Many people look at those sitting atop the hierarchy of Major League Baseball teams and speculate regarding the qualifications to be an MLB general manager. There are only 32 General Manager (GM) positions open in all of Major League Baseball and those who occupy that esteemed position appear to have different credentials.
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The modern MLB GM works in four fields, effectively holding the strings over areas that involve athletes, the front office, public relations, and social media. The GM is responsible for hiring the athletes and coaches that make up the team. They are also responsible for hiring front office personnel such as analytics experts, scouts, public relations personnel, finance experts, and so much more. Every MLB GM fills the role of principal spokesperson for the team and the organization. Most are peppered with emails, texts, and chats from athlete agents, coaches, politicians, and fans every hour of the day. The position requires an immense energy reserve. MLB GM’s jobs depend on the success of the team, so the building of a team with compatible and talented players is essential. As a result, MLB GMs pay particular attention to the building and maintenance of players and coaches in their minor league associates, particularly in player development.
There was a time when general managers were former players who continued in baseball after their playing careers in such capacities as a scout or a coach. As seen in an article in Work In Sports, the modern tendency in MLB is to hire general managers who have demonstrated their love of the sport at lower position levels. Though it is true that modern GMs normally come with college credentials, those educational credentials show no pattern toward success. Only two of the 32 sitting general managers have degrees in sports management. Looking over the tendency of the last 20 years, general managers begin by working an internship, some of which are unpaid, for a year or two before entering a paid position. Starting small, showing your energy, and keeping your nose to the grindstone are the best qualifications you can show. Excelling in a paid position leads to promotions within the system and, perhaps, a move into the general manager chair.
With only 32 MLB general manager positions available, there is less employment opportunity than in any other position in the industry. The turnover is not quick, and some teams refuse to budge unless the fan base demands it. For those looking for an opportunity in this market, it is imperative to attain a lower position such as assistant general manager, scout administrator, or farm team administrator to establish your credentials. Major League Baseball seldom hires from outside the system. Taking a lower position and excelling in it is the only proven path to a GM position.
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Seldom do you see a more closed system than Major League Baseball. Team success brings promotions within the front office as well as fame and generous contracts for the players. MLB organizations looking for a new general manager inevitably seek to advise from the MLB home office. If you stand out in every position you occupy in MLB, then you establish a network. The essential qualifications to become an MLB GM is the demonstration of loyalty to the sport, positive energy, and expertise in every aspect of the position.