Pitching In

Alumnus launches foundation to help get students into sporting businesses

A Purdue baseball standout in his school days, Del Wilber Jr. knows firsthand the difficulties of hitting a curveball. It may be as difficult to break into the business of sports, but Wilber hopes his newly formed foundation will better young people’s chances.

In April, with the help of his siblings, Wilber (BSIM ’68) launched The Perfect Game Foundation (TPGF), a nonprofit looking to give young men and women of diverse backgrounds a leg up in the sporting business.

Del Wilber Jr.

Del Wilber Jr.

The foundation is dedicated to their parents, Taffy and Del Wilber Sr. The senior Wilber was a Major League baseball player, coach and scout for nearly 50 years. Taffy Wilber blazed trails through broadcasting, management and public relations in the sporting world.

Growing up in St. Louis, the younger Wilber says, he benefited from having working parents in sports. So he’s tried to reciprocate. “Over the last 30 years I’ve had half a dozen calls a year from friends with children looking for a job in sports,” he says. “I’ve always loved helping people get started, so I would make calls and introduce them to people.”

The foundation brings a much more formal approach to the networking, says Wilber, who transitioned from minor league baseball to a business career that led him through Procter & Gamble, sporting goods stints with both Wilson and Spalding, and his own large sports marketing firm.

“Sports management has become much more socially acceptable as a career,” says Wilber, who still notes the long odds of making it in the business.

Wilber hopes foundation scholarship and grant money can offset the “cost” of internships, which are often unpaid. “In most industries where the supply demand curve is bad, about the only thing you can do is try to show on your resume that you’ve got some experience,” he says. “The one way to get the experience is with internships.”

Although the website has a decidedly baseball look and feel right now, the plan is to help students seeking a business career in any sport, says Wilber, who came to Purdue to play football and baseball and knows that timing can mean everything.

“I was a quarterback my sophomore year, but the Purdue coaches selected another sophomore named Bob Griese as the starter,” Wilber says. “It became apparent quickly that I wasn’t going to play a lot of football, so when the Philadelphia Phillies drafted me the next year I signed with them.”

Fast forward 40-plus years and you have a man who parlayed sporting passion into sound business practices. Now, with a nod to his parents, Wilber is opening those doors for others.