In the world of professional baseball, there are few people as polarizing as player agents. Charged with being the the cog that keeps the player and management engine working, agents are often misunderstood and painted as the bad guy.
Enter the picture Joshua Kusnick of Double Diamond Sports Management, an agent out to prove every conception wrong.
As an agent that seeks to be openly available to the fans and the media as much as he is to the players and management he deals with on a daily basis, Mr. Kusnick does everything he can to live up to that. He actively keeps a column on Baseball Prospectus that gives outsiders a look into the life of an agent. He also communicates regularly via Twitter, regularly engaging fans and readers alike, even seeking out conversation wherever there is baseball being discussed.
I first met Mr. Kusnick when I sought to interview his client, Blue Jays prospect Dalton Pompey. What I found was a gentleman in every sense of the word and very amenable to both my request to interview his client and also the chance to talk with some of his other clients. So when the opportunity came to allow others to get to know him a little bit as I had come to, I jumped all over it.
So loyal FanSided readers, let me introduce you to Mr. Joshua Kusnick, player agent, former ball-hawk, and stand-up comedian.
KF – You’ve literally grown up around the game, first as a bat boy and then doing some behind the scenes scouting as a teenager. How important was it for you to find yourself a career in the baseball industry and how did you come about the decision to be a player agent rather than a scout?
JK – It all kind of came together initially as an accident. When I was 14 I started attending FSL games and got to see guys like Kerry Wood, Scott Rolen, Vlad Guerrero, and Nomar Garciapparra up close. I ran an autograph business and figured getting guys signatures in A-Ball was easier than getting them in the big leagues so I kind of roughly taught myself how to find good guys before they got good.
I signed my first client in 2002 and he made it to the big leagues so I was very lucky right out of the gate. It was always a dream to work in baseball and I am fortunate that my family has supported me every step of the way but again without my clients I’m nobody. I also am proud that, outside of Jeremy Jeffress, all my MLB clients were taken in the 5th round or later. I like being able to say I did my homework and I found the guys other people missed. I’m proud I can go out and unearth a gem like Dalton Pompey and be there before he had his explosive start in Dunedin or Adrian Nieto in HS or Steve Clevenger at Chipola. Anyone can read an interview or a scouting report but to actually be there first is a big deal. Though the real trick is being there last since that’s the person who gets paid.
Being a scout long term never was an option for me. I have had several chances to jump over to the club side but I really believe in working for the players and protecting their best interests from the clubs. That’s what I’m here for.
KF – You’re pretty open with the fans, both via your columns on Baseball Prospectus and through Twitter. Does you experience as a fan learning the inside nature of the game encourage you to pay it forward?
JK – In a way. I really want to give everyone a peak behind the curtain because this job isn’t all muti-million dollar deals and private jets, etc. There is so much grinding and waiting not to mention I love writing and that is why I do the column. I am so accessible because I just like dealing with people. Anyone is free to contact me and I always respond. Not always a good thing, someone literally emailed me their college homework this week. I always wonder what goes through someone’s head before sending something like that to a total stranger. The short answer, yes I like helping people.
KF – In your last post at Baseball Prospectus, you wrote a great piece discussing why you avoid the draft when looking for new clients, and you make a great case for your argument. That said, you’ve also had some solid success with some of your players in the draft. Can you give us a brief history of some of your bigger draft successes?
JK – I had Kellen Deglan drafted in the 1st round which was a pretty amazing experience back in 2010. I feel like I played a large role in making that happen and I still believe that’s one of the best deals ever acquired in the history of Canadian baseball. Getting JC Sulbaran 500k in the 30th round in 2008 was a big one and getting Adrian Nieto 376 back in ’08 was twice the slot value. It’s just that with so many uncertified agencies out there now chasing amateurs the landscape has changed so much I do not enjoy the draft process anymore. If a player genuinely needs my help I will examine it but at the same time I have promised all my clients I quit the draft to dedicate more time to their careers. I’m happy with that choice.
KF – In follow-up on your openness with fans, how is your relationship with other agents? Is there any push-back from you pulling back the curtain a bit and revealing how some of the magic is done?
JK – I really do not interact with other agents. I know a few and they’re good people. We all have a job to do and there are a finite amount of players so you’re destined to create some animosity at some point but I always try to avoid that as much as possible. I know a lot of people weren’t thrilled with my column, but overall it has been a cathartic and pleasant experience that I am grateful to BP for.
KF – You’ve worked with a number of players that have found their way through the Milwaukee Brewers organization at one point or another, including Jeremy Jeffress, Lorenzo Cain, and Michael Brantley. Is there something with the way their system that has been particularly easy to work with over the years?
JK – I have a close relationship with Jack Z, Tommy Mac and their former partner Tony Blengino. Early in my career it just seemed everyone I had played for the Brewers. It all started with Cain and Ford and branched out from there. I respect Gord Ash, Bruce Seid and Reid Nichols as much as anyone in baseball and I just thought it was ironic that my 8th rounder last year of course was taken by Milwaukee.
KF – You’ve had some players bounce around a bit, as well as some be a part of some major trades. What do you think is the most challenging thing for you as an agent when a player changes hands?
JK – Just getting accustomed to the new organization and dealing with an entirely new front office. My relationships with all 30 teams are in place so when a guy goes to a new club it’s not new for me. It’s my job to get everything situated and figure out the plan moving forward. The agent’s job is to be the players voice to the organization and that’s what I do.
KF – You may or may not choose to answer this, as I’m sure you have to be as non-partisan as possible. However, has there been a particular club or organization that has been a favorite to deal with? One that has been more of a headache?
JK – Yes and Yes. I cant say who. (KF – Understandable considering your line of work. Always a good idea not to burn bridges or to show your cards.)
KF – Being an agent can be somewhat nomadic and not quite as romantic as it is sometimes made out to be. Can you give us a bit of the ups and downs of the lifestyle?
JK – Traveling is insane. Three weeks in a row I attended games one week in a ball next week in the show the next week back in a ball. MLB is always fun but the minors are a grind and it is a ton of hard work helping someone else achieve their dream of becoming a major leaguer whether it be just talking to them during a slump, being at their games, or handling endorsements. It is most certainly not a glamour job.
I am just very worried about the influx of uncertified agents. These guys latch on to amateur kids hoping to make a name for themselves on that kids back and in the process totally screw up everything. I have developed a bit of a reputation of a “fixer” since I’ve had to undo so much bad work others have caused. The uncertified guys that is. There are 249 certified agents and like 2000 uncertified agencies.
KF – On your Twitter description, you mention you are also a “former stand-up comic” and I’ve seen a photo floating around the internet of you with Daniel Tosh. That sounds like it could be a lot of fun, but also could be a tremendously difficult juggling act with your career as an agent. Is that why you walked away from it?
JK – I tooled around with being a comic when I was young. I miss the stage a lot and always write jokes here and there. I’ve been fortunate enough to have spent time with Greg Giraldo and Mitch Hedberg my two comedic heroes but it was never a comic/agent choice. I was always an agent who as a hobby did stand up. It was and will always be a hobby.
KF – As an agent, have you ever run into a situation where you had a conflict of interest involving two players, similar to what Scott Boras recently had to deal with in regards to Stephen Drew and Xander Bogaerts with the Boston Red Sox? Who do you deal with those types of situations?
JK – I avoid conflicts as best I can and I certainly have none that I’m aware of right now. When I started I had Ford, Cain, and Brantley with Milwaukee, which was awkward but they all got traded and the conflict was averted. In the end everything works itself out and everything that will happen will happen. I am beyond grateful just to be a small part of the process and play my role.
KF – What is your single biggest time of year as an agent? Is it the first days of free agency, the Winter Meetings, Spring Training, or some other moment?
JK – I love the winter meetings. No question, it’s the best time of year sans the season. It’ a 365 day 24/7 job and you can’t take any of your clients for granted or you can be replaced in a blink.