Sure, I got the job because of my computer skills and writing ability, but the real reason I got it is because I have a huge passion for baseball. You can teach people how to program a website, but you sure can't teach passion."
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