Jake Mencacci B’18 is a major league staff assistant for Pittsburgh Pirates

Jake Mencacci B’18 knows he’s somewhat of an anomaly.

Getting a foot in the door to your dream job before graduating college doesn’t happen every day. It often takes years of what Mencacci has already: patience, hard work, passion, building connections, and certainly some good luck. 

Mencacci always had the passion for sports; he grew up with either a baseball glove or a hockey stick in his hand.

So when he came to Saint Mary’s, he served as catcher on the Cardinal baseball team while studying business management and marketing — all while dreaming of a career in sports, preferably baseball or hockey.

During his senior year, Mencacci never thought he had a chance to work in baseball, but as he was applying for jobs, he saw one with the Pittsburgh Pirates logo pop up and thought “Why not?” He said the application was arduously long, and it nearly deterred him right at the tip off, but he persevered. After interviewing, he was hired, and he has since steadily worked his way up the organization, currently serving as major league staff assistant, coordinating the team’s advanced scouting process, focusing primarily on opposing pitching and team defense.

“The main bulk of the work entails a lot of video, analysis, and informing my staff and players what the opposing team is doing,” he said, adding typical days begin mid-morning in the office, reviewing data, sending out reports, and looking ahead to that night and beyond. By mid-afternoon, he helps out on the field, spending time with the players, and sometimes, even helping catch a bullpen.

By 4:30 p.m., he receives the opposing team’s lineup for that evening. “That’s when we go in and prepare the night’s information based upon their specific lineup,” he said. “We look at who they’re going to play that night, the game card, and bullpen reports, infield and outfield grids, you name it. Most of the time they make a last-minute lineup change. By 7 p.m., the game starts, and we watch the game in the clubhouse or down the line or in the cage where I do what I can.” Mencacci’s day ends as the game ends, which was often 11:30 p.m. to midnight (before the new league rules that expedited game times).

“It varies from day to day which is what I love about it,” he said. “I knew I was never going to be the normal-job kind of person. I love that it’s different every single day and you’re dealing with humans and human performance, and that’s my passion. I really like being on the field, being around the players. That’s kind of my escape. Being in all these stadiums I grew up watching on TV is like a dream.”

Mencacci said the drive to continually improve is one both he and the organization share.

“At the major league level, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t feel added pressure, but the pressure that comes with it is a privilege, in a sense, for me. You’re at the highest level in the entire world and the standards and expectations that come with that I love. It’s great to wake up and say literally you have to be at your best for the team.”

This past fall, Mencacci returned to the Winona Campus to help judge the business strategies competition, and it was a unique experience to be on the other side. In this competition, business students work in teams on a real-world project and then present to faculty, as well as alumni business professionals.

“It was cool because I know the process and know all that they went through and the preparation,” he said. “But you can only prepare so much. Plan A turns to Plan B and Plan C. The best are those who are adaptable and can thrive under pressure and in unknown situations. It was fun to ask questions, both ones that they knew the answers to and those they probably didn’t know the answers to.”

He tells students to get involved in college and try new things but also that it’s ok to fail sometimes.

“There can’t be the expectation you’ll get the job right out of school or be in the big leagues in three or four years,” he said. “There has to be an understanding that you have to start and learn somewhere and that just snowballs into whatever you want it to be — if you do what you can and learn where and when you can.”

He also says students need to challenge themselves in school, taking a variety of courses to make themselves more marketable. “You have to put yourself in the position of being really good at the soft skills and the hard skills, especially in today’s sporting world,” he said, adding, “I would strongly recommend a data-specific portion and a graduate degree. The world is changing and if you don’t change, you’ll be left behind. I would dive right into the data analytics courses.”

Mencacci said he would recommend a Saint Mary’s business degree because it provides a well-rounded balance of skills. “Business management, corporate finance, excel data analytics, some strategic management, marketing, project management, having the ability to touch multiple areas on the academic side was great for me,” he said. “Also, I appreciated the small class sizes. I wasn’t the one who could walk into a massive lecture hall and learn.”

He also credits his time with the baseball team as aiding his character building. “I think about the off-season workouts and walking from Residencia Santiago Miller at 5:30 in the morning across the valley in mid-January and February, and that’s character building,” he said. “There’s discipline built into being a student-athlete. I had to rehab from injuries; there were things in my college career I had to figure out. I had to learn to solve problems. Saint Mary’s put me in a good spot to grow up, and I’m really grateful for that.”


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