Tyler Hubbard, director of ticket operations, Washington Nationals. (Photo courtesy Tyler Hubbard)
Winning in many forms
From the time Tyler Hubbard started his first ticketing internship with Major League Baseball’s Washington Nationals in 2005, he has worked to make the team a top-flight ticketing destination. Then, in 2019, as the team’s director of ticket operations, he realized a dream as the team won its first World Series championship, as he used new technology to keep the club’s ticketing moving forward.
“The last two seasons have been just insane,” Hubbard said, from hosting the All-Star Game in 2018 — a “huge undertaking” that condensed everything he has learned into three days’ worth of ticketed events and festivities — to setting the stage for the postseason run in 2019.
“We’ve always said here internally that if we ever got to the World Series, this town would go crazy,” he said. “We got to see firsthand what it is like when you go on a postseason run and go to the World Series and the whole town is behind you. It is an amazing feeling and an amazing thing to experience. It was like prepping for the All-Star Game magnified by 10.”
Hubbard, 38, said the amount of anticipation and excitement in the city pressed on the ticketing office — everybody wanted to get into Nationals Park. Throughout the playoffs, there was also the question of how many games the Nationals would host and how many rounds they would advance to. “We were collaborating with MLB to make sure they had what they needed, fans were everywhere, we had to accommodate them, and we were still selling season tickets and packages and used the World Series to help move sales along,” he said. “We got everyone in, and the games went swimmingly.”
The interest level for tickets went through the roof, unlike anything he had ever seen before. “Everywhere you went was a curly ‘W,’ everyone was talking Nationals,” he said.
Even as the victory parade marched down Constitution Avenue, Hubbard knew it was time to move into full swing for 2020, all the more difficult because the deep postseason run had pushed back planning an entire month. But with the renewed interest in tickets and packages, there was plenty to get done. “What else can we offer our fans to get them out? There won’t be just one thing, but we will be introducing many new things,” he said about the coming season.
Plans are not complete, but Hubbard said to expect a new online portal where fans answer questions to help determine the best ticket package for them, making recommendations based on their preferences.
From new online initiatives to a shift from hard tickets to RFID cards in 2012 and eventually to all mobile ticketing for season tickets into the MLB Ballpark app, the Washington, D.C., market really drives what the Nationals do from a technology and ticketing perspective, Hubbard said. “We need to cater our offerings to our demographic, and it is a very tech-savvy area,” he said. “The program we are rolling out for the purchasing experience, that is something we have tailored to the market and tested to make sure it meets the needs of fans. Those are all technology pieces that have gone into enhancing fan experience here at the ballpark.”
A recent change under Hubbard’s direction created an online portal to easily see and track all internal ticketing projects. He moved timelines from spreadsheets to an online system to record what had been done in the past, track projects, make notes on prior years and help with planning. “We put it all in one place to track these projects as they progressed from planning to buildout to implementation to proofing to completion,” he said.
The journey to 2020 for Hubbard has happened entirely with the Nationals. He started with the organization in 2005 as an intern at the club’s spring training facility, also home to a minor league team, in 2005, when the parent organization was still in Montreal. He worked the spring training and minor league season in Florida until moving to Washington, D.C., in 2006. From ticket sales and operations in Florida to the assistant ticketing manager, his move north included a stint when the team played in RFK Stadium.
“It was definitely an experience working in such an old ballpark with old equipment and an old box office,” he said. “It was fun to transition in 2008 to a new ballpark, moving clients and reseating them in Nationals Park, updating the ticketing system.” He did that as the club’s box office manager, a role he took over in 2007, overseeing all sellers and the box office on game days.
In 2013 he was promoted to manager of ticket operations, working more on system-based efforts and helping sales departments achieve goals. In 2018 he was named director of ticket operations, overseeing an office of eight full-time employees and dozens of seasonal employees.