Alumni communities serve critical roles in many kinds of organizations – not only in schools, colleges or universities. This article is the second in a series of short interviews with professionals from non-traditional alumni programs. Read the first profile here: Dean Dwigans of the Marshall European Center for Security Studies.
Profile: Brant Ust
Director of Alumni Relations and 18U National Baseball Team
For much of the last year, I've had the pleasure of advising USA Baseball (the National Governing Body for the sport) on alumni relations. Below, Alumni Futures readers can learn about the organization's efforts under its first alumni director, Brant Ust.
A Notre Dame alumnus and two-time USA National Team player, Brant's career highlights include his selection as a 6th round draft pick of the Detroit Tigers, nine years of pro ball, including time in the Red Sox, Pirates and Mariners organizations, and a stint as assistant coach for the University of Michigan.
Alumni Futures: Brant, how does the concept of "alumni relations" fit into the strategy of a sports-focused organization like USA Baseball?
Brant Ust: Alumni Relations for USAB is focused on being a part of our athletes', coaches' and staff members' lives beyond the time they wear the Red, White and Blue. In other words, establishing a connection that starts from the first day they're a part of a USAB National Team experience, and that continues throughout their collegiate, professional and post-baseball lives.
AF: Before taking up alumni responsibilities, you were a professional ball player and a college coach. Did any of that prepare you for a role in alumni relations, and if so, in what ways?
BU: Absolutely. My experiences as a player and coach have been key to establishing what we believe are useful ways to serve our alumni at various stages of their careers. I draw on experiences from my playing career when envisioning what we can do, and how we should be serving our alumni.
[The USA Baseball experience is powerful...
It creates a special, long lasting connection...]
AF: What are some of the obstacles you face in establishing your alumni program, and how do you plan to overcome them?
BU: We have a broad spectrum of alumni, from our 14U National Team through our World Baseball Classic (Major League Baseball) alumni, and everything in between. It requires a lot of support from within the organization, following and updating our alums’ accomplishments and current ‘locations’ in baseball and in life.
We don't have the years of relationship that a university has with alumni, but the uniqueness of the USA Baseball experience – representing one’s country, playing in the Olympics – is powerful, and is often experienced at a crucial time during their overall baseball development. So it creates a special, lasting connection between USAB and the individual.
Celebrating World Cup Gold, 2009. Photo courtesy of USA Baseball. Click to enlarge.
AF: You have more than 2,500 alumni, including players, coaches and staff. What resources do you have for serving this audience?
BU: In 2011 we've been getting out to ‘reconnect’ with our alumni; Major League Baseball Spring Training visits, email correspondence, the creation of a USAB alumni–specific logo, an Alumni Edition of our USAB Magazine, reconnecting with our young alumni via the Minor Leagues, and a USAB Alumni presence on Twitter and Facebook.
We also integrate our alumni into current USAB events, camps, and National Team schedules. For example, on our coaching staff we have Brooks Badeaux (Pro National Team, Baseball World Cup ’05). This coaching experience will connect him as an alumnus, as well as provide our players with quality instruction from someone who has been where they are, and where they are striving to be.
We use input from a myriad of alumni relations sources, from traditional university examples to athletic groups to professional associations. We share the same challenges and goals while having a distinct alumni profile. We're proud that the bookends of our alumni database are prominent Major League players: Jim Abbott ’87–’88 and Ryan Zimmerman ‘05.
AF: One last question. Can you get me World Series tickets?
BU: Low man on the totem pole here……