As some of you may know from my occasional posts, I began a seasonal job this year working for our local minor league baseball team. I thought I’d share some of my observations. It’s been a very fun year and I’m sad that our season is ending.
Last winter, I began to think about what I wanted to do when I retire. One of the fun things Mrs. Zeke and I have joked together about has been our desire to move to Chicago and spend a year working as ushers at Wrigley Field. Well, the more I thought about it, the more I thought about working in some capacity in baseball.
Seasonal jobs are posted each Spring by Minor League teams. They need help in many phases of hosting seventy or more baseball games. Often, available jobs range from concessions to food prep to hospitality to in-game production and between innings entertainment.
I’ve spent most of my working life in television, so I applied for one of the available jobs in the press box. The operations crew there is responsible for everything you see and hear at the ballpark (that doesn’t involve the actual playing of the game).
Public address announcer, ballpark music, informational player videos, statistical displays, balls/strikes/outs, between inning games and fan contests; all of these areas (and more) fall within the scope of the press box marketing and production team. This group has a handful of full-time staff and student interns and the balance of the crew positions are filled with paid seasonal help.
I was fortunate enough to be offered a production position and was also asked if I was interested in being the team’s official scorer. This position is responsible for keeping a scorecard of the game, ruling on certain in-game situations like hits vs. errors, stolen bases, etc., contacting the MLB stat service every half inning to report each player’s at bat and then taking the completed nightly box scores down to each of the coaching staffs after the conclusion of the game (and answering any scoring questions they may have or defending a scoring decision you made).
Let’s see: the offer on the table was to watch professional baseball games from arguably one of the best seats in the ballpark, score the games and get paid for it. Oh, and free food to boot.
“Don’t throw me in that briar patch!”
I accepted the scorer’s job. I also have filled in on the production crew this season when they were shorthanded.
What I found this year is that despite spending over fifty years of my life watching baseball, you still see and hear things you’ve never experienced nearly every game. I also realized how LITTLE I really knew in terms of scoring.
I’ve seen fantastic offensive and defensive prowess: monstrous home runs, timely hitting, lights-out pitching, stolen bases, great catches and great throws. Players and fans have celebrated blowouts and walk off victories.
There have also been strikeouts, errors, poor base running, boneheaded mental lapses, one-run defeats, blowout losses and gut wrenching collapses.
Umpires have missed calls (though more often than not, they got them right). Players and coaches have been ejected. Even people in the press box are subject to ejection- though it didn’t happen this season.
Overall, everyone was very patient with me as I learned the job. My thanks to the ballpark management, team managers, coaches and players for their understanding.
Here are some of the more unusual things I saw on the field this season:
A baserunner score from second base on a sacrifice fly.
A defensive team completes a double play and runs into the dugout- only to be called back on the field after the umpires confer and charge a baserunner with (un)intentionally getting in a rundown to prevent the double play.
A team leading by five runs in the ninth inning only to give up seven runs and lose.
A team leading by four runs in the bottom of the ninth with two outs- then walk the bases full and give up a grand slam to be tied and force the game into extra innings. (The home team eventually won).
A runner from first attempting to steal second and being caught stealing by the catcher- tagged out BY the catcher - unassisted.
A batter being retired at first base, put out 4-1.
A five-foot double.
And one of my favorite moments of the season: a batter fouling off 12 straight pitches with a full count and eventually getting a walk. The batter, catcher, umpire and even the pitcher were all laughing at the situation as foul ball after foul ball ticked into the screen or the stands. That’s a seventeen pitch at-bat folks; impressive in any league.
Lastly, you haven’t lived until you’ve taken a post-game box score down into the locker room for the manager and coaches of the teams and inadvertently walked in on a coach (the father of a very prominent former major leaguer) au natural and applying deodorant. Whoops!
Avert your eyes!
Anyway, this whole season has been a very enjoyable time and overall was an opportunity I’ll remember the rest of my life. Hopefully, I’ll be able to do it again next season.