16 Hours A Day, A Couple of Tarp Pulls and All The Soda You Can Drink

Such is life in Minor League Baseball.  The one constant that I had at the various levels of Minor League Baseball was the pay was bad and the food, blah at best, was always limited.  And when it rained, you had to drop everything to pull the tarp to try to save the game.  Oh

Such is life in Minor League Baseball.  The one constant that I had at the various levels of Minor League Baseball was the pay was bad and the food, blah at best, was always limited.  And when it rained, you had to drop everything to pull the tarp to try to save the game.  Oh yeah, another constant, at least one intern asking, “are we going to bang it?”

Yeah, buddy, we’re going to bang the Saturday-night, fireworks sell out at 10:30 so you can get to the bar early and wind up staying up just as late as you would if you worked the game.  The only difference, you’re paying to drink beer at the bar.  Or, if you’re lucky enough to work for a GM like my last one, you can just drink at the ballpark and then head home.

Go to any Minor League stadium and you’re bound to hear someone say things like, “It’s a long season”, “They work a lot of hours”, “It’s hard work, you wouldn’t understand”, and “They don’t get paid a whole lot”.  Well, to me, those are excuses and one of the reasons I’ve stayed away from Minor League Baseball after my last job ended.

Don’t get me wrong, working in baseball, for someone like I was, was the greatest thing in the world.  If you love baseball, the hours don’t affect you.  If you love baseball, the pay doesn’t affect you because you’d be at the game anyway and paying to eat instead of getting an employee meal (if you’re lucky, some teams are apparently so hard up for money they charge their folks working those long hours, to eat).  If you love baseball, getting wet and muddy at 10:30 in the morning wouldn’t affect you because you still have a chance to play that night.  If you love baseball, you turn a blind eye to the party poopers in your office who are more concerned about fantasy football in April, than they are of making sure the fans have a good time.  If you love baseball, you don’t mind going 15 innings to win a game instead of rooting for someone to score even if it means a loss.

I loved working in baseball and it took nine years of negativity to get me to leave.  Let me rephrase that, seven years.  My first GM was unbelievable and really supported us.  He made the atmosphere fun to be around and I loved working for him.  Even followed him to another team, his last job in baseball.

When I first started with the Frederick Keys as a batboy, I would get to the park early, never had to worry about being late because I wanted to be there.  I hated leaving after games, always afraid I’d miss something.  If any of the teams I worked for would’ve allowed me to  live at the ballpark, I would have.  The nights we had sleep overs, I looked forward to those because that meant I got to sleep at the ballpark.  Even when I was just working as game-night crew, I still would try to sleep at the ballpark.  If I didn’t, then I would go home and come back in time to wake everybody up and then spend all day at the park waiting for the game to begin.

There’s nothing quite like that feeling at the end of the night when the grounds crew is finished with the field and are getting ready to turn off the lights, that you sit there in silence and take everything in.  The scoreboard is off, the field doesn’t have bases and mound & plate are covered with a tarp.  The night air is moist and the dew is beginning to form on the grass.  Even though it’s the middle of summer, you feel a slight chill in the late-night air even though there’s 100% humidity and a good chance of rain.  You look around and see the bugs flying around the lights, a slight breeze blows a hot dog wrapper over a few week-old peanut shells.  The sound of a door closing as someone else leaves and heads out, the players long gone from their day at the park.  It’s the perfect feeling, and one that I miss.

And I miss it dearly.  But knowing what I know and experiencing what I’ve experienced, I still can’t bring myself to sit through a game.  Even visiting ballparks, you’d hear the excuses.  For some reason, people who work in Minor League Baseball are great at making excuses than finding reasons to do something.  Now, some in Minor League Baseball, like Mike Veeck, don’t fall into that category.  Go to Mike with an idea, and he’ll let you soar or crash & burn.

Let’s put it this way, my experiences in Minor League Baseball with people who didn’t know enough for their own good, who knew just enough to be trouble, and people who were more concerned with finding a way NOT to do something than make their lives easier left me jaded.  I didn’t want to work in pro sports anymore because I believed it was all like that.  However, I ran into an owner named Ted Leonsis who showed me that there are owners in sports like me, who put the fans first, hold themselves accountable, and do what it takes to make the experience great for the season ticket holders and the first-time fans.

Baseball is fun.  And if you don’t like baseball, find a job in with a sports team in a sport you like.  If you’re in baseball and you run into that annoying kid that will do anything to be around the ballpark, hire him/her.  Why?  Because they’d be willing to mop the showers, clean the toilets and get run to the store to get food for the visiting team, just to be around baseball.  Those are the people you want working for you.  Yeah, they’ll be overly enthusiastic and may talk your ear off, but listen.  They love the game.  Enhance that, and use it to your advantage.  And when you get complaints from co-workers about that person, ask the fans their opinion.  Yeah, you’ve got to keep harmony in the front office.  At the same time, you shouldn’t get rid of one person the fans love to hold on to 4 or 5 that are hoping the game gets banged because “they’re tired” but stay at the ballpark until 1 a.m. drinking beer.

Jarrod Wronski

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