Tom O’Connell is Founder and President of O’Connell Sports Management, located in Tampa, FL. Tom has represented professional baseball players since 1997. Recently, we caught up with Tom to get his insights on his career in the agent business.
Q. Tom, you’ve been a certified baseball agent for over 15 years, what have been the biggest changes you’ve seen in the agent business over the last decade?
A. I would say the two biggest changes in the industry are the increased role sabermetrics play in assisting agents in negotiating and valuing players, and the evolution of social media, which has dramatically changed the interaction with reporters. Agents now tend to be more guarded with reporters, especially in regards to ongoing and future negotiations.
Q. Over the course of your career you have operated primarily as a solo agent. Given how the player representation business has become increasingly dominated by larger agencies like CAA, Relativity, Octagon and others, how have you been able to compete in the player market?
A. I learned early on that honesty and integrity go a long way into building a solid brand. I have always prided myself on being direct and frank in dealing with not only my clients, but also with Major League executives. I pride myself on having high moral values and I truly believe this has been the key to my longevity and success.
Q. In your opinion, what are the toughest aspects of the agent business?
A. In my opinion the hardest part of successfully navigating this industry is possessing the ability to identify Major League talent at a very early age.
Q. What are your views on the proliferation of multi-year contracts that buy out a player’s salary arbitration years and one or two free agent years?
A. I feel you have to evaluate multi-year contracts on a case-by-case basis. Every player enters into multi-year opportunities at different stages of his career. What makes sense for one player may not make sense for another. Having experienced both, I can assure you that players that go year to year through the salary arbitration process will always maximize their compensation. With that said, the peace of mind that comes with securing a multi-million dollar contract can be invaluable.
Q. What are some of the biggest rewards and biggest disappointments of being an agent?
A. The biggest reward, by far, is when you are able to procure financial security for one of your clients. The biggest disappointment is when a client’s career is cut short by injury.
Q. What advice would you give to someone looking to break into the agent business?
A. If you truly want to explore an opportunity in the agent community, I think a good first step would be to secure and complete an internship with a reputable firm. This will give you real insight and perspective into how demanding and rewarding the agent business can be.