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Melissa Persaud has every sports fan’s dream job. As marketing services manager for the Major League Baseball Players Association, the 29-year-old Long Island native develops and coordinates special events for the union’s charitable arm, the Players Trust for Children. This means she spends about 70 percent of her time on the road staging events with the biggest stars in the game. On the day she was interviewed, for example, she had just returned from St. Louis, where she coordinated a “Buses for Baseball” event with Bobby Bonilla, who had a surprise waiting for her and the busloads of underprivileged kids he bought tickets for. “Mark McGwire also showed up to meet the buses,” marveled Persaud. “Then he took the kids on the field to watch batting practice. They’ll never forget that.” Persaud herself will never forget the advice that eventually got her here. She was fresh out of Princeton and had wanted to work in sports since high school. “So I picked the brain of every alum in the business,” she remembers, “and they all said I needed an advanced degree to get some credibility. Without one, they said, as a woman the best I could hope for was possibly becoming an agent for fencers.” Attending Fordham University School of Law at night, she interned by day for If Enterprises, where sports agent Steven Herz taught her the importance of building relationships and networking in an ethical manner. She also put in time at the Center for the Protection of Athletes’ Rights and Major League Events, a company not affiliated with Major League Baseball that puts on productions like charity golf tournaments with ballplayers. “By the time I’d graduated, I’d already worked on events with Kirby Puckett, Kenny Lofton and Pudge Rodriguez,” said Persaud, whose professors advised her to get the experience of working for a big firm. She got an offer, but rejected it and continued working for Major League Events. “Had I accepted the offer, I’d have made three times what I wound up making,” she said, “but I’ve never looked back.” But looking back over this year, her first with the MLBPA, Persaud says that her love for the game and its practitioners increases all the time. “I have so much respect for athletes,” she said, “and being involved with the Players Trust for Children only enhances my appreciation. It was created in [the strike year of] 1994 to counteract the negative perception of players as greedy.” Persaud devotes a great deal of time to building relationships with the players. “If the guys at an event have questions about the labor agreement [which expires at the end of this season] or about other matters, they can always count on me to talk to the right person and get back to them,” she said, and jokes that some players find her a bit easier to talk to than union president Donald Fehr. The guys also look out for her. Last year, during an all-star tour of Tokyo, her luggage was lost for five days, and she spent all five borrowing clothes from the players. Working alongside an all-star cast of attorneys at the MLBPA, Persaud rarely needs to put her legal training to the test. Was going to law school really worth it? “The degree gives you a leg up,” she said. “Being in a man’s world, people take me more seriously with a J.D.” Jon Rizzi writes for the Law Journal ‘s New York Lawyer magazine, where this article first appeared.

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