“To talk about the most boring person in the world” is how Tom Sheridan ’90 labeled the invitation for his Zoom interview on a profile about himself and his career in the public relations field. As someone who has worked multiple internships with Chicago sports teams (including the Chicago Bulls and the Chicago White Sox), played baseball at Illinois State University, worked with ticket sales and promotions, serves on Illinois State’s School of Communication advisory board, worked for the Chicago White Sox in a manager position for over 15 years, is in the College of Arts and Science Alumni Hall of Fame, has worked for over five companies, and has co-founded his current consulting company, Sheridan is far from boring.
Sheridan has achieved several successes and accomplishments in his lifetime. But his character is built on humility and integrity, and family is one of the most interesting parts about him.
Sheridan is currently the co-owner of the company Sports Biz Builders, started by a friend of Sheridan’s, Ken Troupe. They started the company during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic with the hopes of coaching and consulting those interested in sports business, marketing, and public relations. “I love what I’m doing right now,” said Sheridan. “I have 30 years in the sports industry field, and I just want to pay it forward.”
Sheridan has a long list of experiences in the public relations industry. He started with an internship with Mediacast Sports where Sheridan worked to finish up his degree in public relations. From there, he realized he wanted to focus on what he loved: sports. He applied to all the big Chicago teams. Sheridan first interviewed for a sales internship with the Chicago Bulls. Keith Brown ’82, a fellow alum, was Sheridan’s connection to landing the interview and ultimately the internship. After this experience, he did a telemarketing internship with the Chicago White Sox.
Sheridan worked as an intern for the White Sox in ticket sales and sold season, group, and individual tickets. After seven months, he was offered a full-time job in ticket sales. He worked the job for three years before he wanted to stretch his wings to sponsorship sales at the White Sox. When he didn’t receive the sponsorship sales job, he left the White Sox and worked for ESPN radio for around a year. He realized he hated radio sales.
Sheridan’s journey then led him to briefly work for a sports marketing company in Chicago. The next step in his journey was working at the Balmoral Park Horseracing Track as the director of marketing and advertising for the next three years. When he was ready for a change, he reached out to his network and connections and got in contact with a friend in sponsorships and ticketing back at the White Sox. Sheridan proceeded to return to the White Sox as the manager of ticket sales and then led his department as the senior director of ticket sales for the next 18 years.
When he decided he was ready for another change, Sheridan became the chief operating officer for the Chicago Dogs, a minor league baseball team in Rosemont. He worked there for around eight months before leaving.
Sheridan started up Chitown Consult, his own consulting firm, which markets and launches products in sports marketing and sales. He also simultaneously worked for a friend’s company and then at a marketing firm in Milwaukee which eventually went out of business.
Now, Sheridan is working at his own company, Sports Biz Builders, with Ken Troupe.
When Sheridan worked for the White Sox, not only did he help his company through the work he did with ticket sales, but he also went out of his way to make the White Sox ballpark experience memorable for the families who attended. At every game, Sheridan would do something that he labels as “intentional acts of kindness.”
Sheridan’s father took him to his first White Sox game when he was a little kid. His dad also took him to all his first Chicago sports team games, including the Bulls and Black Hawks. Sheridan said he fondly looks back at attending sporting events with his father. When asked about his passion for sports, Sheridan said, “I get it from my father.”
Following this passion, Sheridan played two years of baseball at Illinois State University. His journey started when he walked onto the team in 1986. Being on the baseball team helped him refocus on school and gave him a sense of commitment. After two years, Sheridan realized he wouldn’t be playing baseball as a profession and was forced to think about what he wanted his future to look like.
When considering a future without baseball, Sheridan considered transferring schools. He switched his major from business to psychology and then finally landed on public relations, which felt right to him at Illinois State. “I’ve been a communicator my whole life,” said Sheridan. “I just felt like it was something that was in my DNA.” He earned his bachelor’s degree in public relations in 1990.
Illinois State University opened several doors for Sheridan by connecting him to the network of alumni that exists all over the country, especially in the Chicago area. Brown, who hired Sheridan for his internship with the Chicago Bulls, was not the only alum whom Sheridan ran into or who helped him on his career path.
“I walked through my process through life by following the footsteps of ISU people,” said Sheridan.
In terms of education at Illinois State, Sheridan was worried when going up against applicants from Big Ten schools or Ivy League schools. However, Sheridan said, “Our education is the same education as what other schools get. In fact, I think it’s better.”
Sheridan currently serves as an advisory board member for School of Communication. He has served for approximately 15 years. The board used to meet in person at Illinois State once a year, and Sheridan said he loved to return to campus. It would take him back to his college days and give him a sense of nostalgia. Sheridan was recognized in the College of Arts and Science Alumni Hall of Fame in 2011 and spoke to students at Illinois State’s Com Week in 2013.
Tom Lamonica, the director of field experience for the School of Communication, taught Sheridan during his freshman year and has gotten to know him since.
“Tom Sheridan is a leading professional,” said Lamonica. “When we talk about giving back, he’s given back throughout his career. He gives back to Illinois State. Tom is one of those guys that if I feel like a student would benefit from a conversation with him, he always makes time, and he never says no. That’s the kind of person he is. When he was the ticket director for the Chicago White Sox, he didn’t just work for the White Sox. He was involved in the national organization of ticket managers, and he was the president of that organization. I think that speaks to his commitment to helping other professionals get better.”
Sheridan suffered an unexpected stroke in 2018. “It was a deliberating experience,” he said. Sheridan was unable to speak. He underwent rehab, physical therapy, and speech therapy. Now, Sheridan can speak but still lives with a few remnants from the stroke, such as the inability to write. He said, “(My stroke) gave me a perspective of, ‘You know what, I’m not sure what I want to do, but I want to do something I like.’ And that has guided me over the last three years.”
In all of Sheridan’s experiences and accomplishments, the one word he uses to describe his career is “family.” He reflected on the family that he made throughout the years, many of which include friends across all departments at the Chicago White Sox. “The setup when I worked there, it was like a family,” said Sheridan.
Above all, Sheridan prizes his own family. He is married to Mary (Broadlow) Sheridan, CPA ’92, who is also an Illinois State alum. He and Mary have two children, Grace and Ryan. When Sheridan worked for the Chicago Dogs, he missed his family. Once he left, he got to fully spend time with his family by watching his son play football and his daughter play soccer. “The reality is, when it comes full circle, it’s about being with my family and my kids and not realizing how hard I was working and how much I had missed,” said Sheridan. “That came full circle down to family.”
To current public relations students, Illinois State students, and college students, Sheridan said: “Be true to yourself. Don’t try to be something you aren’t. You need to have goals and know what your goals are. And then go after them. Have confidence in yourself and don’t be afraid of anything.”