In the 1988 baseball film Bull Durham, Kevin Costner reminds his team not to be so serious on the field. “So relax. Let’s have some fun out here! This game is fun. OK?” he tells them.
Baseball may be fun. But it’s also a business, something five Sawyer Business School students are learning firsthand with the collegiate summer baseball team the Brockton Rox, based 25 miles south of Boston in Brockton, Mass. The team has been undergoing a bit of a reboot the past two seasons: The city of Brockton, team ownership, and operating partners Liberty Sports Group have committed to creating a more entertaining fan experience as well as making improvements at the stadium, including new lights, a digital billboard, and mobile ordering for concessions.
Working with the guidance of Marketing Professor Kim Ring, the students spent the first weeks of the summer with the team, doing research on marketing, surveying fans—even learning how the concession stands work.
“The students are immersed in every aspect of what goes on here, and they're uncovering all kinds of things,” says Ring. “They're going to take what they learn and present it to two MBA classes that will then use the findings as part of their own projects.”
The partnership with the Rox follows on the heels of the multi-year partnership the University launched with the Boston Celtics earlier in 2023 as part of its new sports management major. What makes the Rox experience valuable, says Ring, is that it is so immersive.
“We're in the middle of the Brockton community. We're talking to the mayor's people. We're talking to fans,” says Ring. “What these students are doing is going to help drive the future of where all of this goes for seasons to come.”
Jillian Isenstadt, Class of 2025, grew up playing baseball in Norton, Mass. So using the marketing skills she’s learned at Suffolk was a natural fit—so much so that the Rox hired her after the summer pilot program was over.
“I’ve learned that the team needs a lot of marketing help and they need a lot of writing,” Isenstadt says. “That's what I love to do. During the school year I write newsletters for the University’s student-run marketing agency, Suffolk in the Hub. And that’s exactly what I'm going to be doing for the Rox. I'm very excited to get started.”
Erika Penney, also Class of 2025, got hired by the Rox as well. She’ll be shadowing the general manager for the rest of the summer and gaining even more insight into the business of baseball.
“That experience for me to be on site and learning what they're doing, who they're communicating with, and what partnerships they're getting is so important,” Penney says. “That’s why I'm here. Because I want to learn.”