SBJ/April 14-20, 2014/People and Pop Culture

Spotlight: Will Kuntz, MLS

Yankee kicker: Move takes Kuntz from MLB to MLS

Despite having a say in the personnel moves of the New York Yankees as pro scouting manager, Will Kuntz made the surprising jump to Major League Soccer as director of player relations. “Just looking at the last 12 years, the league has grown so much,” Kuntz said. “It’s totally different.” Kuntz spoke with staff writer Bryan Ives.


Age: 30
New title: Director of player relations, MLS
Previous title: Pro scouting manager, New York Yankees
First job: Summer camp counselor
College education: Williams College, 2006
Resides: Dumbo, Brooklyn
Grew up: Cobble Hill, Brooklyn
Executive most admired: Brian Cashman
Brand most admired: New York Yankees
Favorite vacation spot: Buenos Aires, Argentina
 Last book read: “Siddhartha”
Last movie seen: “The Grand Budapest Hotel”
Favorite movie: “Casablanca”
Favorite musician/band: Miles Davis.


What will be the biggest challenge in your new position?
Acquainting myself with the rules of a new sport. Really having to learn the letter of the law by the collective-bargaining agreement and really working through a new industry and new set of rules, new timetables, new player transaction rules.

What is the biggest risk you’ve taken in your career?
Leaving the Yankees, but at the same time I don’t view it as risky. I view it more as unusual because very few people leave the Yankees, especially for positions outside of baseball.

What is your biggest professional accomplishment?
I think just being a part of our pro scouting staff in 2009 as we put together the postseason advanced reports for the Angels and the Phillies and just the level of detail that went into it. … It had a level of commitment and focus that I thought was very rare. It’s not the kind of thing you see over 162 games in the regular season and even really in the first round of the playoffs, which is the division series. Once you get to the championship series and the World Series, it’s just an amazing level of detail.

What career advice do you have for people wanting to get into the sports industry?
It sounds cliché, but don’t ever stop. I never stopped trying and I got very lucky in that I wrote one letter [to George Steinbrenner] and that turned into a job. … You’re going to hear “no” a lot more than you’re going to hear “yes” and it’ll feel disheartening and like you’re not making any headway, but at the same time, if you just keep on pushing — and that goes for once you’re working for a club or league also.

What is one story you are continuing to watch in the sports world today?
I think really the growth of [Major League Soccer]. It’s actually a watershed moment for MLS. … The crowds have become much more sophisticated and not just in a way that emulates Europe. I think it’s sophisticated in a very organic and real way. These fan bases of these teams are really starting to establish their own identities, and that’s what I see from the sidelines.

What is the one element you would like to see changed about the sports industry?
This rapid rush to define everything instantly. … I think a lot of what gets lost in it is the casual enjoyment of competition. I grew up a Mets fan, so those teams were often terrible, but it was still great. You could still talk about the finer points of the team or the game without having to really decide whether it was a good or bad game.

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