It was 21 years ago that Pat Courtney, then a senior at the University of Richmond, was searching for a job. He had no long-term goals, he just wanted an opportunity to work in the sports industry.
A lot has changed since then for Courtney. On April 6, it was announced that Courtney will take over as the senior vice president of public relations for Major League Baseball next year. He will take over for Rich Levin when he retires at the end of this year.
"What's been nice is I've worked side-by-side with the person who currently has the job," Courtney said. "It's a great way to transition into it."
Starting next year, Courtney will be in charge of the MLB's public relations department and also be the official spokesman for Commissioner Bud Selig. And Courtney is enjoying every moment of it.
"Sometimes when you're in the midst of it, it's hard to get a perspective," Courtney said. "But as a student, I would have said it's a dream job."
When Courtney graduated from Richmond in 1989, he wasn't thinking about becoming head of MLB's public relations department. All he wanted was a job in the sports industry, which he got from the Philadelphia 76ers of the National Basketball Association.
The job was selling tickets, but it provided him the opportunity to meet people in other parts of the sports industry. He became interested in media relations, and Courtney soon entered that field.
He got his first start as an intern with the New York Yankees, a team that he grew up rooting for, in 1991. He stayed there one year before heading into the MLB's office.
He has since worked there 18 years and has ran all media operations for all-star games and World Series games since 1996.
"I remember when I first started doing this, I couldn't believe my job allowed me to be at all-star games and the World Series," Courtney said.
But his favorite memory came from an exhibition game. He was part of the group that traveled with the Baltimore Orioles to play Cuba's national baseball team in Cuba. It was the first time in 40 years that an American team played a Cuban team.
Courtney was also with the 2000 U.S. Olympic baseball team that won the gold medal in Sydney, Australia, an experience he also described as one of his favorite memories from his job.
Enjoy what you're reading?
Signup for our newsletter
Although Courtney has been out of college for 21 years, he said that it all seems to have gone remarkably fast.
"I still feel the same way as when I started looking for a job," he said. "I looked for a while to get into sports and I appreciate people who are in the same position I was."
That appreciation makes him an accessible figure for any student who is looking for a job in public relations. He talks to a number of students each year who are exploring the field, he said. But it is also beneficial to him.
"I keep up with Richmond mostly through athletics, so it's good to hear from students," he said.
He said that he would advise students to do two things. The first is to take a journalism course in college.
"One of the best things I did at Richmond was to take a journalism course," he said. "Regardless of what field you are in, it's important to write well."
The other thing he recommends to students is to get an internship. He said that it is beneficial for the both sides, as the student gets contacts and the employer gets to work possible future employees.
Courtney often thinks back to the time that he was a student at Richmond, he said. But the biggest thing he got from Richmond didn't come out of a book, it was the confidence that the school instilled in him.
"It was an atmosphere where I never thought any obstacle was too large to overcome," Courtney said. "As it applied to the work area, I came realizing there was no obstacle I couldn't overcome. I felt like I could do anything."
It was that confidence that allowed him to make the most of his chances to get to his new position. It is a position that he cherishes.
"I feel so fortunate to have gotten the opportunities that I got," he said.
Contact staff writer Andrew Prezioso at firstname.lastname@example.org
Support independent student media
You can make a tax-deductible donation by clicking the button below, which takes you to our secure PayPal account. The page is set up to receive contributions in whatever amount you designate. We look forward to using the money we raise to further our mission of providing honest and accurate information to students, faculty, staff, alumni and others in the general public.Donate Now