A member of Albion College’s Carl A. Gerstacker Institute for Business and Management and the Briton baseball team, Matt Ankenbrandt, ’12, spent the spring semester in the batter’s box swinging for an internship to complete his academic requirements.
The perfect pitch for Ankenbrandt’s skill set – combining his excellent interpersonal skills and passion for baseball – was delivered like a hanging curveball in April when Dugout Media tabbed the Grandville native for a marketing position on one of its Baseball Youth Fanfest Mobile Tours. Ankenbrandt’s tour is set up through mid-August at the Cooperstown All-Star Village in upstate New York, situated a sharp line drive from the National Baseball Hall of Fame. A catcher for the Britons, Ankenbrandt talks to players ages 7-13 who visit Cooperstown for tournaments about the Akadema products he uses on the diamond.
"[Working at the Akadema booth] is easy because I’ve used their products for five years," Ankenbrandt said. "I tell the players about my background with the company. I bring my glove to the booth and you can tell I use it all the time.
"I have learned how to show a product and I’m trying to show how it will change their game," Ankenbrandt added. "It’s all about connecting with the customer."
Ankenbrandt, who sent a number of résumés in his search for an internship, said he found Dugout Media on a Craigslist search for possibilities in the Lexington, Ky., area. An internship in Lexington would have allowed him to stay with former teammate Cam Mueller, ’10.
Ankenbrandt, part of a five-person Akadema crew in Cooperstown, described the All-Star Village as a "baseball resort," with teams in each week’s tournament arriving on Saturday. From Sunday to Wednesday, the day usually starts with loading equipment from a box trailer at 8:15 a.m. Set up is completed by 9:15 and Ankenbrandt is available to demonstrate and talk about the Akadema products until 3 p.m.
Founded by brothers Joe and Lawrence Gilligan in 1997, Akadema is introducing innovative equipment like a fingerless infielder’s glove that allows for a quicker and smoother ball transfer and a catcher’s mitt with "stress wedge" technology. Ankenbrandt said New Jersey-based Akadema keeps its prices low by shipping its products from the warehouse directly to customers and by communicating directly with them through events like the Dugout Media mobile tours and e-mail.
From a professional development perspective, Ankenbrandt said being on a conference call with the Gilligans was on the level of collecting a game-winning hit.
"It was a great experience to hear their story and to hear their strategy behind pricing and customer engagement," Ankenbrandt said. "I had the opportunity to pick their brain and learn the message they want to deliver to the public. I also learned about their strategy behind pricing and customer engagement.
"Akadema keeps its prices low because the product doesn’t get sent to big stores where it collects dust on the shelf," Ankenbrandt added. "The downfall is a lot of people haven’t heard of Akadema, but [with the Internet and direct marketing] they are getting their name out there quicker than before. Most of the e-mail from the customers goes directly to Joe and Lawrence, and they receive the feedback and answer the questions."
A busy year of internships in sports
The Dugout Media mobile tour is Ankenbrandt’s second internship. He spent the 2010 fall semester working on the sports desk at WXMI, the FOX affiliate in Grand Rapids. The experience he gained shooting and editing highlights during hectic Friday nights of high school football proved invaluable when he returned to campus as he produced video highlight packages from Briton basketball games for the Communications Office.
"I got to work at Michigan State basketball, Notre Dame football, and Lions games [for WXMI]," Ankenbrandt said. "With those three I would say I was assigned projects that really mattered to the station. It was a great experience where I got to meet a lot of great people and connections."