Three Oklahoma Christian University alumni left the “safety net” of campus and are diving deep into the world of professional sports, as they accepted jobs with the Texas Rangers, Oklahoma City Thunder and Houston Rockets.
MLB baseball has become the center of Jake Whiteley’s world, as the public relations major recently took on the title of Digital Marketing Coordinator for the Rangers after graduating from Oklahoma Christian in April 2017.
“Every day is different and every day is exciting,” Whiteley said. “I am responsible for all of our email campaigns and I oversee the website and all of the content on there. If you are on any of our lists, if you receive a text message, go to the website or see any sort of content – I probably had a helping hand somewhere along the way with that.”
According to Whiteley, he originally interviewed for the graphic design coordinator position, before taking on his current title last week. He said what stuck out to him the most about the job was the amount of writing and copyediting experience required; two skills he enjoys.
“I am a big nerd when it comes to branding, building a brand and marketing a brand,” Whiteley said. “Every day, I get a little bit of fulfillment whenever I get to have a small role in promoting the brand that is the Texas Rangers. Even though our team may not win on the field, I know I am playing my part, because off the field, our brand is still thriving and succeeding.”
In addition to moving states for the job, Whiteley said the hardest part of leaving the Oklahoma Christian “bubble” has been adapting to people who do not necessarily share the same backgrounds or beliefs.
“That is one thing about OC – typically your commonality with a new friend is your faith, as well as the fact that you are going through all the same experiences, like Earn Your Wings, classes, Spring Sing or intramurals, together,” Whiteley said. “One of the biggest challenges I faced was that here, you meet people and they have no idea what Spring Sing is or what intramurals are. They do not know any of the stuff you have been through, so you have to get to know each other on a more personal level and in a different way than it was in college.”
Oklahoma Christian alumnus Micah Fryslie, a graphic designer for the Oklahoma City Thunder, had been applying online for different positions across the Oklahoma City area for six months before going in for his first interview with the Thunder in December 2016. As a designer for a professional basketball organization, Fryslie said there are days that are similar but never the same, as he could be working on game programs, wall graphics or billboards depending on a certain day’s needs.
“The biggest thing I learned at OC was the importance of concept-ing and sketching before beginning the final product, as well as how to accept critique and feedback,” Fryslie said. “Yes, you should be excited to showcase your skills, but you should be willing to admit what you do not know. I have found most people respect this way of thinking as long as you are willing to learn, because college does not teach you everything.”
Alumnus Will Chapman, who works with the Houston Rockets, said he decided to take his coaching to the professional level after coaching a team of Division I players in Europe for two weeks last summer. After his tour director gave him contact information for a member of the Rocket’s staff, Chapman sent him his information, which led to a phone interview.
“The first thing he said was, ‘I will be honest, this is a very competitive job, with over 300 people applying and trying to get it,’” Chapman said. “I kept making the cuts and once it got down to me and another guy, they brought me in for an interview with Head Coach Mike D’Antoni, General Manager Daryl Morey and other staff members. Three days later, they called me and offered me the job. It was a two-month process.”
Working for the Rockets this season, Chapman said he typically assisted players Trevor Ariza and Nene before games on the court, while also participating in coaches’ meetings and pre-game shoot around.
“At 27, I felt really blessed to be in the NBA and working at the highest level of sports,” Chapman said. “My favorite thing was working with the players and coaches. They are some of the best athletes in the world and getting to work with them and help them prepare is a lot of fun. Being in the locker room before the game and seeing how intense and focused everyone is, creates an unexplainable adrenaline rush that is fun to be a part of.”
For any students eager to join a professional sports organization after graduation, Chapman said he encourages them to dream big and follow their passion.
“If you really want something bad enough, work hard and treat people the right way, then give yourself a chance,” Chapman said. “I have a saying, ‘Refuse to be ordinary.’ It is an ultra-competitive business, so if you think you have a chance and it is what you want to do, pursue it and use your experiences and education that has prepared you to follow your dreams.”