Create Your Opportunities
This is an excerpt from Augusto “Cookie” Rojas’s chapter in “The GM’s Handbook” which is available in paperback, Amazon Kindle and Kindle Unlimited. It is cited, indexed and professionally edited, providing perspectives from 16 MiLB C-Suite Executives on leadership, hiring/firing/interviews, merchandise, tickets, concessions, corporate sales and the business of sports revenue generation.
Networking saved my life.
If it hadn’t been for networking, I would have had a legal career as an unhappy lawyer, stressed and worried about billable hours, angry that I didn’t pursue my true dream of working in sports. Behind a desk in an office tower law firm with a mountain of paperwork, I would have questioned why I didn’t take a leap of faith in myself, pursuing my passion. It would have been a miserable life.
The art of networking, coupled with the act of being able to relate to complete strangers in face-to-face interactions, along with the courage to speak, actively listen and learn, created a dynamic that I am continuing to reap the rewards from to this day. The skill of networking created the situation that I am in today. Had I not taken that first awkward, uncomfortable step toward reaching out to someone, I would not be living the life that I dreamed about.
I drive to the stadium every day, realizing that my office is inside. It is an amazing feeling, years in the making, that I can walk out onto the field, stand at home plate, look out at the stands and outfield walls, realizing the epic goal has been accomplished. Being a c-suite level executive in minor league baseball, general manager of the New Orleans Baby Cakes as a Triple-A affiliate of the Miami Marlins, is a dream come true. And it was fashioned by networking.
Laughable as it may sound, I skipped a contracts class at Suffolk University Law School, in order to attend a sports and entertainment association meeting on campus. I asked a fellow classmate to do me a favor, take notes for me. Insignificant as it sounds, the decision launched my career into the sports world. It changed my life from being on a path headed toward being a lawyer to where I am today. Choices are what make a person’s life, both bad and good, and whether they seize the opportunities in front of them when presented.
Everything in my family’s life has been about taking chances. My parents are from Colombia, South America, who took a chance on the American Dream when they immigrated here with their children. It still drives me crazy when people misspell Colombia as “Columbia,” same as when they confuse me for “Cookie” Rojas, the former Major League Baseball player. My nickname is something that I share with the famous Cuban, and I actually watched him play with the Kansas City Royals, had his baseball cards, and swore that I would eventually meet him personally. And everyone who meets me believes that I earned the “Cookie” nickname in the same way that he did. Not even close to being accurate.
Everyone always asks me how I earned the nickname, “Cookie.” Growing up in Central Falls, Rhode Island as the only Latino family in a neighborhood block surrounded by French Canadians, it was a rather urban setting that I experienced. Central Falls is a blue collar, mill worker city sitting north of Providence, the state’s capital. We lived in a triple-decker home, two aunts sandwiched between the floors that my family used. My immigrant parents worked multiple shifts to pay rent and exist, while my aunts took care of me as well as my cousins. My eldest cousin would give me dinner nightly, and I wouldn’t eat unless the Cookie Monster was on TV. Thus, she called me “galleta,” Spanish for cookie.
Playing in the streets with the neighborhood kids, my cousin would call for me, using the “galleta” nickname. The kids would question what it meant, and when I told them that she was calling me “cookie,” well, the nickname stuck. They figured that it was easier to call me “Cookie” rather than “Augusto” and I’ve been unable to shake the moniker since. Throughout grade school, middle school and high school, I kept having people refer to me as “Cookie.” When I enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps, I figured no one would know my nickname, but that didn’t last long either. I had a girlfriend whose friends sent me a letter with “Cookie” on the back envelope, and my drill instructors never let that nickname go.
When I graduated from college and was hired as a paralegal, I entered the position at the firm as Augusto Rojas, Jr. That was until a fraternity brother who served as a fellow intern at the firm saw me, called out “Hey, Cookie!” and the nickname spread like wildfire through the office. At that point, I chose to embrace the moniker, put it on my business cards, and I’ve never left it off since. The “Cookie” nickname is also a great one to have when working in professional baseball. So many people think that I am the son of THE Cookie Rojas. The nickname has become a bit of currency for me. I’ve walked into the offices of several company presidents or CEOs, who each thought that they were going to meet THE Cookie Rojas, only to be disappointed that I am not an 80-year-old former Major League Baseball player from Cuba. Even when this situation occurs, I defuse it by still asking for five minutes of their time. I did finally have the opportunity to meet THE Cookie Rojas at a Marlins Spring Training, which shows that as long as you continue to network, you will end up reaching your goals eventually.
Discover the rest of this chapter and more, in “The GM’s Handbook,” a new 390-page book available now in paperback, Amazon Kindle and Kindle Unlimited. It is cited, indexed and professionally edited, providing perspectives from 16 MiLB C-Suite Executives on leadership, hiring/firing/interviews, merchandise, tickets, concessions, corporate sales and the business of sports revenue generation.