The Chicago Bandits players may have left the building, but not Jack Mertes.
Mertes, a 21-year-old marketing major at the University of Illinois-Chicago, is extending his second summer internship with the Bandits into fall as he begins his senior year of college. Along with intern Jacquie Boatman, Mertes is helping the team settle into its new office at Rosemont Stadium and get ready for the 2012 season.
Though he may not have worn a uniform or signed post-game autographs, Mertes connected with Bandits fans in a number of ways this season. He conceived several popular promotional events, including “Faith Night,” “Taylor Swift Night” and “Pink in the Park,” and was the No. 2 producer in ticket sales behind Andrew Phillips, the team’s director of public relations, social media and tickets.
Mertes also subbed in as tournament director during the “Rumble in Rosemont” youth softball tournament and as public address announcer late in the season.
“Jack is hard-working and very creative,” Phillips says of his protégé. “He’s also pretty analytical and keeps track of numbers well.”
Mertes, who played tennis for H.D. Jacobs High School in his hometown of Algonquin, Ill., says he has always been interested in the business side of things.
“When I was 14, I was trying to think of small businesses I could start to earn money,” Mertes says. “And I always wanted to work in sports.”
Mertes got to develop his cold-calling sales skills as a ticket intern with the Bandits in 2009.
He followed that with a 2010-11 internship in the ticket department of the Rockford Ice Hogs, the NHL Chicago Blackhawks’ minor-league affiliate.
“That taught me a lot about the sports industry, because [the Ice Hogs] are a bigger team,” Mertes says. “They have a lot of good people there, and a lot more structure.”
Phillips was only too happy to welcome Mertes back to the Bandits in April, once the Ice Hogs internship ended.
“Jack’s customer service is great; he is always checking in with our groups to make sure their game experience is good,” Phillips says. “He does well supervising other interns, too.”
Mertes currently works three to four days a week “pro bono,” concentrating on season ticket renewals.
“Name recognition is a big factor, and we aren’t as widely known as other teams in the area,” Mertes says.
“But once people come out and experience the park, they really enjoy it. They love the game and the stadium, so hopefully it will get a little easier to sell for next season.”
Even though he’s still technically an intern, Mertes has a title – Ticket Sales Executive and Youth Tournament Director – that he hopes will lead to bigger and better things.
“My goals are to become an account executive at a minor league team, maybe baseball or hockey – or even here, if possible – and one day a general manager of a [professional] team,” Mertes says.
“I’m obsessed with being the youngest person to do things,” he adds. “I admire [Boston Red Sox general manager] Theo Epstein, who was 30 years old when he won the World Series. I would like to top that.”
That GM position is still open with the Chicago Cubs, isn’t it?