By Thomas Albano
When Jeff Hurley needed an internship in order to complete his accounting degree from DeSales University in Allentown, Pennsylvania, in 2004, he sent his résumé out to several baseball organizations. He only heard back from two: the Lakewood BlueClaws and the Trenton Thunder.
Only the Thunder was able to offer him an internship. Now, Hurley — who spoke in Sweigart Auditorium on April 14 to the Business of Sports Club — finds himself as General Manager (GM) of the organization.
“I am lucky enough to say that this is my one and only job I’ve ever had,” Hurley said.
A Hamilton resident, Hurley said he’s fortunate he was able not only to find a team on the East Coast to be an intern for, but also to have that team be close by. During his three months as an intern for the Thunder, the Double-A minor league affiliate of the New York Yankees, Hurley was able to experience various aspects of the team, from game-day responsibilities — such as managing the Kids Zone, taking tickets and working in the parking lot — to behind-the-scenes positions in offices such as media relations, administration and baseball operations.
“You’re doing a lot of stuff that the full-time staff members don’t want to do, and you’re doing it in 90-95 degree heat,” he said. “Rolling inflatables, sitting out in the parking lot, stuff like that. But you know what? That internship pretty much rounded me into the person I am now and the position I’m in because without that, I don’t think I could be where I am now. They gave me opportunities to learn a lot of different aspects within a minor league baseball organization.”
Following his internship with the Thunder, Hurley applied for several open positions, soon becoming a group sales associate for his first full-time year. Eventually, Hurley made his way up, moving into a public relations assistant position — something he admits he didn’t have much knowledge of, but he was relieved to get out of the ticket office. That turned into a community relations job, and eventually a baseball operations job where he would be the liaison between the Thunder and Yankees.
He then moved to the accounting department, serving as a controller, as well as eventually the director of finance and the chief financial officer. This was advantageous, Hurley said, in the event he left baseball. However, months later, after then-GM Will Smith took the team president and operating partner position with the Staten Island Yankees, the short-season single-A affiliate in New York, Hurley was announced as the fifth GM in Trenton Thunder history.
“I’m still learning on the job, there’s a lot of things to learn on the operations side that I never had to deal with as a chief financial officer or director of finance,” Hurley said.
Kirkham Tibbet, a sophomore accounting and sports management major, felt the talk from Hurley was informative about working up the ladder.
“It was a great way to learn about the field,” Tibbett said. “Having a team so close in Trenton, it’s a great way to learn about internships. I think a lot of people don’t want to work their way up through an internship and sales.”
Hurley stressed to the audience no matter what industry or company they would work for, not to wait for opportunities to be given to them, but to chase them.
“Whenever there’s an opening in a position where they’re giving you guys and girls a chance to move up within the organization, take advantage,” he said. “Don’t expect them to come to you and say, ‘We’re interested in you for this position.’ Take control of that and go to them and say, ‘Excuse me, I’m really interested in this position. That could really better my career.’”
Sophomore marketing and sports management major Kyle Geissler, one of the creators of the Business of Sports club, says this event is just the first step in what will hopefully be a way for sports management and sports studies students to connect with teams and organizations.
“We’re really just focusing on networking right now,” Geissler said. “Come time for next semester, we’re going to try and do something with the Trenton Thunder again, and try to enhance it a little bit more — have the front office come and mingle — and reach out to professional teams, like the Flyers and the Sixers, and do tours and learn how each different sport has their own way of operating.”