When Jin Wong ’97 was applying for an internship with the Atlanta Braves during his senior year at Mary Washington, he was given a choice. Did he want to interview with baseball legend Hank Aaron over the phone or in person?
“I told them, ‘Tell me where and when,’” said Jin, who flew south to meet the Baseball Hall of Famer, spending some time getting to know the player who held onto the record for most career homeruns for 33 years. “It’s all about making connections and building relationships.”
Now a Major League Baseball executive himself, Jin shared those words of wisdom when he returned to the University of Mary Washington earlier this month to speak with College of Business students, student-athletes, and the UMW baseball team. The Alumni Association Board of Directors also presented an evening Q&A for alumni with board member Karmel James ’13 as host.
Jin, a business administration major and Division-III All-American outfielder at Mary Washington, shared insights from his 24 years with the Kansas City Royals and his recent decision to move to the Chicago White Sox. Named to the University’s inaugural Alumni of Distinction class, he also had a chance to visit his plaque in the first-floor gallery in George Washington Hall.
“The best advice he gave was to take risks and jump headfirst into any position in sports you can find,” said junior Thomas Martinez, who plays third base for UMW and aspires to work in sports marketing.
As a student, Jin followed his own recommendation when his advisor, Professor Emeritus of Management and Psychology Larry Penwell, found him the internship in Atlanta, next securing an entry level job with the team’s minor league affiliate, the Richmond Braves.
Two years later, he landed in Kansas City, where he rose through the ranks over the next two decades. He became vice president and assistant general manager for baseball operations in 2015, helping contribute to the team’s World Series win that year. Every step of the way, his relationships played a role in helping him find his next opportunity, Jin said.
Now, he’s ready for a larger market, accepting an assistant general manager position with the Chicago White Sox, which made national headlines this month. In his new role, he’ll oversee all aspects of baseball administration, including contract negotiations, salary arbitration, budgeting and payroll management, compliance with MLB rules and regulations, and the collective bargaining agreement.
“The job will be stressful, but all the responsibilities are in my wheelhouse,” said Jin, who appreciates that he’ll have more work-life balance. “It’s also an opportunity to change an organization from the inside.”
He reassured UMW students that there are jobs in professional sports for any major, with a willingness to work hard, be a team player, treat others with respect, act with integrity and accountability, and not focus more on ambition than one’s current position.
“Most importantly, remember that failure is inevitable,” said Jin, recalling how he quit the baseball team for a year to improve his grades in college, as well as the times he didn’t get hired for jobs he wanted. “Learning resilience and perseverance will help get you through those tough moments.”
Jin also encouraged students to use him and other alumni working in sports as a resource. He singled out Tad Dickman ’12, a former UMW basketball player who now directs communications for the Pathway/PGA Tour. Others include Emily Badis ’15, who played field hockey at UMW and is now manager of football administration with the Minnesota Vikings, as well as Shelby Harris Carey ’16, a former UMW tennis player who now manages events at Atlanta’s Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
For example, Jin said, he recently helped Xavier Herring ’23 – who was named UMW’s Male-Scholar Athlete of the Year last season – score an internship with a Chicago White Sox minor league team.
Senior Marie Butler, a geography major and business administration minor who plays on the UMW volleyball team, said she’s already taken Wong up on his offer to help.
“As a young woman looking to break into sports management, I learned from him that I need to put myself out there and use the connections I have,” said Marie, who was interested to hear Jin speak about the kinds of jobs available for liberal arts and sciences majors. “If you are confident, passionate, and willing to work hard, there’s a career out there for you.”
Jin Wong ’97 is the recipient of the UMW College of Business Distinguished Business Alumni Award, a member of the UMW Athletics Hall of Fame, and is featured among Mary Washington’s Alumni of Distinction.
–Article written by Assistant Director of Advancement Communications Jill Graziano Laiacona ’04