Rocky Dudum (Communication Studies, ’10) will be a baseball fan for life, and he has the job to prove it. As the manager of marketing and fan development for the San Diego Padres, he draws from his experiences of sitting in the stands and cheering on his favorite players as they step up to the plate in order to hit his own home runs out of the office. The bonding moments with his dad and grandpa while watching the San Francisco Giants play at Candlestick Park are what inspired Dudum to pursue a career that keeps those cherished memories close and puts his fandom to good use. Whether it’s growing the Padres fan base, thinking up and selling merchandise, or general team branding, Dudum takes what he learned from Chico State to think outside the batter’s box and give fans their own memories that will last a lifetime.

How did you know you made it to the Big Leagues?

The first time I knew I made it into the Big Leagues was a project in the marketing department [while working as the special events marketing coordinator for the San Francisco Giants] that I spent months and months working on. It was for our Frank Sinatra Tribute Night program. We had players who were interested in Sinatra’s music step up and be part of a photoshoot. I was one of three people who organized the photoshoot with the players in a Rat Pack pose. I spent a lot of time with my coworker brainstorming and storyboarding, and to see it come to fruition and handed out to fans on posters and T-shirts was the first time I realized that my impact was getting into the hands of the fans.

What’s your favorite part of a game?

When a fan, particularly a kid, comes to the table if we have a certain giveaway of branded merchandise, like a Padres hat with a certain heritage logo. And when someone comes up who has traveled from miles away and they rushed here after school just so they could make it, like they planned on this for six months. That’s exactly what the goal was: get them here, get them to be excited about the hat, they show someone, put it on, and wear it out. That, for me, is the most fulfilling moment.

Rocky Dudum hands a boxed bobblehead to a young girl.
Interacting with fans—young and old alike—is one of the highlights of Dudum’s role.

If you could pick any other job in the stadium, what would it be?

It would be my own. This is exactly where I wanted to be when I was graduating from Chico State and going through an internship, my first job, informational interviews, and talking to different people. It was all designed to hopefully have some role that impacts the fan side. I was not a great baseball player, and [fandom] was the only passion I had while watching games. Collecting Topps trading cards, collecting Cracker Jack boxes, keeping bobbleheads on my nightstand at home—that was my relationship with the game. Now it’s “How can I make that impact on the next generation of kids?”

Who were your biggest inspirations at Chico State?

My biggest inspirations at Chico State wasn’t one or two folks, it was probably the communications [department] faculty in general. They were folks that kind of encouraged us to think outside the box. It was a department that I felt I could do things that hadn’t been done before in school projects or study something that wasn’t part of the curriculum, and they fostered that environment. It was, personally, my first opportunity to feel comfortable doing something different.

What advice do you have for students who want to get into this business?

[As an employer,] I would specifically look for someone who is comfortably uncomfortable and someone who knows they’re going to be thrown a lot of different things. In a sports organization, you have to come in and be flexible. Coming in and being very uncomfortable right away but quickly adapting and knowing that they will be able to do this shows they’re confident and ready to add value.

The biggest misconception about a career in sports is that you’re going to be able to be successful by just following what has already been done in that respective company. You definitely want to be a sponge but think about how you can take what’s happening and make it better or how you can be politely persistent and raise your hand with an idea to create change. That’s what they’re hiring for: it’s what can you bring to the industry.

Also, be confident and be proud that you went to Chico State. People know Chico.