It’s baseball all of the time for player agent Derek Marques as he aims to give his players the best possible deal.
Marques is the founder of Lakeridge Sports Management (LSM), a Durham-based agency which represents a wide range of baseball players, Canadian and American. The players range from independent leagues all the way through the minors.
Since LSM opened its doors two years ago, Marques now represents 47 players in the minor leagues, 15 in independent leagues, and he is advising 22 players for the 2020 MLB draft.
Marques tells The Oshawa Express his organization tends to advise between 20 and 30 players for the draft every year. This includes players from Division I, and high school players in Canada and the U.S.
He was also recently named one of 2019’s Most Influential Canadians by former sports journalist Bob Elliott, and the Canadian Baseball Network.
Starting the company is something Marques says he’d wanted to do since he was a child.
“I remember being back in grade school and wanting to be an agent, but then people set this perception that you need to be a lawyer to be an agent,” he explains. “I hosted a podcast for five years where I got to interact with major league players. I got to meet an agent who then recruited me into his company.”
He explains the agent who recruited him informed him one doesn’t necessarily need to be a lawyer to become a player agent.
“It’s preferred, especially if you’re with a bigger company like Bobby Orr Group… they may require someone off the street to have a law degree, but it’s not necessary to be an agent,” Marques explains.
He adds potential agents need to pass certifications. To this day, Marques isn’t a lawyer, and he doesn’t have a university degree.
While he started off being a player agent for hockey players and other types of athletes, Marques explains baseball has played a huge role in his life.
“Being raised in a European background, soccer was the first sport that was shown to me, but baseball is the first sport that I discovered on my own,” he explains. “I remember as early as the late 80’s, other than a soccer ball, a baseball bat was the first thing I picked up in my hands, the first organized sport team I ever played for was in baseball.”
In his podcast, his cohost was a member of Team Canada baseball whose father played for the Toronto Blue Jays.
“So baseball just kept reoccurring,” he says.
When he began the company, he decided he needed to pick one sport, and since he was successful in baseball, he rolled with it.
He says as a Canadian he often sees scouts write off Canadian players.
“A lot of times when the scouts from the U.S. come up to Canada, they don’t expect to find much, so they’re not taking the players seriously,” he explains. “So even if they do see a good player up here in Canada, they’ll say, ‘Oh, well, he wouldn’t do well against an American. He’s doing well because he’s playing against poorer competition.’”
As an agent, Marques is all too aware of the struggles minor league players face in terms of pay disparity.
The process of negotiation is different for minor league players versus that of major league players, says Marques.
“There’s very little negotiation involved. The only time you really negotiate is their signing bonus when they get drafted,” he says.
However, he notes Major League Baseball has announced in 2021 minor league player salaries are set to go up.
“It’s a step in the right direction, but still, it could improve,” he says.
He says while he’d always heard minor league players didn’t make much money, the biggest challenge for him was when he realized the difference between the billeting system in the Ontario Hockey League, versus the lackthereof in the minor leagues.
“I pictured that being the same with minor league baseball – that these players are living with families, and the money they make they get to pocket – well that’s not the case,” he says.
The players need to go out and find their own place to live, pay rent out of their own pocket from their salary which could be as low as $800 every other week.
“Then, if you get called up, you’re paying rent at your new place, and possibly your old place as well if no one has taken it,” he says.
He says that’s the biggest strain on the players, not their meals as they often get fed at the ballpark by the team – even if it isn’t always the healthiest food.
Marques says he wants to see the average minor league baseball player make between $25,000 to $30,000 during the season.
“When a Walmart greeter makes more money than a minor league baseball player… and they don’t just work during the game, they’re literally at the ballpark from noon to 10 o’clock at night,” says Marques. “It’s long days and they’re not really getting compensated for that.”
Marques believes what separates himself from other agents is that he puts players first, but admits he would still like to be on the same level as baseball’s most famous agent, Scott Boras.
“I can’t lie, I’ve even said I would like to be the next Scott Boras, or I’d like to be where Scott Boras is today when I’m [67-years-old],” says Marques. “I think it’s a sign of respect. I think he’s the greatest agent around right now, so like anything, if you’re in sports you want to be the best.”
What makes him different though, is that he emphasizes having a personal connection with his players.
“I talk to my players about anything… it was one of my players who texted me letting me know the NBA had suspended its season,” he says. “Just having that personal connection is what I do.”
Marques notes while he doesn’t have a family in the traditional sense, he does have 60 children, and they’re all baseball players.
“I feel that not being married helps me because I don’t have to balance a family life on top of this,” he says.
He notes it would be difficult for him to balance a family life on top of balancing his work as an agent.
While Marques has made a career of advocating for minor league baseball players, he has also spent time advocating for mental health, which is an area that he has a wealth of experience.
Marques explains he has had obsessive compulsive disorder since he was very young. While he believes his mental illness actually helps his work by keeping him focused, organized, and on task, he knows it isn’t the same for others.
Because of this, Marques has found himself on stage speaking about his own experiences. He has attended universities and other organizations as a guest speaker.
For more information on Durham’s own Lakeridge Sports Management, visit lakeridgesports.com