RST student aspires to future in baseball front office
- Recreation Sport and Tourism
- Diego Acosta
- Major League Baseball
- Prep Baseball Report
- University of Illinois
- College of Applied Health Sciences
Diego Acosta, a senior in the Department of Recreation, Sport and Tourism in the College of Applied Health Sciences, is aware of the well-worn axiom, “Find something you love to do and you’ll never have to work a day in your life.”
That is how Acosta feels about a future career in baseball.
The Skokie, Ill., native worked this summer as an intern for Prep Baseball Report (PBR), one of the top independent baseball scouting services in the country. Acosta plans to go to graduate school after he graduates in the fall, but he aspires to work in the baseball operations department for an MLB team.
Like many scouts you might have seen on TV while watching a baseball game, Acosta carried the tools of the trade—a stopwatch and a radar gun—and loved every minute of it.
“I obviously have a passion,” Acosta said about baseball. “And if I have a passion for it—we were learning (that it is) statistically proven that workers that have the biggest passion for what they do will move up higher and faster than anyone else that doesn't have a passion for what they do.”
Acosta’s love for baseball began when he started playing the sport at four years old.
“I just kept (playing) until I blew my knees out. And when I was looking to go to school, I wanted to play baseball. I knew that I wanted to keep it as a part of my future someway, somehow.”
Acosta was recruited by Cornell University to play baseball before he hurt his knees but felt a natural inclination to the University of Illinois.
“I have a long lineage of Illinois alums,” he said. “My parents went there, my uncles went there, my aunts. I've been going (to UIUC) since I was a very young kid, and I just wanted to keep it in. So I decided to just go to school and see what I can do with the baseball team there.”
Thanks to his connections to Illinois, Acosta caught on as a bullpen catcher for the Illini baseball team, which fed his fire to stay in the sport. And, Acosta said, the courses offered in RST are a perfect springboard to a career in sports. He particularly enjoyed Clinical Associate Professor Mike Raycraft’s RST130 (Foundations of Sport Management) course, RST354 (Legal Aspects of Sport), and RST199 (Sport Brand Management), taught by RST Assistant Professor Jules Woolf.
“I feel like when it comes to the business side … there's definitely times where I'm just like, ‘I remember talking about this in this class, but I'm seeing it here with the whole PBR thing. The Future Games is a perfect example. I remember thinking to myself, ‘Well, this is exactly-- we talked about the brand and everything with Dr. Jules Woolf.’ And it's genius. You bring everybody. You have every single state bring the entire country to one place, and you put on an event in one place across the entire country. It's absolutely genius.”
For many RST students, a career in the sports industry is the ultimate goal. Some aspire to the customer-service side, some to the hospitality section, and others to the management sector. After all, who doesn’t want to be general manager of the Cubs? But while Acosta definitely dreams of being in a big league front office some day, he is ready to pay his dues first as a baseball scout, an often-grueling job with long hours, low pay and not much notoriety.
“You've got to start at the bottom,” he said. “That's the very first thing I figured out working with PBR, is there's going to be some really, really, really long days. I was at a tournament in Rantoul from 8 in the morning until midnight. And I get back home, and the Cubs were playing. And I was staying at my apartment with a couple of my buddies that were there for the summer in Champaign. I was like, ‘Put the Cubs game on for me, please.’ And then they were like, ‘Uh, you just watched almost 13 hours of baseball. How do you want to watch the Cubs game?’ I was like, ‘I just want to watch the Cubs game.’ ‘They were like, you're crazy.”’
Acosta is realistic, knowing how competitive working in the sports industry can be. That’s why he plans to pursue graduate school, possibly law school, upon graduation this fall.
“I have, basically, a plan B,” he said. “And my plan B would be some type of lawyer. I mean, my mom and dad have always joked, ‘Why do you argue so much with everything? Just go be a lawyer.’ I'm like, ‘Honestly, I might.’”
As much as he loves the game, Acosta wants to work in baseball for a reason larger than his appreciation for the sport.
“I'm Mexican-Colombian … and I grew up playing in Humboldt Park, which is like all Puerto Ricans and inner city kids, and then Homer Park. So I have a lot of friends from all different backgrounds,” he said. “And if I can do anything for kids like that, especially in other countries, because I've been there. Especially in Colombia, I've seen the slums. I've seen kids playing with rocks and sticks in the street. And if I could really help them get to their ultimate goal, I feel like that would be really cool for me to do. So that's why I sort of want to be in professional scouting.”