So I was looking around at Orioles Hangout the other day, and I saw a thread titled “Ddsm“. Curiosity was sufficient, so I decided to check it out. Turns out it was an introduction from Joshua Kusnick, the agent for recently acquired Josh Bell (as well as a couple of other O’s prospects) and representative of Double Diamond Sports Management. The 27 years old – who graduated from Florida State University in 2006 – started working in baseball when he was in his teens. and was actually the batboy for the Orioles in spring training two times as a kid. He was also kind enough to take some time out of his busy schedule to let me ask him a few questions.
Joshua Kusnick, working at the ball park.
[Questions are in bold.]
I saw you made a short comment on Orioles Hangout about how you became an agent, but how about the extended version?
By accident. I always knew from the time I was a kid I was going to work in sports. I never fully identified with being a “fan” but I always have had a profound respect and admiration for the way sports work behind the scenes. I was always more interested in the history of the game and I got that from my father. I always memorized stats as a kid and to me there was nothing more interesting than baseball. As a teenager, starting at age 14 (1996) I began attending minor league baseball games in West Palm Beach. The only job I had at that point in time was collecting and selling autographs. I always figured you could get more autographs from a minor leaguer than a major leaguer so that’s why we headed there. In order to figure out who was worth anything, I basically taught myself (with the immense help of many patient scouts/team officials/ and players) how to find players. One night several years later I was trying to get a bunch of stuff signed by a guy who ended up being a future ROY. I was this kid sitting in the scout section like always and I ended up sitting next to a team official who I now consider a dear friend. This man was a pro scout from the West Coast who happened to be in Florida just to watch this one pitcher throw. None of the scouts that night felt the player we were watching had any real future except for the scout I was sitting next to and myself. We talked the majority of the game, he gave me his card, and said if I ever wanted to work in baseball or something close to that I should give him a call. I told my father about what had happened that night and from there we decided to give the agency business a go. I wouldn’t be anywhere without my father doing that for me and I have always been beyond determined to make this work.
As an agent, what are your responsibilities to the players you manage?
You give up your life to do this. You really have to be on call 24 hours a day and that is something I am quite proud of. I don’t go to bed until 3 AM every day in case the West Coast guys want to give me a call after a game just to talk. You’re the players voice to the organization and you do everything you can to improve their overall situation. If you can make a guys life easier by finding endorsements or even just by talking to them it is something you do. Your job is to be a benefit not a burden.
What is your general business model/philosophy?
I hate to over simplify but it’s important to max out a players value whether it be in the draft or as a free agent. Even in the off the field world its import to max out the players value. A player has a limited career window whereas I can work until I’m dead…. it’s cold but its the truth. Maxing out the financial viability of a client is paramount.
How statistically savvy do you think players are these days? There are a few examples of more sabermetrically inclined guys that we know about (Brian Bannister, Max Scherzer), but it doesn’t seem particularly prevalent.
I don’t think players get enough credit for being as stat savvy as they really are. With that being said it very rarely comes up with our guys in conversation but I’m a stat nerd and am painfully aware of those stats and figures and try to bring it up every so often. Really though away from the field most guys just want to get away from work and leave it at the field.
How hard is it to balance encouragement of a player with realistic expectations and the reality that most guys just aren’t going to make it to the majors?
We only represent players that we believe will one day play in the major leagues.
What do you think about the way club control of a player works? Six (sometimes seven) years of play – often through a guy’s prime years – at discounted rates is generally followed by a contract that overstates a player’s value.
Theres nothing you can do about it. It’s just the nature of the business and its part of the process. The player if he plays well gets it back at the end of the rainbow.
Do you cheer for any teams, or is it more where the players you represent play?
I love the game of baseball and I pull for our guys but no I do not cheer for teams these days.
And finally; the important stuff. I see that you’re both a fan of good music and of Mitch Hedberg. Instant points in my book (for whatever that’s worth). I like on your blog that many of the post titles are song lyrics, since I get to play the “what IS that song? It’s on the tip of my mind, but I just can’t get it… AHA!” game. You had your top 27 songs of all-time up recently, but I didn’t see an albums list. So, Top _ (27 might be difficult – 5, 10?) Albums:
Nirvana – Nevermind
Pixies – Surfer Rosa
The Smiths – The Queen Is Dead
Sonic Youth – Daydream Nation
Jeff Buckley – Sketches For My Sweetheart The Drunk
Radiohead – Kid A
Godspeed! You Black Emporer – F# A# (Infinity)
The Clash – London Calling
Bright Eyes – I’m Wide Awake It’s Morning
Neutral Milk Hotel – In The Aeroplane Over The Sea
Elliot Smith – X/O
Carla Bruni – Quelqu’un M’a Dit
That’s 12, and I’m sure the last one is there because that’s what I’m listening to right now.
I have Neutral Milk Hotel in my top 10 as well (along with The Clash in the top 35 and The Smiths in the top 50). Nice list.
Thanks a lot to Joshua for the opportunity. It was interesting hearing from a perspective that’s usually behind the scenes. Of course, we may all be cursing him when Josh Bell becomes an All-Star third-baseman and his agent starts negotiating his big contract extension.