In Moneyball, Michael Lewis’ bestselling book about the Oakland A’s, there is a passage in which J.P. Ricciardi, the General Manager of the Toronto Blue Jays, talks with an unnamed baseball agent. That agent, it turns out, is Owen alumnus James “Bo” McKinnis, the President of McKinnis Sports Management in Nashville. Unlike some in his line of work, McKinnis does not mind going unnoticed. In fact, that is exactly how he likes it.
“From day one I’ve wanted my players to be the stars. That’s the way it’s supposed to be,” he explains. “When I meet folks and tell them what I do, they’re a little surprised. That just shows that I’m doing my business the right way.”
While McKinnis enjoys anonymity outside the game, his name is well-regarded within it. Over the course of his career he has represented 89 major leaguers, including David Price, the former Vanderbilt pitcher and No. 1 pick of the Tampa Bay Rays. That success, he says, can be attributed to a piece of advice that pitcher Jeff Brantley offered him when first starting out: “Don’t contact the players. If you do a good job, they will come to you.”
As counterintuitive as that sounds, the strategy has worked because, as McKinnis puts it, “The best scouts are a player’s teammates.” He adds, “That’s why I let my players bring clients to me. They know what I’m looking for and who will represent me well.”
McKinnis admits he never intended to become an agent. His very first client—a player on the Mississippi State baseball team that he helped manage as an undergrad—had to talk him into the idea. Even years later when he was at Owen, he seemed set on pursuing a career on Wall Street. The game, however, never loosened its grip on him. The skills that he honed while earning an MBA—negotiating, accounting and entrepreneurship, among others—ended up laying the foundation for what he does today.
“God gave me two loves—business and baseball—and I’ve been able to put them together,” he says. “It’s the best of both worlds.”