Culture at Mullen

Life outside 40 Broad – Mullen’s home run king

March 25, 2011 MullenLowe

We’ve got our ringer.  Now we just need a softball team.

Bill Knight can usually be found plugging away at the layout of the JAMRS Futures magazine, or trying to get the glint of light shimmering off of an ESCORT radar detector just right.

But Bill knows that the phone could ring at any moment. And if it’s not a project manager calling about a deadline, it could be a representative from UMass Amherst calling to inform him that some talented youngster has just hit 44 home runs. When Bill gets that call, he’ll be invited to a ceremony at his alma mater to congratulate the young player on breaking his career home run record, which he’s held since 1995.

Bill Knight circa 1995

After graduating UMass in May of ’95, Bill was drafted by the Oakland Athletics. “They flew us to Arizona for a mini-spring training.  Then they flew us to Oakland. I was standing next to Mark McGuire and I looked at him and thought, ‘I was a fan, but now I have to compete against him.’”

So how did Bill get from an Oakland diamond to a Mullen dog bone?

For most of his life, Bill split his time between two very different worlds: Art and Athletics.  “I’m pretty social.  So I was always friends with both the jocks and the kids who might be more… ‘athletically challenged.’ It was a good balance; an interesting juxtaposition.”

“It was an easy decision to major in Art,” Bill said. “I was always in art classes. Always liked to draw. I just sort of stuck with it.” So Bill would spend most of his time practicing and hanging out with his teammates, but would also occasionally need to pull an all-nighter to finish up a claymation film for class.

His artistic pursuits did not escape the notice, or the ridicule, of his teammates. “They made fun of me for being an art student,” Bill said. “They’d say, ‘have fun in your finger-painting class.’” But the laughs turned to cheers as he knocked pitch after pitch over the outfield fence.

Bill honed his skills in the Cape Cod Baseball League with players like Jason Varitek and Nomar Garciaparra. After being drafted, he played two seasons of Single A ball for the Oakland Athletics before being released. He then returned home and played a season with the semi-pro Lynn Mad Dogs.

Bill was preparing for a second season with the Mad Dogs when he got a call from a family friend, asking if he’d fill in as a graphic designer for a beverage distributer in Rhode Island. “There was definitely a reality check between finishing up the last year with the mad dogs and getting that job offer. I didn’t want to chase [baseball]. You get out at age 30-something and then what do you do?”

Bill Knight circa 2011

So Bill hung up his cleats and started designing signage, menus and table tents. Then he moved into the agency world. “I always loved design as much as I loved baseball. So it never felt like falling back on something.”

In a way, advertising is the perfect business for an artistically inclined former pro-athlete like Bill. “There’s definitely the competition aspect of [advertising],” he said. “You’re always trying to prove yourself.”

“It’s easy to have confidence when you’re doing well, but baseball is about overcoming adversity. It’s about dealing with failure. For every one concept we get through, how many does it take? You just gotta fight through all the criticisms, changes in directions, changes in strategies.”

“Having that baseball background, there’s definitely a correlation there. I’m always trying to get on a hit streak, or to get back on track. Every day is a new day. Forget about what happened yesterday.”

Creatively, Bill knows he’s not going to knock it out of the park every time he steps up to the plate, but that doesn’t prevent him from swinging for the fences. And after a great client presentation, it’s not uncommon to see Bill giving high-fives to all his teammates.

As for that softball team?  Bill says, “I don’t know if I want to start one, but I’d be more than happy to participate.”