You never know when that ‘ah-ha’ moment will strike.
For Trey Thomas, a 2021 dual master’s graduate in Sport Management (School of Kinesiology) and Epidemiology (School of Public Health), his came following a presentation by Ned Colletti, Jr., former general manager of the Los Angeles Dodgers, about his time in baseball. Thomas, who is a huge baseball fan, picked up a copy of Colletti’s memoir and immediately began reading it.
“It changed the way I viewed my career because he [Colletti] was a poor kid from Chicago who grew up loving the Cubs and wanted nothing more than to be a part of baseball,” Thomas explained. “It made me think. I always perceived a career as doing something the world needs instead of something you love.”
Thomas’s love for science and data drove his initial career decisions. He completed his undergraduate degree in Biology at U-M before securing a job in a research lab. After working in the lab for a few years, he slowly realized it wasn’t for him. However, he found that his passion was digging into the scientific process, designing experiments, and playing with data.
After enrolling in the School of Public Health and completing an internship, Thomas concluded that a health career wasn’t the right fit. However, he knew had a deep love for sports, especially baseball.
Marketing was all about learning to see value in something and how to demonstrate that value to others in a way that highlights the company. I never would be thinking in those terms if I didn’t go through the SM program and not only learn and understand the business of sport, but the science behind it.
Thomas’s original plan was to try out a couple of Sport Management classes, but after meeting with Charlene Ruloff, manager of Graduate Affairs for the School of Kinesiology, he dual-enrolled in the Sport Management master’s program.
“It was a great decision for me to take that on because I could take what I already know and learned in the sciences and applied statistics sphere and be able to see how it manifests in a sports career,” he said.
Now, Thomas is working for Driveline Baseball, a data-driven baseball player development organization. Driveline trains players using state-of-the-art motion capture assessments, physical therapy evaluations, and specialized assessment-retest-based pitching, hitting, and high-performance coaching.
Thomas is surprised by how well the skills he developed doing literature reviews have translated to his current role.
“If nothing else, the big skill Public Health was trying to teach was causal inference, or being able to know what you’re seeing because X is causing Y,” he explained. “So much of what businesses and organizations do is make smart decisions with all the information they have.”
After graduation, Thomas completed a summer internship with the Western Nebraska Pioneers before joining Driveline.
“It was fun to be in an environment that lives and breathes baseball,” he said. “Even the little league games and the legion teams drew a ton of fans.”
Thomas appreciated the breadth of knowledge that was covered during his two semesters in the Sport Management master’s program, especially since he came in without any prior knowledge about the business of sport. He learned many different concepts, including finance, law, organizational behavior, psychology, and marketing.
“Marketing was all about learning to see value in something and how to demonstrate that value to others in a way that highlights the company. I never would be thinking in those terms if I didn’t go through the SM program and not only learn and understand the business of sport, but the science behind it,” he said.
Looking back, it was that decision to attend Colletti’s presentation that altered Thomas’s career outlook. As a result, he encourages students to “explore, learn about yourself, and take advantage of all the different resources, programs, and clubs that U-M has to offer. You never know what experience is going to make you question how devoted you are to something or make you realize there is this whole career path you didn’t even know existed.”