October 31, 2014

Petri dishes about experiences in sports communications

Update: After his interview with The Journal, Preston Petri said he “was offered a pretty good opportunity back home” in a text message. He said on Feb. 28 he would remain with the New Orleans Hornets for “another few weeks.” His new position will be in San Antonio, Texas — his hometown — as the director of media relations/social media with the San Antonio Scorpions of the North American Soccer League. The Scorpions’ first game is on April 6.

Though he never played one minute of basketball for Webster University or played one inning of baseball for the Gorloks, alumnus Preston Petri interacts with professional athletes on a daily basis for his career.

Petri, a 2011 Webster graduate with a bachelor’s degree in media communications, is a basketball communications assistant for the New Orleans Hornets of the NBA. The native of San Antonio, Texas, said he is one of the primary game note writers for the media on game days for the Hornets. He also helps arrange pre- and postgame interviews between the players and reporters in the locker rooms. Petri said he travels with the team about 30 percent of the time.

Webster alumnus Preston Petri poses for a photo while holding a cork from a champagne bottle the New York Yankees opened after their ALDS win over over Baltimore in 2012. CONTRIBUTED BY PRESTON PETRI.

Before his stint with the Hornets — which began in November 2012 — Petri was a media relations intern with the New York Yankees and Houston Astros of Major League Baseball.

“If you would have told me when I was 13 years old that my job would literally require me or be mandatory for me to watch a baseball game or watch a basketball game, I would have slapped you in the face and said, ‘There’s no way,’” Petri said. “I still have to pinch myself sometimes that I get to wake up and my office is in Yankee Stadium or Minute Made Park. That’s the best part — just knowing that I’m a member of a sports organization.”

Houston-bound after graduation

After graduating in May 2011, Petri interned with KTRS-AM in St. Louis. After his time with KTRS, Petri searched for a job in sports. TeamWork Online posted an internship in media relations with the Houston Astros.

Petri, who grew up an Astros fan, applied for the position, but a month passed and he didn’t receive a response from the Astros. Though he was discouraged, Petri saw the position reposted on the site and applied once again.

“Even though I had already sent in my application and resume, I was like, ‘What the hell, I’ll do it again,’” Petri said. “I sent in a new application, a new cover letter, and the first thing the next morning I got a phone call from their HR department with the Astros. A week later, I was offered the position. It was an interesting process with the way that it happened, but I’m obviously extremely grateful that it did.”

With that, Petri worked in Houston — about a three-hour drive from San Antonio — from August 2011 until December of that year. He ventured to the annual baseball winter meetings, which were held in Dallas in 2011, to look for the next step in his career.

Petri said while people may think of the winter meetings as a place where players are dealt and signed, it is also “a massive job fair.” He described the application process as a giant bulletin board where several minor league and major league job descriptions are posted.

Petri said an interested applicant would write down the number of the job and put his resume in a bin. The employers would then look through the applications and post another board of interview times.

Petri had seven interviews from this process, which resulted in six offers. He decided on a season-long internship with the Iowa Cubs, the Triple-A  affiliate of the Chicago Cubs. Petri’s girlfriend was from Iowa, so he thought it would be a perfect fit.

However, two weeks later, Petri received a phone call from another interested suitor — the 27-time world champion New York Yankees.

Reaching the ‘pinnacle’

The Yankees offered Petri a season-long internship as a media relations intern. He had some thinking to do.

“Of course you’re torn,” Petri said. “It’s the New York Yankees. That’s the pinnacle of what my profession is — media relations for the New York Yankees, one of the biggest organizations in sports with a massive media market. That’s the top.”

Petri accepted the new position with the Yankees. He said his bosses in Iowa told him they understood if he picked New York over Iowa and they didn’t want to keep him from the opportunity. Petri moved to an apartment in New York to begin his new job.

Webster University alumnus Preston Petri poses for a photo as he displays two World Series rings the Yankees won. The rings belong to Yankee Museum curator Brian Richards. CONTRIBUTED BY PRESTON PETRI.

Petri said one athlete he met sticks out most in his mind: shortstop and 12-time all-star Derek Jeter.

“I was almost taken aback at how down-to-earth and real Derek Jeter was,” Petri said. “(I was) a kid growing up in Texas, watching the Yankees win tons of World Series, seeing the superstar that is Derek Jeter. Then, when I get to the Yankees and I actually get to meet him, he remembers your name, and he says ‘thank you’ and ‘please.’ He’s this superstar who’s earned this incredible reputation — and it’s deserved — and he has no ego.”

After the Yankees were eliminated in the 2012 ALCS, Petri’s internship ended, which meant he needed a new job. Jonathan Supranowitz, vice president of public relations for the New York Knicks of the NBA, contacted Petri’s boss, Jason Zillo, director of communications and media relations with the Yankees, on behalf of Harold Kaufman, vice president of the New Orleans Hornets. Kaufman had a position to fill and asked Supranowitz if he knew of anyone.

Petri buzzes into New Orleans, reflects on time at Webster

Petri is a basketball communications assistant for the New Orleans Hornets.

Through multiple channels, Petri found himself in the new position of basketball communications assistant in New Orleans.

“They always use that phrase, ‘It’s not what you know; it’s who you know,’” Petri said. “I don’t really like to endorse that too much because everyone I know in this industry has worked their tail off to get to where they are and gotten a lot of good experience. … My boss Jason (Zillo) recommended me knowing my internship was almost up. I guess (Zillo) had some confidence in me.”

After phone calls and Skype interviews, Petri found his way to the Big Easy as a member of the Hornets’ staff in November 2012.

“That’s three times for me that I’ve gotten the news that I’ve gotten a job, and each time it doesn’t get any worse,” Petri said. “It’s always something that makes me smile and makes you proud that you’ve accomplished something.”

Other than the game-day duties, Petri also helps with the Hornets PR Twitter and Instagram accounts, writes press releases and helped set the press conference to announce the Hornets’ name change to the Pelicans last month. He said forward Ryan Anderson is always helpful when it comes to talking with the media. One of the more difficult aspects of his job, he said, is the long hours and the stress that can come from day-to-day operations in public relations.

Petri said he uses the skills he honed while at Webster in his career. He said the format for writing a press release in adjunct professor Thomas Crone’s Intro to Media Writing class and the lessons learned in Law and the Media and Intro to Media Research “helps him on his daily grind.”

Petri said the advice he would give to Webster students who want a career in sports communications is to be involved as much as possible while in school.

“Do anything possible that you can that’s related to sports,” Petri said. “I was writing outside of Webster. If you’re at Webster and looking to get into this industry, go get experience while you’re young. That way when you get to the professional world, you’re already prepared for some of the stuff that’s going to be thrown at you.”

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