By Ryan Coppinger '20 / Sports Information Staff
WILLIMANTIC, Conn.- In the previous section, the path that Lee Walter Jr. took to keep his dream alive and make it become a reality was documented.
All the sacrifices that Walter had made, whether it be working overnight to then going to work at Eastern, working the weekends to ensure he had sport-related experience or even giving up time to spend with his two boys, it seems to have all finally paid off.
As Walter's first season on a full-time basis in minor league baseball with the Connecticut Tigers wound down, he is determined to continue his strong work ethic for the Tigers in his second season. But first, he reflects back on his journey to where he is now and his experience with the team thus far.
There is always a time that comes up in life when something could have been done differently. Prior to taking on this position, Walter was already comfortable selling a product in person, but was not as familiar with cold-calling.
This was a skill he had to quickly become accustomed with. Walter recalls what it was first like marketing to customers in his new setting, “I was the new guy with no previous connections to sell to. It wasn’t like I was replacing a body that was already here, so I wasn’t taking over a particular client base that I had to nurture from there. I really had to prospect for all my own clients.”
The Tigers had not employed a business development manager in several years, so stepping into this position was new to not only Walter, but a new adjustment for the front office. Together as an organization, all the front office personnel have individual duties to perform, but Walter’s daily schedule varies during the season and off-season compared to the others.
On game days during the season, Walter and the entire front office is very busy. His day will normally start with checking leftover emails and voicemails from overnight or the previous day. The front office staff will then meet so they are all understanding of how many outside groups will be attending that night's game, the number of barbeques, and how many people will be occupying the luxury suites.
After the meeting, there are many operational responsibilities that need to be attended to in order to make sure the stadium is prepared. Once the game has started, Lee will make it a priority to visit the luxury suites. As Walter puts it, “[I] introduce myself as part of the front office staff, welcome them to the game, and thank them, because we know that there are so many other entertainment options out there for them to spend their money on, so we appreciate everybody that comes. We want to make everyone feel welcome," he adds, "and that’s something I pride myself on taking on was coming up to the luxury suite level.”
A typical game day schedule for Walter will start in the morning and will not end until the stadium closes after the conclusion of the game.
At left: Among his many responsibilities on game day, Lee Walter Jr. stations himself at Dodd Stadium's main gate to greet customers at a Connecticut Tigers game this summer.
However, a work day when there are no home games -- or during the off-season -- is vastly different. The off-season is really the time where the organization aims to make money, selling all the sponsorships and marketing packages. As Walter pointed out, “Each individual 'in-between' inning promotion needs a sponsor, so my job is to help sell as many of those as we can and think outside the box and create new ways to find sponsorships and marketing for local businesses and community.”
Walter does what he can to sell. However, one of his favorite parts of this job is being able to think outside the box, coming up with fun ways to create a marketing tool that would work for a lot of people and to try and sell that idea. Being able to sell an idea is often difficult, but Lee believes he can sell those ideas inside and outside of Dodd Stadium.
Lee’s dedication to the Tigers and Dodd Stadium has been evident over the last few years. Says Dave Schermerhorn, General Manager of the Tigers, “Lee brings a strong work ethic that has allowed him to open new doors for the organization in areas of our market that were previously untapped. He brings a fresh perspective and new ideas as well, which can be very beneficial to us as we continue to grow.” The sky is the limit for Lee," Schermerhorn added, "as he continues to sell family fun and entertainment to Connecticut Tigers fans throughout eastern Connecticut.” With support from the front office and new goals in mind, Lee envisions himself being a part of the organization for the long term, helping in every which way he can.
Reflecting back on his progression to the Tigers, Walter that each job he held prior to joining the Tigers was beneficial. “In every job I’ve ever had, I learned something and taken something from each of them. What’s perfect about the job here with the Tigers is it kind of combines all of my backgrounds with my love of sports and working in sports operations, sales background, so it’s actually good I had those other jobs before I came back to working in sports full time.”
Although not every job he might have held along the way was exactly what he was looking for -- whether it be being a sales representative for a liquor distributor or being in sales at a local sporting goods store -- Walter's positive outlook on life brought him and the Tigers together, molding his true passions at last.
Since working overnight shifts previously at FedEx made it difficult to see his boys, the Tigers were more than willing to help Walter out. Never forgetting about his boys, Walter continues to look out for them, and “just do what’s right for me and my family at any given time.” Lee is proud to have his oldest son be one of the batboys this year, and he gets to see them more regularly than if he was working elsewhere, for which he is very grateful.
Coming a long way since his undergraduate days at Eastern, Walter’s accomplishments are incredible, considering how hard it was for him to get to where he is today. Staying true to who he is, Walter never forgets where he started and ended up during difficult times.
“I love the Eastern community. The university has done so much for me over the years,” says Walter, as he reminisces over his time as a student and as a member of the athletic staff at his alma mater. His hope is to remain with the Tigers, as well as help out as much as he can for the university that helped him achieve his lifetime goal. Thinking about what lies ahead, Walter says, “This organization [the Tigers] has a very bright future, and I want to be a part of that and would also love to be a part of Eastern as much as possible.” Lee shows how committed he is to being successful at his job, as well as finding the time to give back to a community that gave him a new beginning.
With all this being said, Walter left one final piece of advice for students looking to work in sport, while reflecting upon his journey, which completely defines his true self. “For those who are coming through Eastern, or other universities, (they need to) find opportunities and take advantage of them to make sure you can get to be where you want to be in life, and live every day to the fullest.”
Main photo courtesy of the Connecticut Tigers