Playing the Long Game
Randall Owens III will spend the summer at the ballpark, surrounded by hot dogs and lifelong fans. He'll also earn college credit, lines on his resume and an expanded network for his time at the stadium.
"I can't even tell you how excited I am," Owens says of his upcoming sports management internship at the U.S. Baseball Park in Ozark, Mo. "Anyone who knows me knows I'm a huge baseball fan. My wife and I had a baseball-themed wedding. I've loved sports since I was a kid."
His enduring love of the game didn't always apply to his career. After playing multiple sports in high school, the self-described "people person" worked as a car salesman and in the printing industry in Kansas City for several years before returning to Springfield.
"When I moved back, I had a hard time finding a job. I ended up taking a position as a dispatcher for a tow trucking company, then became a driver myself. I did that for a couple of years, but then I got injured on the job," Owens said.
He decided it was time to go back to school. He started by taking a couple general education classes a local community college. His dad, a corrections officer, earned his criminal justice degree from Columbia College and encouraged Owens to look there too.
"I started in my mid-late thirties, and I'm going to be over 40 when I graduate. I didn't have the luxury of time to figure out what I want to do," Owens said.
He knew he needed to find something he could stick with for the rest of his career. When Owens saw the sports management program at Columbia College, he decided to transfer. Now, with graduation just around the corner, Owens is feeling the weight of the upcoming job search. He researched the kind of job he hopes to have one day — general manager of a major or minor baseball team — and how current GMs reached that level.
"I found that general managers of teams said getting experience early on was important," Owens said. "They say that their internship time was one of the best experiences they had. Starting at those bottom rungs helps you appreciate where you are now and helps you work with people around you at all levels because you'll understand their workload and how hard they are working."
Through a friend, he found out about the U.S. Baseball internship opening and applied right away. The interview went so well that Owens was offered the position on the spot. Kate Rothwell, regional recruiter and former academic advisor, and Maria Wittenberger, academic advisor at the Columbia College - Springfield location helped him get all the details figured out. While this opportunity came together easily for him, there have been plenty of other challenges in getting this close to graduation.
"Going to school when you have been out of high school for 20 years and everything is new to you again is really hard," Owens said. "There were times in school where I wanted to quit and thought there is no way I can keep on going."
Owens credits his wife with helping him stay motivated. She holds a master's degree herself and kept pushing him in the right direction.
"She understood how I'm frustrated with my current job. It's fine, but it's not something I can do for ten more years and be happy," Owens said.
Together, they just welcomed their first child. That gives Owens one more reason to get the most out of his internship opportunity.
"I'll be meeting so many new people," Owens said. "My goal is to make a good impression so that I'll be in the back of someone's mind when an opportunity opens up after I graduate. Also, I'm going to have fun — it's a game, after all."
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