Well, welcome to the Content Machine Podcast. This week, I’m joined by one of my old friends, nick Hall. Nick, how are you doing?
Good, man. Good. So glad to be here.
nick, for those of the listening audience that don’t know who you are and are unfortunate to not have met you before, can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
Heck, yeah. First of all, to start off, it is an honor to be on what will end up being the most listened to podcast in the entire series. That’s the part I’m probably most excited for. What an honor to be the featured guest speaker for everything, really. But no, guys, like Kevin just said, excited to be here. Name is nick Hall. Backround, Back When, the Jackson Generals in the West Tennessee Diamond Jax. Hate to date myself, but back in Jackson, Tennessee, that was my old stomping grounds back in the day. I was Jackson, Tennessee, a native for quite some time. Moved there in high school, went off to the University of Tennessee, Govalls for College, and have been primarily focused for my entire career in the sport and minor league baseball world. And it is a whirlwind of a world it is. So excited to be here and talk that through. But yeah.
So, nick, I’m a little older than you, and so I imagine you’ve got to be one of the younger general managers in minor League baseball.
I don’t want to just brag. It sounds weird, but I still hold the record for the youngest GM in Southern League history, which is double A at 27 years old back when it was actually in Jackson. But still, yeah, still holding that GM title. Right now, I am in Fredericksburg, Virginia with the Fredericksburg Nationals. We’re about 45 minutes south of Washington, DC. We have a single A affiliate and just built a brand new $35 million stadium in this community. And it has treated us very well since we’ve opened up.
Can you tell us how you get to be a 27 year old GM and what your career path has been like?
I would be lying if I said, hey, just a bunch of hard work is all that it took to get me there. A lot of stars aligned to do it as quickly as I did. I think sometimes it’s okay to understand that. To understand that there was luck involved in a few different spots. Some of that is actually because it was Jackson. Coming through Jackson, I did start as the mascot. I was R vb. For those listening that might remember the West Tennessee Diamond Jigs back in the day, my first job was R vb. But it was one thing led to another. Once I graduated fully from University of Tennessee, the role that I had was in the team store, which evolved into the team store and running the entertainment at the stadium, which transitioned over to partnerships and sponsorships inside the park. I say all of those big words that all happened within about a three year period. And so after that was the assistant general manager role. And then after some shifting, it was just a natural fit. It fell into that role a few different times and hit the ground running. It was there was, I have no problem saying there was help from the big man above to put me where I could make the biggest impact, which is super important to me.
And then I just… What’s that old phrase? You fake it until you make it? I was doing it for a good little bit, but I’d like to think that now I have a bit of a grasp over it.
You went from Jackson, you were the GM in Jackson, and then you went on to Texas, right?
I did. I went from Jackson, Tennessee, was the GM there, to the Director of Partnerships for Amarillo, Texas. Along with everything that I just said, it was a bit of a risk taking that step actually, because it was almost a step back in position. But I decided to go from big fish small pond to small fish big pond to try to grow that repertoire. One of the things I’ve always been just borderline obsessed with is looking at all new facilities. I have actually new builds of stadiums. It always gets me excited, whether it’s my team or somebody else’s, when I hear that I was reading article after article when Jerry World was being built down in Dallas for the Cowboys. That stuff actually… I’m weird, I’m a nerd, that stuff excited me. When I got the opportunity to move to Amarillo, Texas with a new construction build for a 7,000 person stadium for the San Diego Padres. That got me excited and then just went down there to try to put a new skill set under my belt. We had just an incredible inaugural season, an incredible build out process. It was just a beautiful, well ran facility down there.
I was there for nine months. I was there for nine months and then got a call. First of all, I say all this, there is no amount of practice that you can practice for the amount of work and hours that go into building a new stadium. I will definitely throw that out there. So it was a whirlwind of stuff to do constantly flying at you. Nine months into doing it, I got a call from Fredericksburg, Virginia, and they said, Hey, you want to do it again back to back? And I was like, You bet you.
So, nick, as a general manager of a minor league baseball team, what does a day look like in your life?
So this is actually the reason I love it so much is because there’s no two similar days. That is for me what keeps me engaged in not just this industry, but this position and this role so much is that I was just telling our assistant general manager, Robbie, who actually also from Jackson, Tennessee, or came through Jackson, Tennessee with the generals as well, I was just telling him the other day I had a one day period where my first meeting was with a prospective new client. My second meeting was a meeting about setting up a new style of broadcast that we’re going to be doing for the actual games themselves. I immediately had to cut that meeting short because I was late. In my next meeting was for a different facility in Fredericksburg that is trying to build a baseball field and wanted to know if the school system would be allowing their high school to possibly play games there. Then I turned that around and immediately was at a ribbon cutting for a civil rights trail here in Fredericksburg. I say all this because no day is set. That’s the great thing about it is that you are doing so many different things hour to hour that it’s impossible to really say what does a day look like?
But the most important thing that you can do is just surround yourself with just rock stars. That’s it. That comes from the hiring process, don’t get me wrong, but getting people on board that want to make what you’re going through bigger than life, that initiative, that ambition, having that throughout your entire organization, that’s when you don’t have to worry and get too caught up in the weeds because I couldn’t, with as much going on around here, I couldn’t imagine having to actually go to each of those departments and truly getting into the weeds of every single one of those departments. That’s just so important to have great people with you at all levels.
What is it then that you focus on as the general manager?
For the most part, the biggest picture of stuff. What I do mean by that is there’s always a renovation going on at the stadium. We are a three year old stadium and we have not gone probably a two month span without some project actually going on inside the stadium. First and foremost, that’s probably the main thing that I’m working on. The other thing, too, is actually having that relationship with the team and with minor league baseball, major league baseball themselves. Doing a lot of work with them, setting up their initiatives, and then being very community focused. That’s something that’s very important to us and a big part of this role is taking… You oversee all aspects of the business. That’s every revenue, every expense, you’re there to answer for that. You obviously have people that are doing those purchases, but when it boils down to it, you’re responsible for all that. It’s taking that business and translating it to the community to tell them the story of what is going on inside their stadium. That’s probably the main focus of me as a GM on what I’m doing on a day to day basis. Because one thing that somebody who’s not 100 % familiar with minor League baseball may not know is that the GM at the minor Leagues, nothing to do with baseball.
That can be surprising to some people. Sometimes when there’s 5,000 people in your stadium, you don’t have time to explain that to every single person. So sometimes you just like, I’ll never forget, they’ll come up to you and congratulate you on putting together a great roster, but they’re just saying it in passing. I don’t want to stop them because they’re trying to get home and they just were trying to be nice. I’m like, Oh, thanks. That’s the other thing, too, is that from this position, it’s not actually worried about the Xs and Os of baseball. You’re quite literally just going from the business perspective and most importantly, the community perspective.
When we talk about the community, I did notice when I was stalking you and catching up on Nicole’s life a little bit was that you’re on the board of the sunshine baseball League. Yeah. And so would you like to just take a second and talk about what that is?
I would love that. I would love that. Anytime I’m given an opportunity to be on a soapbox for that. That’s actually what I was talking about a little bit ago with building an extra field. So sunshine ballpark in Fredericksburg, Virginia. This is one of my passions is that sport is so important to kids. Sport is so important to kids. I’m not talking about baseball. I’m not trying to advocate specifically for baseball, but I’m talking about generally the act of getting kids involved in a team. It’s huge. Learning how to win is great. Learning how to lose is way more important. Learning how to bounce back, way more important. Learning how to do all that with other like minded people trying to achieve a goal, even if you’re on the same tee ball team is so big. One of my passions, though, is hearing that somebody doesn’t have access to sport because of a barrier that shouldn’t be there. That barrier, a lot of times, is just money. It’s purely money. So sunshine Ballpark, their entire initiative is to serve an underserved community and giving them access to sport. This is specifically baseball. That is the board that I am on.
What we do is we actually have our own League. It’s very cost efficient. The Fredericksburg Nationals, my organization, we sponsor the League by outfitting everybody with uniforms. We get the cost down real low for these kids. The kids that still can’t afford it, we also offer scholarships for them to be able to get in at no cost or even a lower cost on whatever they need. Because as heartbreaking as it is, you would be surprised at how many kids are not able to play a sport because they can’t afford the $15 to $20 T shirt. That does exist in all of our communities, not just in Fredericksburg, but in all of our communities. And sunshine ballpark and many other organizations across the country are doing things, trying to remove those type of barriers. And one of the more exciting things that sunshine ballpark has, also is another barrier we concentrate on is physical or special needs that are keeping kids away from being able to play sports. We actually have what they call a challenge or rated field at the sunshine ballpark facility, which is essentially a very thin turf that can handle walkers, wheelchairs, crutches, all that stuff.
You actually get out there, we have a few partnerships around the community where the high school team will come out and they’ll partner with a kid who has some a need, whether that’s physical, special needs, whatever that may be, and they play baseball. They give those kids the opportunity to swing a bat, go field a ball, and make a throw. Those are the things that we do at Sunshine Ballpark. As you can tell, just extremely important to me.
That’s awesome. Well, so let’s talk more about the Fredericksburg Nationals. Just for a little bit of context, because Fredericksburg is a good drive from Jackson in West Tennessee. Just give us a 30 second about the community there so we can have some background.
Yeah, for sure. So Fredericksburg, we’re about 45 minutes outside of Washington, DC. So Fredericksburg, really, if you had to do a very short and skinny of Fredericksburg, extremely historic. We are the hometown of George Washington. This is where he was born and raised. The community nowadays, mostly a commuter community. What that means is they will go take jobs in DC, and DC has a very high cost of living, so they pay very well in DC, and they bring that money that’s made from there back to the Frederburg community, which makes for actually really a very affluent community. But with that in mind, it’s an affluent community that pays for it, but because we spend 75 % of our day in a car. We are right along I 95, and I’ll tell you what, I didn’t understand what traffic was until I moved here. Being from Jackson, we all hated the 45 bypass traffic. You know nothing, John Snow. It is a ridiculous amount. We have a place that we would go often, and there are times where you can make it there in 45 minutes, but we have definitely been on the road for two and a half hours making the same drive before.
You just never know what you’re going to get with I 95 on the East Coast.
Nope. I’m going to stay here, nick. You can have that. Okay, so a big part of being a successful minor league team is getting butts in seats. Yeah, 100 %. As a GM and in the single A affiliate, how do you get butts in seats? What’s the marketing approach for marketing the team?
For sure. The number one thing is what you’re doing. I know that sounds weird and sounds obvious, but the thing you can’t concentrate on is the players. I know that sounds like the exact opposite of what you would think, but you just can’t. The reason why? The folks that would know the names of minor League baseball players, they’re already coming to the games. They are miss ing the game.
And there’s like 10 of them.
Exactly. So if you know the minor League baseball players that are on that team, you’re actually not who I’m marketing to because you’re out here. You’re out here. I need families to come out here. I need kids to come out here. I need the other 3,000 seats in my stadium full. What we do are what we do, or what we call promotions. We’re shooting off fireworks on Fridays. We are giving away bobbleheads jerseys and T shirts on Sundays. So we do all these different things throughout the week that try to give families a different reason to come each night of the week. So what you’ll also do with that is you’ll develop that, Hey, we like to see that Fridays are particularly our family nights. Because we’re shooting fireworks and it’s for $10, you can get in and see fireworks and have your entire evening of entertainment to cover. That’s the biggest thing that I think is surprising to some people is even when we were creating the brand, we quickly realized that we needed a face for the organization and it couldn’t be a player, so it became that mascot. That mascot became the face of our organization and not Albert P ulhoels for the Cardinals or Yaddy Armelino for the Cardinals or whoever that may be.
It has to be something else. It has to be a little bit more creative, which brings a layer of, I say, difficulty and a challenge, but a layer of fun. A layer of fun about that, because when you’re creating a brand, you’re creating a mascot to be your brand. You can truly make that whatever you want from the very beginning. It was an amazing experience creating the Fredericksburg Nationals brand. I’ve been so happy to be able to be along for that ride. What we have here is just truly special what it’s trying to do.
That was part one of a two part interview we did with nick Hall. So be sure to come back in a couple of weeks and check the second half of our interview with nick Hall.