Brooks' steady climb led to Bucs' front office
Director of baseball operations began career as Braves intern
PITTSBURGH -- Of all the defining moments in his professional climb, Tyrone Brooks can't help but come back to the day then-Braves general manager John Schuerholz called him into his Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium office.
It was the summer of 1996, and at this point Brooks could still count on fewer than two hands how many weeks he'd lived in Atlanta. He had arrived just days after earning accounting and marketing degrees from the University of Maryland. Brooks was 22, full of aspirations, intent on trying to make a career working in the sports industry.
The Braves' Career Initiatives Training Program -- a minority-based program established by Braves president Stan Kasten and Hall of Famer Hank Aaron -- had caught Brooks' eye during the spring semester. He sent off his materials, nailed the interview and accepted the internship offer.
Brooks' immersion into the Braves' front office began immediately. He watched how the organization prepared for the upcoming First-Year Player Draft and dabbled in various administrative tasks.
Shortly after Brooks arrived, a full-time staff member departed. Schuerholz, in his efforts to fill the position, asked various staff members about Brooks. And only six weeks into his internship program, Brooks received rave reviews.
That was enough for Schuerholz, who called Brooks into his office and offered him the chance to transition into a full-time job.
"That was one of the great days of my life," said Brooks, who was the first person from the internship program to be added to the full-time staff. "This was John Schuerholz. This was the Braves, who had just won the World Series the year before. I remember when I went back to my office -- the cubicle I had at the time -- I was in tears. I couldn't believe he offered me that opportunity."
The 37-year-old Brooks has made a swift climb up the professional ladder since. And what Schuerholz heard about Brooks then, many more in the industry have discovered seen since.
Learning from Schuerholz, Dayton Moore (now the Royals' GM), Frank Wren (now the Braves' GM) and longtime front-office executive Paul Snyder, among others, Brooks gained diverse experience in what turned out to be an 11-year stay with the Braves.
He moved to Kansas City in 1999 to serve as an area scout for the Braves. He spent three years working in that capacity.
"That was definitely a great foundation," Brooks said. "There's always going to be a great amount of trial and error and learning from your mistakes."
After the 2002 season, Moore, who had just been promoted to the position of director of player personnel, lured Brooks back to Atlanta. Brooks' time working alongside Moore exposed him to yet another side of baseball operations. He became more involved in arbitration work and assisted in finalizing paperwork for trades.
Looking for a new challenge, Brooks joined the Indians as a professional scout after the 2006 season. He moved to San Francisco and scouted players from the Pacific Coast League, Texas League and California League for three seasons.
"That was a tremendous ride just to get exposed to another organization and see how they did things," Brooks said. "You can kind of get ingrained with what you learn in one organization. With that exposure, I was able to gain some relationships with new people, including Neal Huntington."
It was Huntington, the Pirates' GM, who brought Brooks on board in Pittsburgh before the 2010 season to be his next director of baseball operations.
"Certainly the time in Cleveland helped solidify what I had heard about him," Huntington said. "He has a tremendous variety of experiences. He's been around -- in my mind -- one of the best GMs in the history of the game in John Schuerholz. We all are a product of our life experiences, and Ty has had some strong ones. He's a good evaluator and a great person. He has brought a wealth of knowledge to our front office."
The fact that Brooks -- who first decided he wanted a career in the baseball industry while he worked as a sports photojournalist in college -- has garnered experience in so many different areas of the front office is by design. He aspires to be a GM one day and knows that a diverse skill set would serve him well in that pursuit.
"When I look at when I first started, I gave myself a timeline," Brooks said. "I gave myself 15 years to become a general manager. I was probably naïve at the time. I don't look at it like that now. I look at it as I just want to continue in this game and want to contribute to it in some way.
"I do still have aspirations of hopefully rising up one day to become a general manager," Brooks added. "I just want to make sure that if that opportunity comes, I feel like I'm prepared and that I've learned things that I can spread to my staff."
As Brooks continues to work his way up in the baseball community, he hasn't lost his passion for helping those trying to break into the profession. He is quick to point out that his path into the game -- which included hardly any roadblocks -- isn't necessarily the norm.
Knowing that others face more obstacles breaking in, Brooks created the Baseball Industry Network on the LinkedIn networking site. Brooks' objective was simple -- he wanted to create a forum where students and others aspiring to work in baseball can have access to those already in the industry.
Created in August 2009, the Baseball Industry Network recently surpassed 6,700 members.
"This whole industry is truly about networking," Brooks said. "By creating this, I was hoping that it would bring individuals one step closer to having access to people in the game. It's been quite a ride so far."
Brooks dedicates his time giving back to more than just those trying to follow in his footsteps. As a member of the Buck O'Neil Professional Scouts and Coaches Association, Brooks also remains connected to his African-American roots.
One of the highlights of the group's efforts is a yearly community service project in an underserved black community. Last November, Brooks traveled with other members to Houston, where they hosted a baseball clinic at the Urban Youth Academy.
"It's to show that we care about these kids and that we care about them getting an opportunity to get involved in baseball," Brooks said. "I always felt that I needed to take pride in myself. And as an African-American, I feel some sense of representing black people in what I do. The key thing is having pride in yourself."
Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, By Gosh, It's Langosch, and follow her on Twitter @LangoschMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.