Out of the Park: Love for the game of baseball scores a career in major league media relations
By Monica M. Walk
Attended UW-Fond du Lac, 2002-2004
Completed B.S. degree in Exercise and Sport Science, Sport Management at UW-La Crosse
Manager of media relations for the Baltimore Orioles
From the time he hit his first T-ball as a preschooler, Jim Misudek loved baseball. Like many Little Leaguers, his goal was to play America’s favorite pastime professionally.
So, he immersed himself in baseball at all opportunities in backyards and on teams, through Roberts Elementary, Theisen (then) Junior High, the last years at Goodrich High and the first graduating class of Fond du Lac High School. From age 14, he worked as a student referee for the Fond du Lac Recreation Department.
When he enrolled at UW-Fond du Lac in 2002 and there wasn’t a team, he did the legwork to get the club sport active again.
By then, Misudek knew his playing skills weren’t professional caliber, but he continued to love the sport. As a high-school student, he had noticed that athletes weren’t the only employees of professional ball teams. He began scouting other routes to work in his dream field.
“I was looking for a way to be involved and for someone to pay me money,” Misudek recalled. “People work for teams—how do I get there? My end game was to work for a team.”
Planning for the future
Misudek wrote a series of letters to people working in professional sports, asking for advice and direction. Among those responding was then-Brewers General Manager Dean Taylor, whom Misudek has since met and been able to thank for that guidance.
In the years between the good advice and landing the dream job, Misudek had an education to pursue. He located the UW-LaCrosse sports management program, fell in love with the campus, and decided that he ultimately would earn his degree there.
But first, he opted to enroll at UW-Fond du Lac for two years. Convenience and cost factored into that decision. “The biggest part was that I could live at home and have a job and bank money for awhile,” he said, citing work in loss prevention at the local Sears and the ability to continue working in programming at the Fond du Lac rec department, while living with parents Ken and Sue. He also worked in the UW-Fond du Lac Athletic Department, running the scoreboard and music for basketball games.
Misudek notes fiscal responsibility as an important family value, one learned at an early age from his father. Younger brother, Mark, also followed the family value by taking classes at UW-Fond du Lac.
“Tuition was a drop in the bucket then,” Misudek said about his local enrollment. “The guaranteed transfer was very helpful. When I got to UW-La Crosse, I could just hammer into my major. Before I got to UW-La Crosse, I got all the general education requirements done. I remember the micro and macro economics classes kicked my butt—those classes were not a breeze. They challenged me, and I learned a lot. There were smaller classes and personal attention, but it was the same content stuff as at the four-year (schools).
“High school was not tough for me,” he said. “I got As and Bs without having to work much. In college, I needed to learn content AND learn how to study, how to learn. I was prepared for UW-La Crosse. I was up to speed when I got there.”
Reinvigorating a UW-Fond du Lac baseball team was a campus highlight for Misudek. Restarting the club sport meant funding it, and he launched the team with a three-on-three basketball tournament to raise money. Misudek recalls the UW-Fond du Lac team being the smallest school playing in the upper Midwest club circuit, which included Loyola Chicago, Northwestern, UW-Milwaukee, and Marquette universities. He happily recounted a win against Northwestern in a conference tournament—a big deal, since the large university had both varsity and club teams.
Once enrolled at UW-La Crosse, Misudek continued to write his personal career playbook.
He reconnected with people at the Timber Rattlers, where he also had sought advice via letter in high school, and landed his first internship. “The internship was all encompassing,” Misudek said of the summer, non-credit work, “including ticket sales, public relations, events, group tickets. I rotated around and saw the whole business. I saw that the PR side was where I wanted to go: the involvement, the access to information, ‘seeing behind the curtain’ more than other areas appealed to me."
Pursuing and positioning
When it was time to apply for a required for-credit internship, working for the Brewers was Misudek’s top choice, but he went deep into the field. “I applied any and everywhere to work; I sent 100 or more letters and applications,” he said. “I knew PR was what I wanted, but I spread my wings out of the PR world, and also to basketball and football teams and sports architecture firms.”
Misudek landed an interview for a media relations intern with the Brewers, as well as with the Charlotte Bobcats, and the Houston Astros. When the Astros realized he had paid for his own flight down for the single interview, they filled the rest of the day with internship interviews across the organization.
The following Friday racked up some amazing new-career stats. Charlotte called first and offered Misudek their media internship. Then, Houston called and offered Misudek his pick of departments to work in. Knowing he didn’t want to make a decision without learning where he stood with the Brewers, Misudek emailed the Wisconsin team. Ten minutes later, two members of the Brewers’ management were on the phone, offering Misudek his dream media internship.
The semester with the Brewers evolved into an additional summer of commitment to finish out the ’07 season. “I pulled clips, researched game notes, did press releases, and helped produce the media guide,” said Misudek, who would continue to use these early skills. “I would not go home until they kicked me out every day.” When the season ended, Misidek stayed on with the team for awhile, working in ticket sales and volunteering in PR. A Brewers boss connected Misudek with people at the Cinncinnati Reds, where he landed a paid internship working with Rob Butcher, considered among the best in the sports PR field. After a year, with the Reds, Butcher helped Misudek locate an open position as media relations coordinator with the Atlanta Braves.
“My first full-time job in baseball,” Misudek said. His dream had come true
Five years later, in February 2015, he moved up to manager of media relations for the Baltimore Orioles. “There are only 30 teams and jobs,” he said. “No one leaves the field much, so to move up you almost always have to move to a different team to advance.”
The advancement means more decision-making and more travel, and being on the road generally means working around the clock. “With the long hours and sacrifice I make on the business side, I have a very understanding and supportive wife, Jessica,” he said, noting that his current position has come after much unpaid and minimum wage work, and many moves.
The summer work schedule is intense, and winter provides a more usual 9-5 schedule, along with vacation time. Working the baseball season means no time to play the sport. Misudek’s more recent hobby focuses on film—which he learned to appreciate more deeply during a class at UW-Fond du Lac. And given his eclectic schedule, he often has a first-run theater all to himself on his weekday off. He does cheer for his long-time Wisconsin teams—Packers, Badgers, Bucks. And sometimes, the Brewers: “If it doesn’t interfere with what I do,” he laughed.
When days are tough and he hasn’t slept for three days, Misudek steps back and looks at where he is. “I ask myself, ‘What would 12-year-old me think? Would he think this is pretty cool?’ I’m on a charter flight with the team all around me. Yes, he would think this is cool. I’m not sure I imagined I would go this far.”
Photos courtesy of: Jim Misudek