With 10 clients, all in the minor leagues, Lubisich’s Northwest Sports Management Group is off to a solid start. It’s a unique model that another local sports agent, Lynn Lashbrook, believes can work — given time.
Lashbrook’s Sports Management Worldwide dabbles in baseball but has accomplished more in the NFL, where agents instantly receive revenue from a player’s contract. In baseball, by comparison, agents have to wait until their players reach the major leagues and sign for millions to truly reap the rewards.
Rather than millions, Lubisich is working a smaller-scale, longer-term approach with the hopes that forming close bonds born from proximity can help smooth over the pitfalls that fill the long and tedious road to success as a sports agent.
“It just really made sense to me,” Lubisich said, “to start something in the Northwest because there really wasn’t a presence here.”
In 2006, Lubisich, a 31st-round pick in 2001, appeared to be on the fast track to the major leagues with the Chicago White Sox. The lefthander entered the season as one of the top starters for the Triple-A Charlotte
Abrupt career change
Knights after being named the previous year to the Southern League All-Star team while in the middle of going 9-4 with a 3.00 ERA for Double-A Birmingham.
The end began during spring training when Lubisich, who signed out of college for $1,000 and a plane ticket to minor league camp, began experiencing soreness in his left arm. Then while making a pickoff throw to first during his second start he felt a ripping sensation in his pitching arm. His next pitch landed about 15 feet short of home plate.
“I just walked off the mound,” Lubisich said. “I knew I was done.”
Two arm surgeries and a failed comeback attempt later, Lubisich’s promising career, which produced a 31-20 record with a 3.36 ERA in seven seasons, was over.
“It was really devastating,” Lubisich said.
He decided early on that his fallback plan would be a career in sports. He looked into working in the business side of sports and took courses and interned at the Portland-based Sports Management Worldwide with the hope of being a general manager. But that didn’t suit him. Nor did selling home or car loans, something else he tried.
Then it struck him. He could work in baseball and be his own boss by becoming an agent. Lubisich launched his agency in 2008, bringing along childhood friends Peter White as the chief financial officer and attorney Jordan Carter to handle legal matters.
Lubisich hoped early on to avoid scrambling across the country chasing clients. Instead, he chose to focus on local players. And there’s plenty to choose from. There are about 65 minor league players with ties to Oregon and Southwest Washington high schools and universities.
Local, local, local
Lubisich’s business model is to focus on local players to better provide a more hands-on approach. His former agent lived in California. Contact was minimal. Lubisich’s clients said they appreciate how he seeks to break that mold.
Former Oregon State infielder Joey Wong, now with Class A Asheville in the Colorado organization, has known Lubisich since his days at Willamette when he played baseball for his father, David Wong.
As a 24th-round draft pick in 2009, Wong didn’t have many agents after him. But the former Sprague High School star he said he signed with Lubisich because he liked his overall vision and personal touch.
“He’s around in the offseason,” Wong said. “We get to see him. He even works out with me. He forms a real personal relationship with the guys that he represents. That’s real important because you want someone who is giving everything they’ve got for you. It’s hard to do that if they aren’t close to you.”
Former OSU outfielder Andy Jenkins, out of South Salem High School, signed with Lubisich last offseason. His original agent was with Double Diamond Sports Management based in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. That proved convenient while Jenkins was with the Florida Marlins’ organization. Now with Texas’ Double-A affiliate, Frisco, he chose to go with Lubisich.
“Having a personal relationship with my agent is important to me,” Jenkins said. “So many guys with big agencies don’t have any contact with their agents. They talk mostly to secretaries and stuff like that.”
Feel good stories aside, Lubisich is still in the business to make money. And that’s not easy in this business.
Lubisich said he receives five percent for player contracts and 15 percent of endorsement deals he secures.
Also, as Lashbrook said, there’s the danger of having more established agents swoop in and steal clients once they near the major leagues.
Lubisich is more than aware of this potential pitfall.
“It’s a back-stabbing industry,” he said.
Lubisich said he hopes he can combat having his clients cherry-picked by forming close ties with them and their families. But right now, of his 10 clients, the only one to have reached the major leagues is Philadelphia pitcher Ehren Wassermann, currently with Triple-A Lehigh Valley. And he is one of two Lubisich clients with no Northwest connections. The rest are a long ways from a potential major league debut. Plus, there are only seven players in the major leagues with Oregon connections making the pickings slim for big money clients.
Such realities have already forced Lubisich to expand his net for players to survive. He also makes money on the side by running Future Stars Sports camps, at which the players he represent appears. But he said he would continue to cater primarily to local athletes like he was and resist the lure of moving his agency to a bigger market.
“I like my life,” he said. “I like being in an area I know. Going to a bigger market like New York would mean I would probably have to change as a person.”