Today’s While We’re Waiting is a new kind of series at WFNY. Instead of miscellaneous musings on the sports world, we’re introducing you to one individual involved in the Ohio sports industry.
This week: Bobby Hoekstra, Manager, Planning, Analysis & Reporting at the Cleveland Indians. On social media, he’s arguably most well known for also being the husband of Courtney (Shilling) Hoekstra, Social Media Coordinator of the Cleveland Cavaliers (formerly of the Indians as well). You can follow Bobby on Twitter at @bho52 and on Instagram at @bho52.
WFNY: How did you get started in the sports business industry (internships, first job, etc)?
Bobby Hoekstra: I had no prior sports business experience before coming to the Indians. I spent two years out of college at an investment firm, one year in Massachusetts and one in Charlotte. It was a great job, but I wasn’t the most enthusiastic about it. I also noticed I spent the heavy majority of my free time on baseball blogs, and have always been passionate about sports. One of my friends that is a big Tribe fan forwarded me a finance fellowship job posting with the Indians that piqued my interest. I decided to apply for it and got lucky.
WFNY: What brought you to Wake Forest for college basketball?
Bobby Hoekstra: I was always interested in Wake Forest and would have gone there whether I played college sports or not. The combination of strong academics (business school in particular), Division I athletics, and a beautiful campus in close proximity to Bojangles and Cook Out is tough to beat1. My brother-in-law went there and my dad works at the Wake medical center, so I was pretty familiar with it too. It didn’t hurt that we moved to Winston-Salem during my sophomore year in high school, right as Josh Howard and Chris Paul were giving Coach K nightmares.
From a basketball standpoint, I never really thought playing college basketball was realistic, as I never made the team in middle school and didn’t even try out in 9th grade. I then hit a late growth spurt, moved to THE #hoopstate, and got some great coaches that wanted to make me better. My high school coaches had a good relationship with the Wake staff and introduced me during my senior year. I was able to play pickup with the Wake guys all summer and then made the team in an open tryout that fall.
WFNY: What eventually brought you to Cleveland?
Bobby Hoekstra: My job with the Indians brought me to Cleveland. I was familiar with Ohio, having spent the first 14 years of my life in the Columbus area, but hadn’t spent much time in Cleveland. I’ve absolutely loved it here, whether it be the passionate sports fans, the great food, and beer, or the cheap cost of living. I’ll have been here 7 years in August and have no plans of leaving anytime soon.
WFNY: Describe your childhood sports fandom.
Bobby Hoekstra: I was born in Cincinnati and grew up in Columbus, so my teams were the Reds, Bengals, Cavs, and Buckeyes. My grandpa was always a huge Reds fan and played a big role in me becoming such a baseball fan, and we still always talk baseball when we get together. With Cincinnati not having a basketball team, the Cavs were easy to adopt. My first ever NBA game was at the Richfield Coliseum.
WFNY: Did you always want to work in sports?
Bobby Hoekstra: I have always been sports-obsessed, and like to play or watch basically anything where people are competing. Once it became clear that becoming a professional athlete wasn’t going to happen, I would say my dream job was to be GM of the Cincinnati Reds. I’m not sure how much I actually believed this, or if it was just a convenient answer to a difficult question2. I never really had a blueprint on how to make working in sports a reality (turns out, not many people do). I didn’t know many people on the team or league side of things but ultimately was able to do some networking and find the right opportunities. I also discovered that I find the business side equally or more fascinating than the team operations side. Now that I’m in sports, I can definitely say it is the right place for me, and I would like to continue to progress in this industry as long as I can.
WFNY: What are some of your day-to-day work activities and responsibilities?
Bobby Hoekstra: The bulk of my duties revolve around financial planning, reporting, and analysis (weird, those are all in my title). We spend a lot of time in the fall working with every department to put together the next year’s budget. This includes business and baseball, as well as working with ownership to determine our major league payroll for the year. Once the budget is set, we continue to work with everyone to update to forecast throughout the year, giving them tools to better know where they stand, pulling it all together, and then reporting out our findings.
On the reporting side, we have a lot of obligations to MLB, whether it is reporting our financial information for revenue sharing, ticket sales, long-term plans, or the myriad of other reports they have. Internally, we have our traditional financial reporting, and also build business intelligence capabilities using Tableau or other mediums. We provide profitability analysis to anyone needing help, including capital budgeting, which is one I find more enjoyable. Beyond that, we aim to serve as business advisers to the company to maximize profitability, optimize resource allocation, and protect assets.
WFNY: What are some elements of what you do that you don’t think the average reader is aware of?
Bobby Hoekstra: Not to go full finance nerd, but I don’t think the average fan is aware how much running a baseball team costs. Whether it’s our scouting and development system or staffing a ballpark to provide quality customer service, all of this stuff requires significant investment. I always laugh at the Forbes’ net income estimates3 because they are usually wildly inaccurate. The other one would be that despite being a big brand with wide recognition, we are still a small company. We have limited resources, which forces us to be innovative in finding ways to overcome these limitations. On the human side, we have a lot of employees that are incredibly passionate about the Indians. We all want to win a World Series and make the city proud.
WFNY: How often do you travel to conferences for work?
Bobby Hoekstra: Travel for me is pretty limited. We have CFO conferences in New York each year. I’ve occasionally gone to Tableau customer conference or anything business-related that we have a good reason for attending4. We also occasionally get to travel to see other ballparks, research their facility/renovations/operations, or anything else that is relevant at the time.
WFNY: How is your work department organized (your supervisor, who you supervise)?
Bobby Hoekstra: On the finance side, we have our SVP/CFO, our VP of Finance (my supervisor), and me. We have also just hired a finance fellow that I will supervise. In addition to the finance team, we have our accounting team of 12 people that we work with constantly.
WFNY: What is your favorite thing about what you do?
Bobby Hoekstra: My favorite thing is that I truly enjoy the work I do (or the heavy majority of it). I find every aspect of the baseball business fascinating, and getting to analyze that and find ways to improve it excites me. While I am not on the roster or even in the baseball ops department, it is still exciting to know that my work could potentially create profits that improve our team or add something to the ballpark that gives the fans a great experience.
WFNY: What neighborhood do you live in now?
Bobby Hoekstra: Tremont. My wife and I have been there for 3 years now.
WFNY: Aside from work, what are some of your favorite things to do?
Bobby Hoekstra: As you may have noticed on the social mediums, my wife and I love to travel and go to sporting events. We love supporting all of our Cleveland teams, at home or on the road. I have been to 25 of the 30 ballparks at this point (bucket list), but also enjoy revisiting them so Courtney can catch up. I am a big whiskey and barbecue enthusiast and love finding new ones to try. We also love trying out all the great restaurants and breweries in Cleveland, extending beyond our favorites in Tremont. I keep busy playing rec sports, with volleyball year round and baseball in the summer. We try to get together with family and friends whenever our busy schedules permit.
WFNY: We all know you and Cshillz are married … but describe some more about your family life and where they all are these days.
Bobby Hoekstra: My parents are in Winston-Salem and my siblings are both in Charlotte. I am the middle child. My older sister and her husband have two kids (Uncle Bob!), and my younger brother is getting married this fall (currently working on my best man speech). We love to travel down south to visit them, especially when I need my Bojangles or barbecue fix, and usually plan trips around Panthers, Hornets, or Clemson football games (both siblings are Clemson alums, #goacc). We also love to show off Cleveland to all of them whenever they can visit us. The majority of my mom’s side of the family is over near Youngstown, so they’re happy to have me nearby again, and it’s great to visit them when we can. Courtney’s family is also all relatively close in various parts of Northeast Ohio, so we see them often as well.
WFNY: What is something that the average reader may not know about you?
Bobby Hoekstra: I am a big uniform and logo nerd and read Uni Watch every morning. I also love to turn my brain off and watch trashy reality TV, including America’s fifth major sport, The Challenge, and any of the various Bachelor franchise shows. Finally, I cannot be trusted around any unused TouchTunes credits, as they tend to turn into an aggressive amount of Creed songs.
- Editor’s note: Having lived for a summer in Charlotte myself, I can 100 percent attest that the Cook Out obsession is real. It may not be Swenson’s … but it’s dang good. [↩]
- Editor’s note: Same, same. We’re gonna see a lot of these types of answers from this generation, aren’t we? It would be fascinating to track when childhood dream jobs started to actually turn toward the front office side of the sports industry. [↩]
- Editor’s note: Here’s a link to the latest Cleveland Indians Forbes valuation from April 2018. The Tribe ranked No. 24 on the MLB list with a value just over $1 billion. Larry Dolan paid $323 million for the team in 2000. [↩]
- Editor’s note: The annual big Tableau Conference is pretty much like any major company event scene in the TV show Silicon Valley. The accuracy of that show is right on point. [↩]