Amanda Shank, Ripken Baseball

What is your job title and responsibilities?

Vice President, Business Development. I’m focused on Ripken Baseball’s growth, including new venues, new programming verticals, partnerships and retail.

What was your first job in the industry?

My first full-time job in sports was in player marketing at the NFL Players Association. I worked there for over 11 years, eventually transitioning to digital and unconventional licensing, where I got to work on EA Madden NFL as well as mobile gaming, digital goods, daily fantasy, and emerging technologies.

What aspect of your job do you like most?

Our team at Ripken Baseball is fortunate to work with an indelible brand that really stands for its core values. I love working with our team to translate The Ripken Way into experiences for kids. With every new venue or event, I want a 12U baseball team and their families to walk onto our complexes and say “WOW”.

What did you want to be when you grew up?

I was confident I was going to be the first woman to play in the NBA (the WNBA didn’t exist yet). That didn’t happen.

How did you get into this line of work?

Sports were always a huge part of my life, both as an athlete and a fan. I went to college for journalism and wanted to write features for Sports Illustrated. The more internships I did, the more I was drawn to the business side of sports.

Do you belong to any civic or volunteer organizations?

I belong to a Naval Academy community group that supports military charities. My entire family served in the Navy and my brother is an Academy grad, so military causes are important to me. On the professional side, I’m on the Business of Diversity in Sports & Entertainment committee for the National Sports Forum. It’s focused on creating access for diverse candidates into revenue-generating positions in sports, which tend to be less diverse than other areas of sports organizations.

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What has been your biggest accomplishment thus far in your career?

There really are no individual accomplishments in sports, but I’m proud of our new programming series Ripken Select. We’ve taken our signature weeklong tournament experiences and brought them to new markets for the first time, starting with one event in 2021 and three this year. We’ve found a way to deliver a Ripken-worthy experience at facilities that aren’t ours by staffing with our incredible Ripken traveling team and partnering with the right destinations who share our vision for the Most Memorable Experiences in Youth Sports. I’m excited for it to continue to grow and evolve.

How do you manage your daily tasks?

I live and die by “To Do” lists. Between Outlook flags and my notes, I create a to do list each morning and try to knock out the quick items first and leave the afternoon for my deep work.

How do you stay on top of sports tourism industry trends?

I read as much as I can – PUSH Magazine, Sports Business Journal, Front Office Sports, SportsTravel, Sports Destination Management – and participate in a lot of industry events and webinars. It’s important to read and network outside of our segment of the industry too, because inspiration can come from anywhere.

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How are you developing key partnerships in the marketplace?

The best partnerships start with listening. We’re having a lot of conversations with municipalities about their goals for sports tourism in their community and how they measure success. We’re the only multi-venue operator that programs 100% of our own content and we have a track record of driving significant economic impact with no ongoing subsidy from communities. Our model won’t be right for everyone, but if we begin every conversation by listening to what that city or developer is hoping to achieve, we can see if it’s a fit.

Who was your greatest mentor?

It’s impossible to pick just one – I’ve been really lucky to have great mentors and leaders throughout my career. George Solomon, Steve McDaniel, and Joe Weber at the University of Maryland; Karen Austin, Teresé Whitehead, Joe Nahra, and Keith Gordon at the NFLPA; John Bramlette, Diane Erickson and Mike Kenney at Ripken. I’ve also had a lot of hype people who’ve believed in me and celebrated my wins, and I try to be that for others.

What are the top 3 things you’d want to pass on as advice to a young, up and coming industry professional?

When you start at a new job, find the teachers. There are people at every organization that are willing to pour into you. In my first job, our general counsel took the time to explain every element of our player endorsement contracts. I’m still a go-to set of eyes on contractual language now because of the time he spent with me as an administrative assistant.

Give your best effort to every task. During an internship, I was digitizing historical game results from the late 1800s to early 2000s that had been kept only on note cards in a filing cabinet.

It wasn’t glamorous, but it had an impact, and my supervisor from that internship was one of my references for my first job.

Be open-minded. Most careers are not a straight line. Try new things and enjoy the journey.

What are you most passionate about and how did you get started with it?

My number one passion is my family and being a mom. Outside of that, it’s travel. We moved a bit as a military family and living overseas at a young age changed my worldview. I try to take a longer trip every few years, usually with my dad, and I don’t bring my cell phone. Our last two trips were three weeks in China and a month in Chile, Argentina and Brazil. Disconnecting from the day-to-day and exploring a new place really reaffirms what’s important.

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