SMBA Alumna Wins World Series with Favorite Team
Lauren Rojo with the Los Angeles Dodgers 2020 World Series Champion Trophy
On October 27, 2020, the Los Angeles Dodgers defeated the Tampa Bay Rays 3-1 to take Game 6 and win their first World Series title since 1988. With that, SDSU Sports MBA alumna Lauren Rojo (SMBA ‘19) became the 13th member of the program’s alumni network to win a championship. Lauren’s World Series ring is the 19th championship ring won by a Sports MBA graduate. We checked in with Lauren after the victory to discuss her SDSU journey, her role with the Dodgers, and her career path to this point.
Lauren, congratulations on the World Series Championship!
Thank you! It was a wild ride to say the least
Q: Describe your family’s Dodger fandom and your personal history as a Dodger fan.
It actually started with my grandma, the rock of our family, who was raised in East L.A. She is probably the most hardcore Dodger fan in the family. She would play hooky from work, let my dad and his siblings miss school for big games, and was always in the crowd to welcome the team back from playoff or World Series road trips. Her love for baseball and the Dodgers was passed down to my Dad who, of course, passed it down to my brothers and me. We grew up at Dodger Stadium and, as a family, have some of our fondest memories there.
Q: You’re the Coordinator, Ticket Sales Events & Experiences for the 2020 World Series Champion LA Dodgers, can you talk about what you do in your role?
In 2019, the Dodgers transitioned from traditional season tickets to a “membership” model to create a robust offering for our fans. It began by offering experiences like pregame batting practice viewing, a “Member of the Game” announcement during pregame ceremonies, Kids take the Field, and on-site events on game days or non-game days. These events could be anything from a batting practice event while the team was on the road to an in-person Q&A with a coach or player. Once we turned the page on the 2019 season it was up to me to flesh out what our offerings would be for the 2020 season. I was given a budget to work with and completely revamped our events by adding a Fan Fest meet & greet, a Member trip to Six Flags, a Member trip to the L.A. Zoo, a two day trip to Spring Training, a Summer BBQ for 2,000 people...the list goes on. It was pretty exciting to be able to create something from the ground up and call it my own.
Lauren Rojo at the 2020 World Series at Globe Life Field in Arlington, Texas.
Q: The Covid-19 shutdowns took place during Spring Training and the entire season was put on hold. What plans did you have in place for 2020 had the pandemic not occurred?
I remember this day very clearly. It was Thursday March 12th and I was putting the finishing touches on our Member Spring Training event. I was set to leave for Arizona that next Wednesday when all of a sudden everything stopped. Instantly, everything I had worked incredibly hard on the entire offseason was put on hold. This event, specifically, was cancelled right away and I had to jump on the phones and negotiate contracts and refund policies for the different venue and restaurant spaces we had reserved for hundreds of people. Over the next several months it became abundantly clear that events for the season were very unlikely. Essentially, everything I had planned for the 2020 season, aside from the FanFest meet and greet which had already taken place, had been cancelled.
Q: How did your role adjust once the season began without fans in the stands?
When I transitioned out of Inside Sales, I was promoted to Coordinator of Ticket Sales & Service, where I was very much the “utility player,” which in baseball terms means you’re pretty good at a lot of different things. I managed events, oversaw administrative tasks, assisted our V.P. with various projects, and took over e-mail communication for the department (among many other things). As soon as we began working from home, my role moved back into that space with an emphasis on special projects and e-mail communication. I am one of only two people in the entire Dodgers organization trained by MLBAM to use their email campaign software, so the department relies on me heavily for that. Since adjusting to games without fans there has been in increased need for very clear, yet sensitive, email communication. Working with PR and marketing behind the scenes with this has been a fun learning experience for me and I’ve been able to see even more parts of the business than before.
Q: This offseason, a Dodger team that had played in 2 of the 3 previous World Series added one of baseball’s best players, Mookie Betts. What was the immediate impact of that signing on your department?
Just like you said, for my department the impact was immediate, and it was intense. Our sales reps were able to leverage this when running their cadences and speaking to prospective clients. I know I have a revenue timeline somewhere in my “Special Projects” folder specific to his signing, and I can tell you with certainty it had a positive impact on revenue pretty much instantly. On the service side, it’s much more difficult to see the impact since at his signing our renewal campaign had ended, but I know it gave our Account Executives a great talking point and a great way to have meaningful conversations with their Members.
Q: When Mookie Betts signed his 12-year extension with the Dodgers, did you think back to your lessons from Professor Frank Ryan’s Finance I & II courses to think about the team’s $365 million investment?
I try to block out Professor Frank Ryan’s Finance classes as much as possible. Ha ha! Just kidding, I love Frank Ryan! He is so incredibly smart and has some of the best jokes around! I think I may have had a quick thought, or maybe a giggle, about calculating the deal’s Net Present Value. But honestly, since stepping into the sales world my mind pretty much goes straight there. I started thinking about how Mookie Betts is so young and that we’ll hopefully leverage his stardom and use his media assets for years to come! Signing Mookie Betts was a great move on and off the field, for sure!
Q: You were physically on-site at Globe Life Stadium in Arlington, Texas in the reduced capacity crowd when the Dodgers clinched the title in Game 6. Describe that moment.
I don’t even know where to begin. In past seasons, I watched the Dodgers make it to the World Series but not close it out, and that was rough. While at Globe Life that was running through my head a lot, thinking about how I could potentially go home let down again. So, when we finally closed out game 6 it was almost unbelievable. I don’t think I believed it for the first few minutes. My co-workers and I were all looking at each other saying, “Did we really do it?” “We did!” It was great to be there. Even with the limited capacity, the energy of the crowd was electric!
Q: Were you there with friends or family or both? Did winning the World Series feel differently to you as an employee of the Dodgers organization?
For games 1 and 2, I watched at home with my family and games 3 through 5, I was with co-workers (friends) and I was able to bring my Dad. For Game 6, I was just with my co-workers and it was great to experience this with them. We had a front office virtual celebration two days after the win and Orel Hershiser said, “The people you worked with this season...you’ll have a bond with forever” and I one hundred percent agree with that. As far as feeling different winning as an employee of the Dodgers Organization, it absolutely did. But in the best way. It meant more because I see the guys working out at the stadium during the off season, I see them and their families, and I know the hard work the front office puts in year-round. To win as an employee was everything.
Q: What was your original role with the Dodgers organization for your Sports MBA consulting project?
My original role during my consulting project was as an Inside Sales rep. My entry into the Dodgers organization was such divine timing. The Dodgers completely redid their sales strategy at the end of 2018 with a heavy emphasis on outbound efforts. So when I started January of 2019, it was the first season they had started the Inside Sales program. I was in the very first class the Dodgers ever had, which consisted of six sales reps.
Lauren's organizational charts made using Tableau.
Q: How did you shift from an inside sales role to your current position, and how did your day-to-day tasks adjust as a result?
I am the type of person that likes to know things So when I started my role with the Dodgers, I would track everything I did. I created spreadsheets for different sets of potential clients. I still had my student Tableau account and would use it to make charts, and I would always share strategies that I thought would be helpful to my counterparts. I think they saw how organized I was and how I always had important information readily available, which was a great asset to have in a department that had just gone through a complete overhaul. About a year after becoming Coordinator of Ticket Sales, I transitioned to Coordinator of Events and Experiences, which was a pretty natural progression. As Coordinator of Ticket Sales, I was essentially doing three jobs: Assistant to the V.P., Coordinator of Ticket Sales, and Coordinator of Events. Like I said, a “utility player.” But the plan had always been to split my position into a few categories as I developed professionally.
Q: Prior to pursuing your Sports MBA, you interned for the Dodgers’ bitter rivals, the San Francisco Giants. How did you keep your Dodger fandom a secret in this role, or did you?
I actually did not keep it a secret, but rather flipped it into a positive during my interview process. I’m sure I said something along the lines of “I’ll never be distracted and am extremely committed to the work.” A typical intern answer, I’m sure. It turned out to be a blast and my department always made it into a fun competition throughout the season. To this day I have a lot of love and respect for the Giants front office and keep in touch with the staff I was lucky enough to work with.
Q: What was your role with the Giants and what was the biggest take-away from it?
I was the intern in Guest Services with the Giants, and it was my first role in a major sports organization. In this role I learned something new about the business every day, which is why my best advice for anyone just starting in the industry is “Do everything you can get your hands on!” If the department is swamped and they need someone to supervise a gate, go! Any little thing you can help with, dive in head-first. There’s something to learn from every interaction.
Q: What is Pantone 294 and what was your role with the organization?
Pantone 294 is essentially a travel organizer for Dodger fans, but honestly more along the lines of a traveling fan club LOL! I had about 7 months to kill between undergrad and the start of the Sports MBA program, so I started looking for any type of internship in the sports industry. It was funny, I had spent hours on TeamWorkOnline, Indeed...everywhere, and didn’t find anything. And one night I was on Instagram and Pantone 294 had posted an internship position. It was unpaid and I was definitely overqualified, but I thought it would be a cool experience. It was! I helped them reserve blocks of hotel rooms, book tour buses, and I got to travel to away games with the group a handful of times. We also did some humanitarian work in Houston after Hurricane Harvey, and that was an experience on its own.
Lauren Rojo with SMBA classmates visiting the Dominican Republic.
Q: As a Sports MBA student, you and your class visited the Dodgers Dominican Academy in Campo Las Palmas, Dominican Republic. You’re one of the few of the millions of Dodgers fans who has been to Campo Las Palmas to see where future Dodgers prospects from all over Latin America live and train in the first step in their baseball journey. What was it like to visit this historic facility and how did you integrate the visit into your coursework?
This was definitely one of the highlights of my Dominican trip. First of all, the facility is gorgeous, but second and more importantly, being able to see the young men going through the Dodger farm system and the work they put in was humbling. They workday in and day out on the field while also taking courses to prepare them for life in the U.S., should they get the opportunity to play. The course work I did for my D.R. project was in partnership with Pantone 294 where I organized a potential trip for about 30 fans to stay at the Campo Las Palmas facility. The trip would include some volunteer work in local communities and was meant to really highlight how MLB impacts different parts of the world in ways most fans can’t imagine. Unfortunately, the company hasn’t yet had the chance to see it through but I’m still in contact with them and maybe once overseas travel is a little safer, they can make it happen!
Q: You and your classmates raised several thousand dollars prior to the D.R. trip, how did the group decide to use those funds to purchase adjustable shoes to donate to the communities around MLB academies, including San Antonio de Guerra, by the Dodgers’ facility?
Yes, that was all organized by one of the women in my cohort, shoutout to Tatijana Bowman (SMBA ‘19)! She found an incredible company, “Because International” that made “the shoe that grows,” an adjustable shoe that is made to grow five sizes. We hand delivered them to kids in impoverished communities, which, now that I think back, was such a powerful moment. To this day it really helps me stay grounded and appreciate the privileges I’ve been afforded.
Q: Favorite SMBA experience or volunteer opportunity?
Aside from the Dominican Republic trip, my mind always goes back to working with Shaper Studios. Sports MBA alumnus Chris Clark (SMBA ‘12) is such a solid dude and his entrepreneurial spirit is contagious. I can’t imagine trying to keep up with that guy. Working with him made me realize how important it is to work with/for someone that lifts you up and helps make you better. Anyone in the program and in life is blessed to cross paths with him.
Lauren's rescue dogs Sophie and Leia.
Q: What are you passionate about other than Dodger baseball?
It would seem Dodger Baseball is my sole passion, haha! But no, I’m pretty passionate about anything that has to do with animals. I’m vegan so I’m always trying to be creative in the kitchen. I also started a fitness journey recently which has kept me super busy. I’m very close to my family so we spend a lot of time together on the weekends. And of course I have my two dogs that keep me on my toes! Both are rescues. One my mom actually rescued from the dog meat trade in China before she passed away, which is Sophie, the small one. I rescued Leia while in undergrad, because, you know, I didn’t have enough on my plate already! LOL!
Q: How has the decision to pursue a graduate degree from SDSU Sports MBA impacted your career?
From what I can tell so far is that it has fast tracked my professional development. It’s absolutely NOT a free ticket, you have to do the work. But it has definitely given me a leg up on the competition in an industry that has thousands upon thousands of people at the door trying to break in. Partly from the education I received, which rolls right into your next question!
Q: How has SDSU and the SDSU Sports MBA prepared you for your career?
I think the education, as a whole, prepared me for business in the big leagues. It made me confident that I can walk into a meeting and know what’s going on and communicate effectively. There are little pieces of every course I use in my day-to-day. I even had to use Qualtrics this season (thank you Dr. Baker!) which I thought I would never see again. In general, the program really refined my business acumen and added a ton of skills to my professional tool set.
Q: Do you have any advice to students looking to pursue a similar career or students who are looking to enter the Sports MBA program?
My advice would be to work hard and network every chance you get. You’re only going to get out what you put in, and that goes for anything in life. I’m sure there were a few laughs in my cohort when I paid $100 to go to a networking event at Staples Center, and when I told people I waited in line for an hour to talk to someone from the Dodgers, I’m sure I got a few more chuckles. What they didn’t know was that money was probably the last $100 in my bank account. I would moonlight as an Uber driver to pay my rent while in the program (not recommended LOL), and that the interaction I waited an hour to have lasted only one minute, but that conversation was how I broke into the industry. Work hard and network… the universe will do the rest.
Q: When you get your 2020 Los Angeles Dodgers World Series Championship Ring that says “ROJO” on it, will you wear it all the time or keep it in a safe place?
Haha...oooh the ring! I have a list of friends and family that want a picture with it so I might have to hold a photo shoot LOL. After that I’ll probably wear it for special occasions like Opening Day or something. The rest of the time it will be put away somewhere safe!
The Sports MBA program wishes to thank World Series Champion Lauren Rojo (SMBA ‘19) for answering our questions.
About the SDSU Sports MBA Program:
The SDSU Sports MBA program is an intensive, accelerated MBA degree focused on the dynamic business of international sports. The program provides its graduates a thorough understanding of the skills crucial for professionals to succeed, while building a broad network of relationships in the sports-rich landscape of Southern California. Visit business.sdsu.edu/sportsmba to learn more, request information or apply to the Sports MBA program.