Batter Up! Rachel Luba on Life Behind the Dugout
Batter Up! Rachel Luba on Life Behind the Dugout
By Isabelle Lee
WHY YOU SHOULD CARE
Because baseball is no longer a boys' club.
By Isabelle Lee
At just 28 years old, Rachel Luba is the youngest female sports agent behind some of the biggest contracts in MLB history. The former gymnast runs her own agency, The Luba Agency, hosts a podcast, and is the most followed sports agent on social media. Curious about what it’s like to be a hotshot sports agent? Join Carlos this week on The Carlos Watson Show and get to know the up-and-coming powerhouse. You can find excerpts below or listen to the full interview on the show’s podcast feed.
But You’re a Girl?
Carlos Watson: Now, when did you think about becoming a sports agent?
Rachel Luba: I always knew I wanted to work in sports, probably just being a gymnast. I was a gymnast from the age of 2 through college, so I knew I wanted to work in sports; wasn’t sure exactly what. So when I got to college, I started thinking more about it and realized I wanted to work with the individual athlete. And that was what I was most passionate about, and probably being an individual sport athlete my whole life. And so this idea, representing athletes and being an agent, sounded interesting to me. And I looked into it a little, and then I just ended up in baseball probably because the first agent I ever spoke to pretty much told me that I wasn’t welcome in the industry. And I walked out of there and decided that’s the exact industry I’m going to go into then.
Watson: Wait, did someone really say that to you?
Luba: Yeah. Oh, the first agent that I ever spoke to, because they tell you, if you think you know what you want to do, right, talk to people in the industry. So naturally, I did that. It was my freshman year at UCLA, met with him in his office. So I sit down, he picks his feet up on his desk, kind of leans back. And he was like, “All right. Sounds like you’re pretty sure you know what you want to do. So I’m not going to sugarcoat it.” And I was like, “OK.” He’s like, “You’re a girl.” And he stared at me and I stared at him. I was like, “Yeah, well aware, thank you.”
Then he was just like, “Well, what I’m saying is you’re not really welcome in the industry.” And then at that point, I think I was probably a little annoyed, and he probably could tell, and he was like, “Look, I’m not saying you can’t do it. But what I’m saying is, it is a boys’ club and that’s the reality of it.” So I was just like, “OK, is this all you have for me? This is a waste of time,” kind of thing. And he was like, “Look, if you want any chance, any credibility, you should probably get a law degree, but that’s your best bet.”
So I walked out of there and I remember texting my parents. I was like, “I’m going to go to law school.” And I wrote all my personal statements specifically geared toward like, “I don’t intend on practicing traditional law. I was told that this is what I need to be a sports agent because I’m a female. So I just need a law degree.” But that was how it began.
Girls Make Good Agents
Watson: What makes you good?
Luba: One, I understand the advanced analytics and the ability to really value a player. I also think a lot of it is relationship-building and the ability to have and maintain good relationships with a variety of different people. I’ve always been a good negotiator, being persuasive, finding ways. I think law school helped a lot in being better at taking whatever set of facts you have and spinning them in your favor and making a good argument.
I also think that there’s something different about being a female that does help, that makes me different. And I think that is the fact that there is more of a maternal instinct there, that I think not all guys necessarily have. And so my ability to care for a player, and genuinely care for a player, I think is different. I think it might sometimes make it harder for me, in a sense, because I can get very invested in a player and caring about more than just the contract and my paycheck kind of thing. But I think that’s also what makes me a good agent.
The Art of Negotiating
Watson: Do you somehow have a different opportunity to negotiate and a different ability to not get stuck in a mindless mud wrestle?
Luba: Absolutely. One, because I didn’t grow up a baseball fan at all. I didn’t grow up in the sport, and I’m not a male. And so I think it allows me in a sense not to be clouded by tradition, not be clouded by this idea that … and baseball is notorious for it … that it is done this way because that’s how it’s always been done. And to me, I hate … if you ask someone, “Why you do something like this?” There should be a good reason for it. And baseball is notorious for … even with just how they coach the game, how they develop players, things like this, they do it, a lot of times the answer is, “Well, that’s just how it’s always been taught.”
I come in with a very fresh set of eyes on everything, which included my kind of fees and how I decided to operate and structure my agency. It’s very different, and it’s not how it has always been done, but I think it’s better. I think it’s more beneficial for players. And I think I’ve taken a while, obviously being a female made it difficult to get my foot in the door, it subjects me to a lot of criticism and scrutiny and things like that. But I think there’s a way to take whatever hand you’re dealt and figure, “How do I make the best of it?”
I think I’ve been able to do that as well. I think being a female has its disadvantages. I also think there’s a way to use it as a benefit and to use it as a weapon in a sense. And I don’t think there’s anything wrong with finding ways to take what you’re given and make the best of it. So I do think I’ve been able to set myself apart in many ways because of the fact that I’m a female.
Watson: And in your mind, what are four or five ways that you think you’ve managed to freshly approach this thing? I know you said your fee structure is one. What else do you think you’ve done that’s allowed you to rejigger the game?
Luba: I mean, I think just my use of social media. I was told in the beginning, first of all, we want to downplay your gender. And if you look at most agents on social media, if you try to search for them, they don’t really exist. It’s really hard to find them. But I ended up looking at it and saying, OK, well, I can really build my presence on social media. And that’s a way to recruit. That’s a way to get in front of so many eyes that I can’t always get in front of, it’s a way to kind of establish myself in the industry and have this kind of perception of maybe being an expert in certain areas, things like that.
I think also just kind of how, because I am a one-off, I started my own agency. That’s really difficult for people to do. That’s kind of an uphill battle. A lot of these bigger agencies have tons of resources, they’re able to go and recruit and all of these things. But again, I was able to use my social media so that I don’t have to spend a ton of money flying, trying to get in front of a family in Alabama or something like that at a game. I can do this all kind of organically and indirectly through social media. Then I have families coming to me instead. So I mean, I think those are some of the ways that I’ve been able to do it. I’ll build my own platform, I cut out the middleman, I can now tweet whatever I want and the GMs see it, the GMs look at it, players look at it.
- Isabelle Lee