Among other things, I do freelance production a/v work. It is a tough living as a freelance guy, and tougher in economic downturns. As Al knows, getting into union broadcast gigs these days are nearly impossible.
However, through networking, I was able to latch on as a trainee on a couple gigs, for a company that is involved in sports broadcasts. So, yesterday I was scheduled to "work" the Cubs Friday game against the Indians.
I am posting this so I can document my own personal reflection, while maybe giving some of you a little glimpse inside working in Wrigley when no fans are in the building, and the day of the "behind the scenes people" is starting.
The entire time I was on assignment, I was really torn due to the fact that in all instances I wanted to remain professional, while inside I was really fighting off the urges of a 12 year-old boy that wanted to tackle people for autographs, and start screaming at player sightings. An odd feeling, indeed.
After finding a legal parking spot for the early a.m. call right on Sheffield, a half a block north of the main bleacher gate, I walked around to Clark and Addison and picked up my pass to the entrance. I walked inside the areas where the concessions were to get to meet my "hosts" for the day on the rest of the crew. On the way there, I walked passed Big Z, dressed in street clothes. He is a BIG GUY. I said, "'Morning Carlos", I smiled, and he gave a head nod of acknowledgement. Straight-faced. Not a bad beginning though, I thought.
After meeting everyone, I was taken around to the support positions I would be dealing with should I sub for the folks that were under union contract that day. This meant going on the field - both infield, dugouts, and the center-field camera area. Walking on red crushed-gravel, over the on-deck circle, around home - geesh - hard to keep my composure professionally - but I managed to do so. While on the Cleveland side, Woody was talking to a friend - or player perhaps - in street clothes. He is also a big dude! (I am only about 5'8, so, I guess Fontenot is big in my view). I had a pleasant quick hello to a Cleveland player, who was taking pics with his own little Minolta, as my host and I (mostly my host) worked on some tech things. The sky was incredibly ominous, and while on the field a large, angry cloud descended on the outfield. We knew there was going to be a delay this day! The-Riot, however, was out by the "wall-knot" on the Sheffield side, cap on backwards, working on some hitting.
After things were in place, and all was well, the crew adjourned all the way upstairs to where the booth/press box construction is. My pass allowed All Access so I whisked by all of the security guards. The main guard, Keith, is a man in his early 60's I'd say, and he was telling us about his one line in the new John Dillinger film, that he did with Johnny Depp. As the storm was settling into place, and it was NASTY, we went into the booth - there was Len. He was very busy going over the day's stats, what Cleveland players are doing what, etc. Again, not knowing when I'd have the chance again, I go - "Hey Len - who is the Tribe's best hitter now?" - to which he goes, "Victor Martinez!" in a nice way, and gives his BA. The winds start swirling, and the fear of rain coming into the booth makes him concerned, so he "bails", and grabs his laptop (Mac Book Pro), stat sheet and Cleveland Press Guide and moves. Everything basically shuts down as Wrigley is pummeled.
Most of the crew goes into a little "lobby" area where there are a couple decent bathrooms, and while sitting there, or walking the main hall that leads to the broadcast booths, as well as the press box, I either see or talk to the following: Les Grobstien (I invariably see him at games as a ST Holder anyway - and I get him to give me fun Cubs depressing trivia for my own amusement), Bruce Levine (very cordial), Carrie Muskat, The Cleveland broadcast guys (I have just looked them up - Tom Hamilton, "The Voice of the Tribe", and former Indians CF, Rick Manning), Zach Zaidman, Pat Hughes (also, very nice). Pat wears nice Hawaiian shirts - (tucked in). The booths are not air-conditioned, ceiling fans only - but there is in the back and in the lunch room. Rick Manning complained to me about the Tribe's bullpen, asking me if I saw their recent collapse against the Brewers, using a couple of choice explitives to show his displeasure. I should add that just about everyone was very cordial to the "new guy", and my host was very cool.
Speaking of lunch, crew, talent, and support staff all have access to lunch in the aforementioned lunch room which on this day served fried chicken tenders, tater tots, salad bar, hot-dogs, any cold-cut sandwich, soft-drinks, etc. Plus, they included any snack/sweet stuff for the rest of the day such as Cracker Jacks, cookies, Haagen-Daaz ice cream bars, popcorn, etc. Most folks took an hour lunch between 11 and 12. The rain steadily poured, and we read the newspaper, "shot-the-shit", and every so often I would go back to the booth and look out at the monsoon at Wrigley. Freaking Amazing! At one point, Big Z, during the storm comes out in Cubs non-uniform attire and plows onto the rain-soaked tarp! When he is not going berzerk, he has great sense of humor...
So, storm one passes and the ground crew races out to repair, and assesses the the damages. We do the same thing. Things get drained out, and dried. One of the camera's head stocks gets replaced. Down on the field again, and within 10 feet of me in uniform Sori and Von Joshua stroll by as does Reed Johnson, Randy Wells, Marmol signing autographs, Geo, Larry Rothschild, and a couple others. Had I seen Aaron Miles, I would have thought about telling him how much he sucks - but, I probably wouldn't have. The fans are mostly now in their seats and are screaming for the players - WAIT! I'm on the wrong side here! "How did I get here?" I sat and watched - with professional demeanor as best I could...
I asked a grounds crew guy, "What's the new start time?" he goes, "I'd say maybe 2:00 now." Ten minutes later the PA Announcer comes on and says, "New Start Time: 2:45PM. That's two-four-five" He looks at me and smiles. "Guess I was off a little!"
An hour or so to go, so more of the same. Walked back upstairs again. Chilled out. Grabbed snacks. This time the talent were making their way in to grab a bite. Len. Ronnie stopped in (I go "Hi Ron.") Jud Sirott (great face - for radio), Luke Stuckmeyer (nice guy), Mitch Robinson, the reporters, etc. Eventually, Len and Bob were ready to go on camera, and the booth is really pretty small - so I exited and watched them work from outside the booth in the hallway. It was interesting to see the difference in their broadcast personas, from their normal conversational voices.
As the game started, there really was not much to do as everything was working well! As we all know, the game did not start out very well with Harden's start! Fortunately, a friend of mine whom I sit with in the Infield Terrace Boxes with regularity, was coming to the game so I sat with him for an inning or two and then "checked in" with the crew. When it came to the 6th inning, and 7th inning stretch, I happened to be in the cafeteria once more and met Matt Forte. He just finished his degree in finance at Tulane, and I told him my daughter wasn't able to get in there - so he said, "That's a tough school". The P.R. lady working with him had him sign a baseball after he sang, during a commercial break - which I thought was a little odd.
It was now after 5 p.m., and I was in a 6PM tow-zone. So, unfortunately, I had to head out before the comeback completed. But I watched the 9th and 10th innings at home knowing exactly what it was like to be on that field.
Everything came to life for me yesterday, and it was pretty difficult straddling the fence between a die-hard fan, as well as a trainee member of the crew. If I can figure it out, I'll post a photo which looks at the storm, with POV from the main booth. And - All I can say is: GO CUBS!