Nik Lubisich found Clark County to be the ‘hub’ for his agency
VANCOUVER — The business of professional baseball usually takes place in major league cities.
For Nik Lubisich, Vancouver is plenty big enough.
In fact, Vancouver turned out to be a perfect place to perfect his pitch — his sales pitch.
With a focus on Northwest talent, from Vancouver he can easily drive south to Oregon and Oregon State. He could be in the Seattle area in a few hours. Or out east to Tri-Cities.
This is how a professional baseball agent made Vancouver his home.
And this is how Lubisich realized his niche for his company, Northwest Sports Management Group, would be building relationships with home-grown talent.
Lubisich went to West Linn High School in Oregon, played at Willamette University, then spent years in the minor leagues. An injured shoulder ended his career as a pitcher. It did not end his love for the game.
After a brief confrontation with a regular 9-to-5, behind-the-desk job, he realized he had to get back in the game.
With his years in organized ball, a mentor told Lubisich that he already had a PhD in baseball. If he could take that experience and his acumen for business, Lubisich could help young players navigate the system, help them reach their dreams.
Today, Clark County has two major leaguers who shined at area high schools. Taylor Williams, a Camas graduate, is with the Seattle Mariners. Ian Hamilton, a state champion for the Skyview Storm, is with the Chicago White Sox.
Lubisich is proud to call them clients. More importantly, they are friends.
“It’s why I started what I started,” Lubisich said.
He also runs Northwest Futures, a youth baseball academy that features 17 teams from ages 9 to 18. It is based in east Vancouver. At the Northwest Athletic Center, where the Futures train, there are large poster banners of Lubisich’s clients from the Northwest who have made “The Show.’’ They include Williams and Hamilton, of course.
Williams, Hamilton, and other clients often train at the center in the offseason, sharing their training skills with the younger players.
This was all by design, too. Lubisich funded his agency by giving baseball lessons to younger players. He always dreamed of making the agency a success, then being able to open an academy.
It is all happening now. Right here in Vancouver.
It started in Seattle, though. Lubisich figured, at first, he should be in a major league city. Northwest Sports Management Group opened in the fall of 2008. He started by asking some of his former teammates. He landed several, including one major leaguer, Ehren Wasserman.
He then turned his focus to the talented, but often overlooked, Northwest baseball players.
“I made it a point to want to work with people who needed that advising, having been through it,” Lubisich said. “I was like a door-to-door salesman. I knew who the players were. I’d call them up and get a face-to-face.”
That first year was solid, with talented college stars and high school players who would be drafted. By the draft of 2009, Lubisich had several clients who were selected in the first 10 rounds. That is key for baseball agents because they get paid a percentage of the signing bonus, but do not get paid again until the player makes it to the big leagues.
Lubisich was all about getting in a car and driving to potential clients. He could not afford to fly everywhere. The travel time in the car to and from Eugene, for example, was getting to him.
So he set up his “hub” in Vancouver. Prime real estate for the Northwest baseball agent.
That move to Clark County finalized, he was ready to see his clients flourish.
Ryan Brett was the first client who worked with Lubisich from high school to the major leagues. Brett went to Highline High School in Burien and was drafted by Tampa Bay in 2010. Lubisich was there for Brett’s major league debut in 2015.
“I find so much joy in watching anyone face adversity and overcome it and win,” Lubisich said. “Minor league baseball is nothing but adversity. For that young man to persevere all those years and make it, words can’t describe it. It’s why I do what I do. It was the most joy, fulfillment, you name the adjective. It’s the most rewarding piece to what I do for a living. A really special moment.”
He never tires of those moments.
“I make it a point to go to every debut,” Lubisich said. “We’re not a massive agency, nor do I aspire to be. I want to have that personal relationship with clients.”
He said Taylor Williams is like a little brother to him. Lubisich advised him out of high school, then watched Williams turn into a professional prospect in college. Lubisich attended Williams’ wedding last year. Williams made his major league debut in 2017 with the Milwaukee Brewers.
As far as representing Hamilton, that started a little later in the process. Lubisich was eating at Beaches Restaurant, and his server and him got to talking about baseball. She just happened to mention that her daughter was good friends with “the closer from Washington State.”
Not letting an opportunity slip away, Lubisich asked the server if she could get contact information.
“I just cold-called the family,” Lubisich said. “Ian was home over winter break. We had a really good conversation.”
Hamilton made his major-league debut with the White Sox in 2018.
Lubisich also hopes he gets to see Alex McGarry make his debut in the major leagues. A Columbia River grad and an all-Pac-12 player from Oregon State, McGarry recently signed with the Cincinnati Reds organization. Yes, he’s another Northwest Sports Management Group client.
Not all the talks turn into partnerships. More often than not, in fact, the answer is no. Lubisich said being an agent is a lot like being a baseball player.
“You have to be strong enough to fail and learn from it,” he said. “That’s the game.”
It can be a challenge.
It can be rewarding.
“I don’t care about the money. It’s about loving what you do,” Lubisich said.
“Never focus on the money. Always focus on the passion for what you do, and you’ll have more than you need.”