Editor’s Note: Each week we publish an interview with the SMBA ’14 Student of the Week. The winner of the Student of the Week (awarded by the previous winner) sits in the front row of class and proudly displays a flag of his or her choice on the famous Tez statue. Blake Nahlen is our next winner after he unselfishly gave his baseball glove to a boy in the Dominican Republic who did not have one, making the kid’s year in the process.
Adam Dubois: Blake, congratulations on being Student of the Week. You were given the award for your contributions in the Dominican Republic. That trip was also your first trip out of the United States. Give us some of your reaction to the trip.
Blake Nahlen: Thank you very much Adam for choosing me as there are a lot of deserving members in our cohort. The Dominican Republic trip was my first time out of the United States, and also the first time I have ever made it to the Eastern Time Zone. As a huge baseball fan, this trip was an amazing opportunity for me. I knew that the relatively small island has produced a ton of big leaguers, but this trip showed me how hard of an uphill climb these ballplayers face to get to the MLB. The amount of poverty that most of the young kids are facing is something that I have never seen or even thought about before. The trip was an incredibly eye-opening experience for me and I enjoyed every minute of it (even the getting drenched in sweat a couple minutes after a cold shower part).
AD: Prior to coming to SDSU, you worked with the Reno Aces, the AAA affiliate of the Arizona Diamondbacks. What did you do with them, and what was your favorite experience while you were there?
BN: I started working for the Aces during their Inaugural season in 2009. I heard that there was going to be a Triple-A baseball team moving to Reno and I couldn’t think of a better job for me. I put an application in even though I was still living over an hour away in Susanville, Calif. After I got the job I would spend 4-8 days (depending on the length of the homestand) on my buddy’s couch. What started as a Gameday Security gig turned into a Field Security position. I was able to job shadow both the VP and Director of Operations where I learned about the work that is required “behind the scenes” in order to make a game run smoothly. I had a ton of amazing experiences while I was there, but my favorite had to have been last season when the Aces played some amazing baseball throughout the entire 144 game season en route to the Triple-A National Championship. Getting to watch past Aces players like Patrick Corbin, Gerardo Parra, and Ryan Cook turn into Major League stars has been absolutely awesome.
AD: You played some college baseball in your undergrad years. How has your experience as a college athlete affected your view of the business world of sports?
BN: I feel very lucky to have played my favorite sport at the collegiate level. I played at Lassen Community College before transferring as a walk-on to the University of Nevada (Reno). As a community college and walk-on athlete I was able to get a couple different perspectives on collegiate athletics. As a walk-on I needed to have tremendous work ethic in order to fight for a spot on the roster, and even though I never played in a spring game, I played “Fall Ball” and went through all of the workouts with the team. I would like to think my experience as a college athlete has given me some unique insight into what student-athletes go through, which might add some value to a potential employer down the road. The experience has definitely helped me relate to various NCAA-related discussions that we have encountered in classes like Sports Law.
AD: What is something you have done, learned, or experienced in the program that you did not expect coming into it?
BN: I have already learned so many things from this program. I came into the program with an undergraduate degree in Accounting and Information Systems, so I had some sort of business acumen. Since January, I have become a lot more familiar with statistics, specifically regression analysis. This is a skill that I had touched on as an undergraduate, but now I feel like I have refined it through our Statistics, Finance, and Operations Management courses.
AD: With our upcoming consultancy, where are some places you are hoping to land your internship?
BN: This is a tough question. I have had a few different topics catch my attention throughout the program and I’m sure I would be happy in a number of positions. I would love to work in the athletic department at my alma mater, the University of Nevada, or get a position in the front office of the Reno Aces. I have incredible family and friends that continue to live in the area and either of those places would be ideal. Since I grew up in Northern California and went to college in Reno, I would love to stay on the West Coast, but I’m not limiting myself of any opportunities that may come up in the next few months.
AD: You have expressed an interest in working in college athletics. What makes you lean toward the college route as opposed to professional sports?
BN: One of the reasons I want to work in sports is because I love the feeling of being part of a team. I love the atmosphere of a college campus; the buildings, students and communities all just give me a really good feeling. I feel like there is something so genuine and fun about the college game. I love the way that young athletes compete for their teammates, schools and communities rather than for compensation. I also really like the idea of being able to use my experiences to help young student-athletes.
AD: Finally, give us some insight into your all-time favorite sports memory.
BN: I have had some amazing sports memories, and I will always remember my first Oakland A’s game with my dad, which was the first professional sporting event that I ever attended. But… I’m going to have to go with November 26th, 2010. As probably everyone should know, this is the date of the “Mackay Miracle” when Colin Kaepernick and the Nevada Wolf Pack ruined Boise State’s perfect season. I remember how cold it felt when the Pack was down 17-0. But Nevada was able to complete the comeback, 34-31, thanks to some defensive stops, offensive scores, and maybe a little help from a missed kick (or two). By the end of the game the below freezing temperatures felt like a beautiful spring day!