By Colleen Thomas, Daily Sports Editor
Published June 3, 2012
Wouldn’t everyone like to be Justin Verlander’s agent?
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If your name is Mark Pieper, you’re living the dream.
Pieper, who graduated from Michigan with a degree in economics and a law degree from Northwestern, is a part owner of the agency SFX Baseball, one of the largest in the industry. The Michigan Daily caught up with the alum and talked about baseball, representing Detroit Tigers pitcher Justin Verlander and Michigan football.
The Michigan Daily: What made you want to come to Michigan?
Mark Pieper: Ironically, I wish I had some amazing story about how I always wanted to come to Michigan. It was complete chance I was there. One of the kids I went to junior high with applied there, and I went to high school where not a lot of kids were going to that caliber of school. So I kind of reconnected with this kid and he was really excited about it and he basically said, “Hey, you should apply to Michigan and be my roommate” and I said OK. That’s how it went. It wasn’t that sophisticated. My parents didn’t go to college, my oldest brother didn’t go to college, my other brother went to a smaller Division III, so there wasn’t a lot of guidance or a long family history. But I met my wife there as a freshman and her parents both went to Michigan, so there’s some family connection there.
TMD: What made you want to become an agent?
MP: A long history of being interested in sports, combined with an interest in law kind of sparked my interest at the very beginning. As I said, I met my wife when I was at Michigan and her father was a long time baseball agent, and I pretty much learned everything I know from him. He went to Michigan and played baseball at Michigan, too.
TMD: You said you wanted to be a football agent, what made you get into baseball?
MP: Baseball was introduced to me by my father in law because that’s all he did. I think it was a better fit because baseball has something called salary arbitration and basically it’s a legal process where you represent a player through this process and write briefs and present a case orally. That kind of fit my need to do a little practicing of law. It was kind of a good fit for me to transition into baseball and use some of the legal skills right away in writing and arguing arbitration cases.
TMD: And obviously you’re still in the baseball field.
MP: Yep, that’s all I do is baseball. Our firm, which is called SFX Baseball, all we do is baseball. We grew from a two-person firm in the 1970s, and now we have around 28 or 29 employees.
TMD: What athletes do you represent?
MP: Our firm has Mariano Rivera, Justin Verlander, David Ortiz, Alfonzo Soriano, Justin Morneau, Jim Thome — that’s a pretty good mix. We have about 70 guys total.
TMD: Are there any clients that played baseball at Michigan?
MP: Yes. Chris Getz. Royals second baseman.
TMD: How did you get in contact with him? Did you watch him play in Ann Arbor?
MP: Actually he’s a guy I got later on. He was playing for the Chicago White Sox and we had a client on the White Sox named Gordon Beckham and they were friends, and I met Chris that way. So he hired me after he already left Michigan and developed a pro career. But we had Zach Putnam, and Zach was out of Michigan, and one of our agents lives in Ann Arbor. He has a lot of connections there, so he lives and works out of Ann Arbor.
TMD: Take me step-by-step through your job through the season.
MP: Being an agent years ago, (it was) primarily negotiating contracts. We started adding tax people and marketing, (and) slowly but surely it has become what it is now, which is full-service. We have a tax department, financial department, legal department, public relations (and) charity. We can be involved with anything and everything.
TMD: So during the season, are you in contact with the players a lot?
MP: All the time.