Alumni Q&A: Tim Jackson, MSEd ’09

October 16, 2017
Tim Jackson

Tim Jackson, general manager of the Triple-A Round Rock Express baseball franchise, graduated from Baylor’s sport management program with an MSEd in 2009, after earning his undergraduate degree at Baylor in 2008.

What is the nature of the job of general manager in the minor leagues?
The role of a Minor League Baseball general manager is significantly different than that of our Big-League counterparts. While MLB general managers are tasked with drafting, developing and implementing the talent on the field, my role is more fan-focused and concentrated on running the business side of baseball: sales, marketing, stadium operations, staffing, etc. My role does require quite a bit of communication with our major league affiliate – the Texas Rangers – but the roster assembly and on-field decisions are strictly made by the parent club. They provide us the talent, and we create the experience around it.

What’s your favorite part of the job?
Without question, what I love most about my job is the nightly gratification, seeing our fans enjoy a night at the ballpark. Whether they’re longtime season ticket holders or a family enjoying their first game, we have the opportunity to enrich their lives if only 
for a short while.

What has been your biggest brush with baseball fame (not counting franchise co-owner and Hall-of-Famer Nolan Ryan)?
In my eight seasons, we’ve received some high-profile rehab assignments: Josh Hamilton, Nelson Cruz, Lance Berkman, Roy Oswalt and Yu Darvish. We’ve also had multiple up-and-coming stars pass through Round Rock on their way to The Show: Anthony Rizzo, Kris Bryant, Eric Hosmer, Matt Carpenter and Joey Gallo. But without question, the biggest name we’ve had during my time was Manny Ramirez, who was making a comeback after a brief retirement. He was an absolute joy to deal with; he signed autographs, handled media requests, and most memorably, worked with so many of our younger players. And of course, he did it all with that famous Manny smile.

What’s it like for the players when someone gets called up to the Big League?
I’ve been fortunate enough to be down in our clubhouse for several first-time call-ups, and it’s hands down one of the most gratifying experiences I’ve had working in baseball. Seeing a lifelong dream fulfilled is as good as it gets. Truly, the most moving part each time wasn’t how excited the actual player was, but how genuinely supportive and happy their teammates were for them. Every one of those players dreams of playing in the Big Leagues, and all of them have made multiple sacrifices to make that a reality. Yet, when the call comes and it’s not them, their respect for what it takes to get there outshines any disappointment. It’s the purest form of “the love of the game” and something that never gets old witnessing.

WEB EXTRA: More from Tim Jackson:

What’s it like when owner and Hall-of-Fame pitcher Nolan Ryan comes to the ballpark?

For 18 seasons now, the core of our ownership group, Ryan Sanders Baseball, consists of Nolan Ryan and his two sons, Reid and Reese; Houston businessman Don Sanders and his two sons, Brad and Bret; former Jackson Generals owner Eddie Maloney; and a number of minority shareholders.

I do, from time to time, get to briefly interact with Nolan – as he has an office next to the ballpark – but truly my day-to-day interactions with ownership are more with our CEO Reese Ryan. Of course, Nolan is still very much aware of where our Club stands throughout the year, but his ranch and beef operations, plus other business ventures, keep him busy.

Nolan typically comes to a handful of games each season, and when he’s there, it’s all about baseball — as you would expect. Needless to say, on those nights our attention to detail is heightened considerably.

Even with all the fame and accolades, the entire Ryan family is as genuine and sincere as you could hope for. Their passion for baseball is only exceeded by their commitment to faith and family, and it’s what’s driven the success and culture of the Express for all these years. It’s truly an honor to be a part of this baseball family.

How did the Baylor Sport Management Program prepare you for this job?

Looking back, I feel the program’s biggest impact on me was providing an engaging environment with like-minded students. I think the coursework offered some thought-provoking concepts and a baseline for sport vocations, but ultimately, it was the relationships I formed with students who shared similar passions as me that meant the most.

A number of us had grad assistantships in various areas around the University while in the program, so often our conversations were about our daily routines and the successes and struggles that came with it. It was the best way to practically apply things we had learned in class, but also discuss real-world situations that go beyond what you can learn in a classroom.

What’s the most challenging part of the job?

We have a couple sayings in baseball: “The days are long but the weeks are short,” and “Learn to sleep fast.” It’s no secret that we play a lot of games in baseball – 72 home games to be exact – and those nine innings don’t come with a time limit. So, a traditional eight-game homestand can easily make for a 100-hour work week and some late nights. It may seem like an easy answer, but the hours we work during the season are certainly one of the more challenging aspects of the job. Of course, what they say is true: “Choose a job you love, and you’ll never work a day in your life.” Our days are just a little longer than most.

What is the corporate structure of the team and facility?

Even though we work in baseball, our organization is structured like traditional businesses. We too have budgets and bottom lines that drive our day-to-day operations, but the product we sell and supply just happens to be baseball. We have around 40 full-time employees that are spread throughout different departments: sales, marketing, retail, stadium operations, administration, PR & communications, and baseball operations. Everything you see, hear, or feel at the ballpark or anything Express-related in the community is handled by our staff.

One of our core values is to “do more with less” which requires all of us to wear different hats — or multiple hats at once — throughout the year. So, even though our staff members have specific responsibilities, it’s common for them to assist in other departments as needed. Honestly, it’s what makes this job so exciting; you never have the same day twice.

How is the facility used in the off-season? Do you manage that also?

We may have a “baseball” offseason, but our operation is year-round. Quite frankly, our non-baseball programming is just as important to our business operation as the actual baseball season. That’s why we refer to our ballpark as an “events facility” rather than just a baseball stadium, as it better describes its multi-purpose functionalities. Whether it’s international rugby, Mexican League soccer, monster trucks, concerts, or charitable walks, there’s almost always something going on around the ballpark throughout the year. We also have an onsite conference center that provides meeting and banquet space for groups of all sizes, so it’s not just big events that we host outside of baseball.

Ultimately, we have a multi-million-dollar asset that can’t sit dormant for six months. Our existing infrastructure and amenities make our facility a turn-key operation for outside events, which is why it’s so attractive to promoters. Depending on the event, we may be renting the stadium out and providing some staffing, or we may manage and run the entire event ourselves.