February 03, 2015
Third-year law students Jay Farmer (far left) and Steven Owens represented Tulane in the National Baseball Arbitration Competition. Here, Owens makes his case to guest arbitrator to Scott Freedman, manager of baseball analytics for the Philadelphia Phillies.
Photo by Ryan Rivet
Tyler Raymond, a 2L from the University of Ottawa, makes a winning pitch for his team during the National Baseball Arbitration Competition finals at Tulane Law School.
An intent audience for the National Baseball Arbitration Competition finals included guest arbitrator-judges Armando Velasco (L ’11), a Houston Astros player development assistant; professional arbitrator Doyle Pryor; Nona Lee, Arizona Diamondbacks general counsel; and Damon Jones, Washington Nationals general counsel, along with Professor Gabe Feldman, director of Tulane Law’s Sports Law program.
Barely a week after the Washington Nationals signed pitcher Max Scherzer to a $210 million contract, Damon Jones, the team’s general counsel, was explaining the blockbuster deal during a reception at Le Méridien in New Orleans.
Signing bonus versus salary. Mechanics of a 14-year payout. Tax consequences for the player and the club. Going at it 100 miles an hour for several days and getting all the legal details buttoned up in time for the press conference.
But he wasn’t chatting with other baseball execs — he was talking shop with law students eager for insights into the sports industry where they hope to pursue careers. It was a perk of competing in Tulane’s 8th Annual National Baseball Arbitration Competition: invaluable networking opportunities with lawyers for Major League Baseball teams, sports agents and, this year, Dave Prouty, general counsel for the MLB Players Association.
Run by members of the Tulane Sports Law Society, the competition pairs teams from 40 law schools for multiple rounds of simulated salary arbitration sessions before guest arbitrators, with a winner emerging from a two-team final.
This year, the University of Ottawa, the only Canadian team, won first, arguing the case of Kansas City outfielder Lorenzo Cain. Rutgers-Camden took second, arguing for the Royals. Jay Farmer and Steven Owens (both L ’15) represented Tulane.
Armando Velasco (L ’11), a player development assistant with the Houston Astros, said the event “just gets better and better, especially with the quality of judges.” As a law student, he chaired it in its third and fourth years. “It’s a special experience to come back and see the competition flourish,” he said.
Eric Lee, Cincinnati Reds manager of baseball operations (center) and bailiff Joshua Mastracci (L ’16) listen as Dave Prouty, general counsel of the MLB Players Association, questions students during the finals of Tulane Law’s National Baseball Arbitration Competition.
Major League Baseball sponsored the opening reception this year, and the MLB Players Association sponsored breakfasts. The Sports Law Society also arranged an opportunity for Tulane students to mingle with the judges.
The Nationals’ Jones called the event “tremendous” because students can “meet some of us and get some feedback, compete against their peers and learn about the business.”
The salary arbitration process in particular can be a mysterious process, and the competition allows students to develop their argumentation skills in a unique setting.
Like several of the executives who act as judges, Jones practiced law in Washington, D.C., with Tulane Law Professor Gabe Feldman, who founded the competition. Tulane alumni Marc Kligman (L ’95), who founded Total Care Sports Management, and Alex Winsberg (L ’00), director of legal affairs for the Los Angeles Angels, also served as guest arbitrators.
Tulane was the first U.S. law school to offer a certificate of specialization in sports law. The program, now 22 years old, is the leader in the field and prepares students to deal with challenging legal and business issues confronting an increasingly complex industry.
The Sports Law Society, along with Tulane’s Moot Court Board and the Sports Lawyers Journal staff, also hosts the annual Tulane Mardi Gras Sports Law Invitational, the only such event focusing on contemporary legal problems confronting the sports industry. This year’s event, scheduled for Feb. 11-13, involves a scenario raising issues about sports gambling and MLB’s antitrust exemption.