Leadership / 08.24.22
Toby Baptist Finds Joy and Success as a Secondary Ticketing Ally
As Toby Baptist settled down for our interview, he had just returned from a family reunion. The drive took him up to Pennsylvania, then down through Washington, D.C., to Charlotte, North Carolina, and then Atlanta before returning home to Nashville, Tennessee. He jokes that with all that travel “after a while, it is like you need a vacation from your vacation.” But there was no time for that — within 24 hours, the Vice President of Operations for LasVegasTickets.com was on a plane to a conference in Las Vegas.
Traveling is something Toby got used to at an early age. He was born in Alaska and spent his teenage years there but, as an Air Force brat, also spent time in Germany and California. His mother was in the military and Toby says she and his wife Candie are the people he most admires — the two “moms” in his life.
Toby and wife Candie attending Hamilton at The Smith Center in Las Vegas.
“My own mom raised me while doing 20 years in the Air Force, then retired and got me off to college. My wife is a stay-at-home mom to our three little monsters, I mean, our three little boys, Gunnar, Griffin and Michael,” Toby says, laughing. “They are a handful, and she does a great job with them, whether it is getting them ready for school or [with] our youngest, who is still at home. They have both been very important to me, obviously, for basically my entire life. I look to them and admire the work that they have done to help me. My wife helps me be able to focus on work while she is taking care of the home life, and then my mom [for] getting me to where I am now.”
Toby at the NHL Stadium Series in Nashville with sons Gunnar and Griffin.
Where he is, both personally and professionally, is a joyful place. “My wife said I had to use this phrase because I said it to her — [ticketing] is a joy industry. No one is coming to buy tickets from you because they are mad about it … They are coming because they want to go to the event. They want to have a good time at it. They want to experience joy with the people around them, whatever it is that they are doing.”
Toby says, “I think that is the best part about the industry for me … Obviously there are upset customers who cannot figure out how to download their tickets or lost their tickets, so there are upset people, but for the most part, people who are coming to us are coming to us to experience joy. Not a lot of people can say that about their job. [On the personal side of things], I try to always be in a pretty positive state of mind, so as far as what is bringing me the most joy, it is those moments with the family, moments with friends. It is those memories and those moments that you can look back to and whatever they are, those are the things that bring you joy.”
Toby at a Vegas Golden Knights 2017-2018 season playoffs game with friends.
Toby graduated from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas with a degree in public relations, but he fell quickly into the hospitality industry. When the Colosseum at Caesar’s Palace opened, he was hired as an usher on the front-of-house staff. Toby also got to help out in other ways during the venue’s first year, in the couple of months that were dark.
“They had some odd jobs that could be done around the inside of the Colosseum,” he says. “They picked a handful of the front-of-house staff to help out with them, so I was one of those people. There were times when I was painting stairwells up toward the top in places that people never get to go. There was a point when I had been to a lot of places inside the Colosseum that other people had never been.”
Toby got his reward for helping out with all that extramural work. “I have seen a few hundred Celine Dion shows [and] a few hundred Elton John shows there as an employee walking around in my little tuxedo vest … It does hold a soft spot in my heart because it started my hospitality career. Being there for the opening of such a great venue and the great shows that have gone through there, it was very cool.”
Given that he was willing to step in and help when asked, it is no surprise that this is a quality Toby likes in his colleagues. “Being reliable and being able to count on them. If you say, ‘Hey, I need your help on this,’ [I value knowing] that it is going to be done and done correctly. I think that is the most important thing, being able to look at your co-workers or around the room and know that the people around you … are going to do the job and do it well.”
Toby says, “[At the same time], for me, an important quality for a leader to have is that they are willing to do anything that they ask of their employees … If you are going to ask them to stay two hours late, that you are not going to say, ‘Hey, I need you to stay overtime, but I am going to go have dinner with my family tonight.’ If you are asking someone to do something that they know you are also going to be doing it with them … They are asking me because we need to work together to get the job done.”
When it comes to friends, Toby likes “someone who you are going to be able to get along with, bounce ideas off and have a good time with. We do not have to see eye to eye and agree on everything, but it is someone who you can have an equal conversation with one way or the other, even if it is things you do not necessarily agree on. Maybe it is politics, maybe it is sports teams, or whatever it might be. Someone who is all around enjoyable to be around.”
In his spare time, Toby enjoys spending lots of time with his family. “Spending time with them and doing things with them. If it is coaching my two older boys’ soccer teams or baseball teams, or when they are off at school being able to see the youngest boy walking around the house and stumbling around, tripping over the dog and stuff. That is probably the biggest love of my life right now.”
Toby holds his youngest son Michael at a 2021 Vegas Golden Knights versus Nashville Predators game. Michael was born in Nashville, so he is the family Predators’ fan.
His most treasured possession also has a treasured family connection.
“My grandfather on my mom's side always carried a 50-cent piece in his wallet. [At the] family reunion we just went to, there was a questionnaire about my grandfather because it was that side of the family. One of the questions was, ‘What did he always have in his wallet?’ The answer was the 50-cent piece. I was the only one of the cousins from my generation who knew the answer because I actually have that 50-cent piece now.”
He says, “[It is] something that is treasured and not just of monetary value, something of meaning. I know it is very important to [my mom] and it is for me as well, [as is] being able to pass that 50-cent piece that he carried with him on to one of my boys down the road. You can barely tell it is the 50-cent piece anymore because it had been in his wallet and [is] weathered and ground down. You can make out some of the ridges and things like that, but it is very important. It is just one of those things [my grandfather] had with him all the time and [nobody knows why].”
When he is not engaged in family activities, Toby does his own thing, including spending a few hours playing his favorite video game (Call of Duty) online with friends. But he says he wishes he could do something artistic. “I always thought it would be cool [to be in a] department store or hotel lobby where there is a piano in the corner, then just sit down, start playing something awesome and have a crowd come watch. I always wanted to do something like that. Unfortunately, I am about as artistic as a rock.”
Toby and Griffin at the first Nashville SC match in the team’s new home at Geodis Park.
He does, however, have lots of opportunities to watch others show off their talent. “The best live event that I have seen was the 2018 Stanley Cup with the Golden Knights and the Washington Capitals. It was great from the standpoint of what it meant for the city of Las Vegas. It did not turn out in the Golden Knights’ favor over the course of the series, but it was the grandness of the events that the Golden Knights put on and the pregame things that they did for all of their games. Being able to see the Stanley Cup on the ice in Vegas, unfortunately, it was not for us as a winning team, but getting to see Alexander Ovechkin for the Capitals lift the Cup was a pretty cool thing as well. [It was] the first year in the relationship that we have with the team locally. It was just kind of that perfect storm for everyone.”
As far as music, Toby is a fan of classic rock. “Living in Alaska, pretty much anywhere you go is a long drive. If you are going fishing or hunting, you are driving for quite a while, so [I would be] listening to classic rock with my dad on the drive … AC/DC, Motley Crue, Ted Nugent or something like that, those are all my dad's favorites. That is what I grew up listening to … I still listen to those today and I will be passing those on to my boys, so they enjoy them as well.”
Toby, Candie, Gunnar and Griffin attend a game during the Vegas Golden Knights’ inaugural season.
When it comes to his professional relationships, Toby says it is important for people like himself, who are in the secondary market, to get together with those who work on the primary side, which includes most members of INTIX. It is one of the main reasons he is a member.
“For so long there was the primary and the secondary and that was it; there was no intermingling of the two,” Toby reflects. “There was that combative nature for the longest time. As technology has changed and the ticket business in general has changed, the ecosystem is changing. Now you see some primaries that operate as a secondary. You see some secondaries that are now primaries.”
He says, “I think it's important for those of us on the secondary side to show that we can be good people, we can be good actors. We are friends in the industry, we are all working within the same ecosystem, and we want to be transparent. We want to be allies and someone that either box offices can reach out to when they need assistance with something or that venues can reach out to when they have inventory they may or may not need help with. I think when you are at INTIX, you are showing, ‘Hey, look, we are here because we want to do it the right way. We want you to see us, know us, have a face to the name, and be able to say, ‘I know that guy from INTIX and if he was at INTIX, then INTIX is letting them in because they do it the right way.’ INTIX is not letting the guy out front saying, ‘I've got two tickets’ come to their meetings, so I think it's important.”
Toby says, “My boss Ken Solky has been going to INTIX since it was BOMI … I was not going quite back then but being there and being in front of people at INTIX over and over, just showing up each year and [showing that] we are going to do the right thing every time, it is something that we cannot necessarily get from other sources because every box office, every venue, every vendor is coming to these [conferences]. They see you over and over and over, and if [they see we are] willing to come back each year and support this cause and support our group, then [they see we are] doing it the right way for sure.”
He says, “It is [all about] relationships. Some of the people I have met at INTIX have helped me take care of clients, have helped me with a last-minute ticket issue, have helped me when I had a client who was showing up last minute saying, ‘Hey, I want some tickets.’ I can say, ‘We met at INTIX. I have someone who is looking for two tickets late, are you going to have a release, can I send them to you?’ It might not be something that I even make a sale on. I may give the sale straight to the ticket office … and just end up taking care of a client and helping the box office move some seats. What I get out of INTIX is those relationships and those opportunities to prove that I am a good person in my industry and someone that can be an ally to the primary side, the ticket offices and venues.”
Toby has been in the entertainment industry now for over 20 years. While working in the early days as an usher at the Colosseum, he also spent time at Caesar's Palace on the hotel side. Toby’s first experience in the ticket office was doing VIP casino ticketing for the Colosseum, which gave him the opportunity to work with fellow INTIX members Bruce Bielenberg and Brett White. Since then, Toby has worked as a concierge and as a manager of concierge desks. And for 11 years now, he has been on the secondary side with LasVegasTickets.com and Designer Tickets & Tours, Inc., which also operates TicketsGuaranteed.com out of California.
Toby and family attend a Vegas Golden Knights game.
This ticketing professional has had some memorable moments in secondary, including a couple of really big sales. “They both involved Floyd Mayweather fights. For Mayweather vs. Canelo Alvarez, I do not even remember what year that was now, but I was still relatively early in my brokering career. Boxing matches are something where the secondary side is a very important thing. Being on the secondary side, I put together a deal for a client and it was half a million dollars across 40 tickets or something like that. At the time, one of my bosses said, ‘This is one of the biggest ticket deals I have ever seen.’ That for me was a very exciting thing. Then for Mayweather vs. Pacquiao, I think we sold a couple of ringside seats for over $100,000 each. That was a big moment as well.”
But Toby adds, modestly, that he does not think he has seen the biggest accomplishment of his life yet. “I like to think that I haven’t gotten there yet. I am very happy with where I am in life, with my family and my career, but I think I am still waiting for that crowning achievement.”
That raises the question of whether he would do anything differently if he had the chance to go back in time. “You know, I hate to say it, but I was a lazy student. I was a lazy kid growing up. It is one of the things I talk to my children about quite often; the difference between trying hard in school and doing these things with more effort because you are not going to get that opportunity to go back, unfortunately. If you look at something and you say, ‘I could have done better or I could have tried harder,’ then you should have, because you are not going to get that opportunity again. [Making] a little bit more effort in school or trying a little bit harder in sports; I wish that I could look back or go back and do those things differently, improve my grades because that is a big thing.”
And if he had three wishes today?
“First, the easy one would be health and happiness for my friends and family, making sure that everybody is well taken care of, that everyone is as healthy as can be and happy with the point they are at in their life. On the selfish side, a couple hundred acres on a self-sustaining ranch. I can just take care of the property and that is what I do every day; I do not have to do anything else. That would be a pretty good life. Then I was joking with my wife that I would not make Aladdin’s mistake and I would free the genie with my third wish,” he says, laughing.
Fantasy aside, Toby also has a few wishes and dreams that will undoubtedly come true, including making a return trip to Alaska, this time with his boys. “We are excited to take the boys next year because it is one of those things you really can't understand until you are there, how different it is and how beautiful it is up there. It is going to be a lot of fun letting them see where I grew up and all the different things I did when I was their age.”
And the year after that he wants to go to Costa Rica — a vacation for now, but possibly also a retirement destination.
“My wife and I have been bouncing around the idea of Costa Rica someday; living in some type of villa, living off fruits that we grow ourselves, different local culinary treats and things like that. That is a dream for some time down the road, but it is something that we talk about.”
For now, Toby seems content to continue along his current path and leave the world a better place than when we got here. “That's been an important guiding thing for me and something that I look toward … [The industry] has been good to me and my family. I have gotten to go to a lot of places because of it and see and be part of a lot of great events. It is an awesome industry to be a part of and it is a lot of fun.”
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