Baseball Life: My Summer In The Clubhouse

The following chronicles my season as the 2016 Augusta GreenJackets Media Relations & Marketing Intern: From The Front Office to the Clubhouse.

So here I am, nearing the end of my internship with the Augusta GreenJackets. The season is over, and I have but a week left before I move on to whatever’s in store for me next. My time in Augusta has been exciting, challenging, as close to living the dream as I have ever been.

What is the dream?

Probably unsurprisingly, and like most aspiring individuals in the sports field, being the General Manager is high on the docket.

That was my dream job going back to at least 2006. At that time I was high school age, trying to figure out what the hell I was going to do as I pondered my career pursuits and college. Being a General Manager is what I wanted to be, and I wrote letters to all the General Managers in Major League Baseball. Above all else, I wanted to work in sports, I just needed my foot in the door and an opportunity.

Augusta, GA

I’ve always wanted to work in sports and here I am. My job puts me in the clubhouse with the players on a day-to-day basis, and let’s face it, that’s a pretty freaking awesome experience, and not one everyone gets.

We’ve all come a long way since the start of the season. From day one, when I was standing on the bench of a table that sits in the center of the tightly-quartered clubhouse. I was one guy trying to get the attention of 30 other guys I didn’t know.

I don’t know what it was I needed. It might have been me trying to get the attention of all the players that we were having a pre-game autograph signing. Since then, as I’ve come in and out of the clubhouse on a high frequency, typically multiple times a day, they’re used to the countless requests ranging from autographs to pictures and appearances.

The clubhouse atmosphere was a fun time, and I loved being able to go in there and joke around with the guys; to feel like one of the guys.

To say I’ve learned is quite the understatement. From clubhouse etiquette to media experience. Scheduling interviews and juggling requests, from players to the manager, and everyone in between. It’s not always easy and game days are already chaotic enough sometimes, and yet we’ve learned how to keep juggling.

There was nothing off limits. My job, to put it frankly, was to handle the media and marketing on the front office end, and then be there for the manager, coaches, and players on the baseball end. Working as the GreenJackets communication liaison, I was in charge of handling the media, coordinating interviews, getting things signed, distributing meal money for road trips, running the teams’ social media.

That’s just the cusp of it.

The biggest challenge was succeeding in a role that was much bigger than me as the season opener arrived. I won’t forget that stressed out feeling as game one of 70 played out at home that Thursday, April 14th. I think I had typed up the lineups wrong for the press box. I remember apologizing emphatically, but everyone was in good spirits. They knew I was the rookie. Being thrown into the fire is tough, and I don’t remember anything else seriously going wrong.

There’s always the little stuff you can improve on. And improve I did.

Over time, of course, I grew into the role and I knew what to expect as time went on. I could mentally prepare for the expected and change course for the unexpected. Whenever I felt the pressure, I tried to take a step back and remember where I was; more importantly what I had left behind.

In December of 2015, I had walked away from a full-time job at State Farm. I had previously worked an internship with the Giants Double-A Affiliate, the Richmond Flying Squirrels in 2013, and the goal to be in sports always stayed with me. Jobs like State Farm might suit most. Nothing wrong with that at all. But I knew what my passion was, and I was ready for another crack at it.

No regrets right?

Game Days

On a typical game day, we had the 9:15 am team meetings preparing for the day. A script detailing what was going to happen before, during and after games.

As the team liaison, I would often have to communicate to the team-specific events that might be going on such as team-autograph sessions, or getting an interview with a player for program and website content. I learned the teams’ process as far as their pre-game routine and worked around it. The challenge that I grew into was picking my spots.

Just because I had a message to deliver or a job to get done, doesn’t mean I’m going to just waltz right into the clubhouse and deliver it. Of course, I wanted to and wanted it to be taken care of immediately. But that’s not how it works. I learned the team and the clubhouse. I knew when players and coaches got to the stadium. I knew when they were on the field before a game. I knew my window of opportunity on game days.

Our job, as interns and full-time staff, was like any typical Monday through Friday, 9-to-5.

On game days, it was 9-till whenever the game ended and then some. I found it funny when someone on the team might casually mention, yeah I gotta get to the stadium early tomorrow. A player or coaches version of early differs quite different from mine, as players didn’t typically begin showing up to the stadium until between 1:00-2 pm.

My favorite was something along the lines of, don’t act like you’re so busy when I admitted I hadn’t gotten to something which, while easy enough, was further down on my to-do list.

Players and coaches only have so much of an idea of what the front office does, just like the front office have so much of an idea what might actually be going on in the clubhouse.

Being in the middle was an interesting experience, one that I really liked.

After team meetings, I would typically go up and prepare the press box. I managed the music and audio clips, the visual board and prepared the stat packs for the radio broadcast team, the visiting and home clubhouses and fans. Social media was a role I frequently dabbled with throughout the day, posting about that night’s game, as well as various updates regarding future games, events and more.

This was a majority of my daily job, the part for which was my typical everyday role. The part I could count on to be doing when I woke up that morning. The unexpected might be a media member emailing me and wanting to come interview a player or coach. Or it might be a coach needing a personal request to be taken care of.

Once I took a player to the bank because he was being sent down, and the only money to his name was a game check needing to be cashed. Dealing with these constant emergencies might have been more of a convenience factor, and even something that had really nothing to do with my job description, but nonetheless, I accomplished everything in my power to make everyone happy.

Alright. You can never make everyone happy, and you should really not even attempt such. But as long as I was taking care of everything in my power, or seeking out an answer for someone, then I was doing the best I could.

That’s what I prided myself on. I was the GreenJackets media & relations guy on paper, but more than that, I was the teams’ personal assistant. Sometimes a glorified personal secretary, faxing reports to the parent club in San Francisco or making copies for the training staff. I didn’t mind it, and I always got a thank you.

Most of these requests were simple. I just had to fit it around my schedule. Like, your walk-up music is something I’ll get to when I have a chance. There were days — okay, most days — I was literally running back and forth between both clubhouses, which are situated on opposite ends of Lake Olmstead Stadium. Such as checking on, and retrieving, lineups for the other side.

I would have to check on things in the press box to make sure everything was set to go for that night’s game. And I would need to check back in our clubhouse to make sure the players were signing all the autographs needed prior to that night’s game.

Sometimes, I don’t know how I got everything done that I did.

Yeah, I know. Updating social media, getting players to sign stuff, and printing out papers sounds easy. I’m not saying that it wasn’t. It was more the managing of up to 35 different people in a clubhouse, and getting what I needed to be done on time.

It was managing the various curveballs that could come up such as taking care of a job out in the community, tarp duty, and more. It was making sure the press box had the right audio and sound clips, such as for Fifth Third Bank’s Stand Up To Cancer Night for their mid-inning production. That the correct lineups were in the press box and that the radio broadcasters had everything they needed.

Speaking of the lineups. Luckily they didn’t change much once they were posted, but that was not always the case. And I’m the guy that has to be on top of it, especially for the press box. Even when it’s 6:30 and I’m supposed to be on the field for pictures of the pre-game events. Those were the greater challenges, but they always worked out. I’m better for any of the challenges that came my way.

Doubleheaders were their own challenge. While nothing much out of the ordinary changes as far as preparing and setting up for that night’s game, I had realized my greatest challenge the moment I woke up before our first doubleheader of 2016. I would have to somehow print the box scores and retrieve the lineups from both clubhouses, and type them up for the press box. All in 30 minutes.

Waking up and thinking about all I had to accomplish was something I did most days before games. When I had a large chore ahead of me as far as preparing like I normally do, and adjusting my schedule to make sure everything gets done. During one of our first doubleheaders, I decided I would get the box scores for Game 1 after Game 2, and bring them all together.

Where are the box scores? was what greeted me, coming from our manager, as I had gone into the clubhouse in between games. That I was going to get them after the second game was not the answer he wanted.

Please get the box scores now. 

So there I was, running back to the office, printing them out, and then still needing to race back to the clubhouse to get the Game 2 lineups so I could get those back up to the press box.

Oh yeah. The press box wanted the lineups typed out, first and last name. The player’s position spelled out. Catcher, first base, etc. Not Sanchez, 2. Our manager knew my job included providing a lineup for the press box so he always printed out an extra copy. However, I still needed to type up both teams on one sheet and make the necessary press box copies. This all whether three hours before a game or 30 minutes because of a lineup change. Minor inconveniences aside.

Needless to say that all worked out. But it was the chief reason I hated doubleheaders. Otherwise, they were easy as I typically already had all the stat packs printed out from the day before since we didn’t cancel games until right up to the start.

Adjusting for things like doubleheaders was just another challenge to learn from. I made friends with people in the clubhouse, the visiting clubby, the assistant in ours. Guys who could text me the lineup so I could figuratively be in every place at once, texting our store manager the lineups so she can write it out on the board outside the store. Cutting out one more unnecessary trip to the away clubhouse to get a lineup.

I got over the angst of approaching our manager in a tense situation, such as after a loss following the first game. In these situations, I would look ahead and think about how I’d look back on this. It wouldn’t be a big deal. And it’s not. They’re just small things that always have a way of working out. You learn from it. There’s a bunch of systems in place and you just have to figure out the best way to how to manage it accordingly.

My in-game role chiefly belonged to taking pictures, but also updating the flow of the game for social media. I liked it as I got to walk around, and mingle with fans I had gotten to know over time. Ironically I always considered the actual game time to be the least stressful part of my job because all the prior preparation for the game was done.

If I wasn’t on my typical camera-duty, I was the stringer, digitally scoring the game. Other times I might have been running the scoreboard. And of course, helping out with on-field promotions between innings.

After games, I wrote my recap and updated the website with the latest story, as well as uploading the next games’ content preview. Of course before that, printing out the aforementioned box scores immediately after the last out was recorded for the visiting and home clubhouses, and any press box media.

When it came to delivering the box scores, the goal was to get in and out of the clubhouse as quickly as possible, but of course, managers don’t always agree with calls, and they want to tell you about it.

Mostly, they want me to understand that whatever happened that they don’t agree with needs to be fixed by the official scorer. Sometimes I’d be back in the office summarizing the game, and I’ll get a text or call to come back to the clubhouse just so I can get the details and let the official scorer know the next day.

Which is tough when I was not able to see every play of the game unfold, and all I have to go by is the teams’ version of events.

So on the average game day, I was there at the stadium from 9:00 am till sometimes after 1:00 am. It usually took an hour to write the recap and distribute it out to the local media. There were times I needed to set up an interview for a player after a game. Then I would create and upload the content for the next day’s game. I had made friends with ‘Sarge,’ the clubhouse manager. Sarge had all the bats and balls I needed to get signed by players. And I also typically ate many postgame meals in the clubhouse because I didn’t feel like going home to cook when I really needed to get to sleep and be ready to do it all over again the next day by 9:00 am. Or 1:00 pm if it was Saturday, noon if it was Sunday.

I liked the responsibility that came from being needed.

Sometimes the team was on the road and players would text me something ranging from can you change my walk-up song to needing some kind of relatively small favor. They helped me. I helped them. As much control as I had, there were certain things that were above me and I bridged the gap to the front office and vice-versa. I can’t tell you how many times I ushered the following words, I’m just the messenger. Of course, the team knew that but if they’re not happy, I’m the person that was going to know about it.

Making a second-half push for the playoffs, the team was led, in part, by two relievers from the beginning of the season, turned co-aces, Jake McCasland and Michael Connolly.

Jake’s success culminated in a mid-season no-hitter and the accolades didn’t stop there, as he won pitcher of the week, and August pitcher of the month honors. He would be one of three GreenJackets to make the trip to San Jose following the season to assist San Jose’s playoff run.

Connolly, Jake’s roommate, was the other of that successful starting duo. Michael is one of the guys I’ve casually kept up with throughout the offseason, and throughout this writing, and thinking back on the season and my seven months in Augusta, I reminisced with Connolly about some of the lighter moments.

One day before a game Connolly told me to change McCasland’s walk-up song; he knew exactly what Jake’s new song should be. “Evidently it worked because McCasland threw a no-hitter” laughed Connolly.

Another funny moment happened the day I took one of our players to the bank – you remember that the one getting sent down with the check – and one of our guys asked that I change the walk-up song for Dylan Davis. They wanted to play Seven Years, a song Davis abhors, during his first two at-bats. I remember during that game in June, I was standing by the bullpen and the guys sitting there erupting with laughter when Davis came to bat and the song played out.

Wrapping Up

This is an opportunity I would not trade for anything. The 2016 GreenJackets rode an August 9-game winning streak into the thick of the playoff race. Throughout the season I had the privilege of witnessing my first no-hitter, getting to meet and talk with first-round draft picks, learning how to manage the website, running the clubs’ social media, making my lone radio appearance, thanks to Doug Maurer, Asheville Tourists radio broadcaster – which I’ve included here for your amusement – and contributing to the homestand game day program. And I was there for every step of the way, snapping it with my camera, documenting and writing about it.

The guys in the clubhouse were a great group, and among the most fun aspects of what I did was hanging out and talking with the players. Getting to know them, which also helped me with my job.

I was fortunate as an intern to be able to experience everything that I did. Being able to talk with visiting radio broadcasters, who knew the job I was doing and giving me their advice. Talking with scouts who were hoping to catch a glimpse of potential stars and forming relationships with everyone, from people I worked with to fans who I got to know well.

The main thing I latched onto throughout the season when I didn’t know how something was going to get accomplished, was that everything works out. It always does.

And it did.