Former Baseball Owner Loves Teaching in Saint Leo's Online MBA Program
Read the story of Jordan Kobritz, a former baseball owner and attorney who teaches in Saint Leo University's online MBA in sport business program.
Jordan Kobritz has had a love of America's favorite pastime since he was little. It was always a dream of his to be involved in the game someday, and little did he know he'd go on to own multiple Minor League Baseball clubs over the years. He is now taking all of his life experiences and sharing them with Saint Leo University's online MBA in sport business students.
The native of Bangor, Me. is married to Debbie who has two sons. The couple has indoor cats and owns two horses, an Arabian horse named Spirit and a Quarter horse named DJ, short for Debbie and Jordan. They reside in Cortland, N.Y.
In terms of higher education, he attained a bachelor's in accounting from Georgetown University and a law degree from Cornell University. He also has a CPA certificate.
Prior to jumping into the sports business world, Kobritz worked in law and accounting. He actually ran an H&R Block location for a brief time.
"My accounting experience has really come in handy over the years," he says.
He started a law practice in Maine and briefly worked with William Cohen, a partner who left the firm and later went on to become a Congressman and Secretary of Defense under President Clinton. While operating this firm, Kobritz served as a part-time district attorney and prosecutor.
"I'm fond of saying I specialized in paying the rent," he jokes. "It was a small-town practice, so we pretty much handled all types of cases."
There are a few cases he is most proud of having handled. One involved a drunk driver who hit another car head-on, killing three of its passengers.
"We were able to successfully prosecute him for reckless homicide, which was kind of a first for that part of Maine at the time."
In another case, a man murdered his girlfriend's two-year-old daughter. Kobritz was able to push for his conviction of manslaughter of a minor, but the defendant was sentenced to just one year in prison. Kobritz was extremely upset at the lenient sentence, but months later, the man was killed in prison.
"I think justice was served in that case," he says. "After that, we were able to strengthen some of the state laws for crimes against children."
After a decade of running his successful law practice, Kobritz was ready for a change. He took a chance by stepping up to the plate on a mission to find his niche within professional baseball.
"Baseball has always been my favorite sport," he says. "I like to say I embarked on my 'Baseball 101 course' where I went around the country and learned as much as I could about the business of the sport. I talked to anyone who'd talk to me – executives, scouts, college coaches and so many others."
He had a condo in Winter Haven, Fla. where the Boston Red Sox held their spring training at the time. He met with Peter Gammons, a longtime baseball writer for The Boston Globe and former ESPN personality. Gammons suggested he become an agent.
"I thought whatever Peter says is gospel, so I went the agent route. I quickly realized, however, that there is lots of babysitting and handholding in that line of work."
He then decided he wanted to bring pro baseball back to his home state of Maine.
"I found a team in Charleston, W.V. and negotiated a deal to buy the club. I went to the baseball winter meetings in Hawaii and closed the deal there. The team played in Charleston the next year and I moved it to Maine the following year where they became the Maine Guides."
Throughout this process, he raised over $5 million and built a ballpark for the team. The club was affiliated with the Cleveland Indians and then the Philadelphia Phillies as a Triple-A organization in the International League from 1984 through 1988. The Guides played their home games just one mile from the Atlantic Ocean in Old Orchard Beach.
Unfortunately, he wasn't able to build on the site he had hoped to, so the location was not ideal. He wound up selling the Guides after five seasons and moved to Florida.
In the Sunshine State, he purchased a team in Haines City near Lakeland and moved the club to Daytona Beach. This Class A franchise became the Daytona Cubs just before the 1993 season. The team was an affiliate of the Chicago Cubs and was a member of the Florida State League. For his success with the Cubs, Kobritz was inducted into the FSL Hall of Fame in 2017.
Since then, he has become part of an effort known as the Caribbean Baseball Initiative (CBI).
"A friend of mine in my baseball career was putting together an organization to return the minor leagues to Havana, Cuba," he says. "Through this limited partnership, the group has owned the Charlotte Stone Crabs and New Orleans Zephyrs/Baby Cakes. We are now working on bringing the team from New Orleans to Wichita, Kansas."
He is an investor and senior advisor for the team soon to be located in Wichita. He is currently part of an oversight committee to build a new ballpark there.
For the past 13 years, Kobritz has served as an adjunct instructor in Saint Leo University's online MBA in sport business program.
"I came on board when Saint Leo started the sport business online MBA program," he recalls. "I had previously put together an online master's program, so I had experience developing courses and teaching in this modality. I was one of the first to actually teach online courses as a full-time professor."
There were several reasons why the offer to teach for Saint Leo was intriguing to him.
"The fact that this was a brand new program for Saint Leo and it was going to be in their School of Business really appealed to me," he says.
He adds that this type of program took some time to catch on in terms of respectability in the academic landscape.
"Years ago, lots of business schools frowned on the concept of teaching about sports and business. They didn't think it had enough academic integrity. I have always said there are so many important business factors across all sports that can be taught. Plus, so many young people and really those of all ages are attracted to sports, so I think these programs have a lot of appeal within higher education."
In addition to educating Saint Leo's online MBA students, Kobritz works as a full-time professor at SUNY Cortland where he previously served as department chair. He has also taught classes for St. Cloud State University, Eastern New Mexico University, Northern Arizona University, the University of Wyoming, University of Maine and Husson University.
Kobritz has had a chance to teach all types of courses, from those conducted in traditional classrooms to online to audio courses by phone to those that were prerecorded on VHS tapes.
"Some people think teaching courses in online degree programs is easy, but it isn't. You have to make yourself available to students and respond promptly to questions they may have. Students want to feel connected to their professors, and as the instructor, you have to work at this. I will say that I enjoy teaching online more than other formats because it is a nice challenge."
In his mind, it's all about who is leading a course.
"The most important ingredient in higher education is the professor," he says. "They can make or break courses and students."
On top of teaching and his business interests in baseball, Kobritz authors a weekly column called "Sports Beyond the Lines." His articles run the gamut on various topics in the sports business world, including law, management, finance and media. The column runs in a few local newspapers and online here.
"I was reading things other sports writers were saying that I totally disagreed with," he says. "So, around 2005, I approached the sports editor of The Daily Courier in Prescott, Ariz. and said I had an idea for a column. He said 'done' and asked when I wanted to start."
He takes a unique approach to the column.
"I want to give the reader some facts, try to make them think and sometimes voice an opinion. I'm no expert on all sports, but I do feel pretty comfortable writing about a variety of sports business topics. My main goal with this was to provide some content to smaller newspapers who couldn't afford national columnists. In fact, my wife is my proofreader and editor."
In addition, he has been published in numerous professional journals, including the Journal of Sport Management, Journal of Issues in Intercollegiate Athletics and Professional Sports and the Law. He has also been a presenter at a number of conferences put on by the North American Society for Sport Management, European Association for Sport Management and the Sport and Recreation Law Association.