Ashley graduated from Ohio University in March of 2008. Our daughter was graduating a quarter early with a degree in audio production as well as minors in music and business. A term called "cum laude" was added to her diploma. I'm told cum laude means academic excellence. Her mother earned that distinction; her father missed it by I'll let you insert your own distance.
Needless to say, her parents were proud of her accomplishments. Whether her hard work would translate into a job or not would remain to be seen. Shortly before her graduation, Ashley informed us she would like to seek an internship in minor league baseball. Exactly where she got her interest in the national pastime is open to question. I suppose the fact I have had a hobby for the last 50 years that involves visiting major league baseball stadiums could have had something to do with it.
Whatever sparked her desire, she was determined to get an internship. Since the 2008 season was already underway, she would have to wait a year. In October she started applying for 2009 internships. Interviews, both in person and by phone, followed. She landed an internship with the Charleston RiverDogs, a Class A affiliate of the New York Yankees, in historic Charleston, S.C. She moved to the Palmetto State in late February.
Her original intention was to work with the sound system or scoreboard, but a decision to have her intern in promotions changed her feelings. Ashley spent much time on the field between innings helping Assistant General Manager Jim Pfander conduct activities. She would get spectators from their seats, prepare them for the event and help them return after the promotion. Contests such as "Oops, There's a Crab in My Pants," "Hillbilly Horseshoes" and "Icebreaker" were very popular among the fans.
She got to dress up as an alpine character complete with suspenders and lederhosen for "Dugout Hangers," a takeoff on the Price is Right game of Cliffhangers. If your guess is correct before she "falls off" the top of the dugout you win the prize. Ashley became a skilled dugout skipper.
Ashley got to do a number of different tasks during her internship. Her duties included selling tickets, pulling the tarp off the field and making airline reservations for special guests, which included midget wrestlers and a man billed as the Human Slinky. She would go to the airport and transport them to a hotel near the ballpark. We were in Charleston for the game featuring the Human Slinky and he was outstanding. She also wrote the scripts and helped film the episodes of Dave TV, where the RiverDogs would inform fans about upcoming promotions for each homestand.
To say she enjoyed her time in Charleston would be a huge understatement. In addition to working with some great people, there were three instances that made her love her stay in South Carolina. As she went to the ballpark each day she had to cross a bridge that spanned the appropriately named Ashley River. She could see the lights of Joseph P. Riley Park and she would smile. She was going to the ballpark to go to work. How many people get to smile at the thought of going to work every day?
The other two things that made her know she was doing what she really enjoyed came on Friday nights and Saturdays. Friday nights at "The Joe" meant fireworks. Standing on the field as the sky lit up was pretty special. On Saturdays kids got to run the bases after the game. Watching the smiling faces of the youngsters as they circled the diamond gave her a warm feeling.
Alas, the season came to a close. She didn't want it to end, and that meant just one thing: She was going to have to seek a permanent job in baseball.
Step one was out of the way. To get a job in professional baseball, an internship almost always is needed. Now that she had completed one, she would look for a job. The most likely place to find that opening was at baseball's winter meetings. The 2009 edition took place in Indianapolis in December.
Ashley joined the PBEO, which stands for Professional Baseball Employment Opportunities. She paid for the credentials that would allow her to attend the job fair that accompanies the winter meetings. Dad decided to tag along for moral support. A chance to see some of baseball's top brass was in the back of my mind.
We arrived in Indianapolis on a Saturday evening. Ashley would be attending a seminar on the job fair, which would last all day Sunday. The day involved listening to speakers who had been through the process. Some were former job seekers, while others were representatives of baseball teams that would be conducting interviews. Advice on how to handle the week was dispensed. Job seeking would begin in earnest on Monday, the official opening day of the meetings.
The job fair was held at the Indiana Convention Center. I took a seat in the hallway to briefly observe the activities. The job seekers were a varied lot. Men and women from different age groups and ethnic backgrounds were in attendance. A tall, slender woman passed by. Then I noticed an older, rather rotund man across the way.
Wait a minute. Who would have thought they would have placed a mirror right across from where I was sitting?
I saw Hispanics, Orientals and young people that didn't look old enough to be there as well as a few that surpassed me in years. I heard job seekers talking in a language that I couldn't understand. It was Greek to me. Hey, maybe they were indeed Greek!
The convention center had several rooms to be used for the fair. One large room served as a workroom for the job seekers. Next to the workroom was the job posting room. Portable blackboards were in abundance as both major league and minor league teams sent representatives in to post job openings. Seekers periodically would go in to see what new jobs might be up for grabs. If you saw a job you wanted to apply for, you grabbed a resume and put it in the appropriate box located in the hallway.
Across the hall from the job posting room was the interview posting room. If a team took your resume and wanted an interview, they would post that information. After seeing your name, you could sign up on that notice for an interview time.
The final room was the interview room. One hundred round tables were set up inside. Outside that room was a listing of which teams would be at what tables and for what hours. When time came for an interview, you checked the board to see where you were headed. Interviews were being conducted at many tables simultaneously. One, two or even three people might be asking you questions about working for their team. Seekers did their best to convince them they could do the job that they were trying to obtain.
The job fair lasted three days, and if there was one word that would describe the experience, it would be waiting. Job seekers spent most of their time in idleness, waiting to see if any new jobs would be posted or if an interview would be granted. Job seekers got to know each other and formed friendships. Despite being in competition for jobs, there was a sense of camaraderie amongst the group. Ashley informed me that people who work in baseball consider themselves a close-knit family.
The biggest buzz on the first day was the Tigers' trade of Curtis Granderson to the Yankees. The job seekers are baseball fans. and news of the deal spread quickly.
I too, am a baseball fan. My first reaction to the news was that the rich just got richer. Granderson will hit 30 home runs and score 100 runs for the Yankees, mark my word. As I listened in on conversations at the meetings, a lot of people thought the Tigers did just fine. These people know more than I do, so it will be interesting to see how the deal does work out a few years down the road.
Since much of our time was spent waiting, I decided to take the skywalk to the Marriott where the major league executives were staying. I was hoping to see some of baseball's top brass in the lobby. Believe me, I was not disappointed.
The first person I encountered was Tim Kirkjian from ESPN. He was nattily attired in a suit and talking to someone on a cell phone. I spotted Tiger manager Jim Leyland in the lobby. I assumed he was talking about the deal the Tigers had just engineered. In short order I saw Frank Robinson, Al Kaline and Willie Horton. This was too good to be true.
I went up the escalator to the second floor where several TV and radio shows were preparing for airing. I listened to Peter Gammons conduct a radio broadcast and then learned he was leaving ESPN for the Major League Baseball Network. Later in the same spot, Buck Martinez was talking about the Randy Wolf signing. Right place at the right time was the consensus as he got a nice deal with the Milwaukee Brewers.
As I started to head back to the first floor I noticed a familiar face. He was talking to three others and the conversation seemed to be coming to a close. I walked over by the escalator to see if I might get a closer look, and sure enough he headed my way. As he got within a couple of feet he looked at me and simply said, "hi."
Perhaps he recognized me (you know, me being a writer and all). Maybe he was just being friendly. All I know for sure was that Tommy Lasorda made my day as I returned the greeting.
A few minutes later and I was back down in the lobby. A manager's meeting must have just broken up, because in the next 10 minutes I saw Dusty Baker and Jerry Manuel come down the hall. Baker left the hotel and Manuel headed for the bar area. Then Terry Francona came through the lobby and, when someone yelled at him calling him Tito, he acknowledged them and my mind went to my youth.
I remember his dad, Tito, when he played for the Tribe. I even know that Tito's real name was John. I told you I was a baseball fan.
Cito Gaston, Bobby Cox and White Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf soon were visible, and I was like a kid in a candy store. There are times when I wish I wasn't so shy. I probably could have had some brief conversations with these people if I had just been willing to approach them. Oh well, just seeing them was pretty special for this baseball fan.
I returned to the convention center and found my daughter. She informed me that a job posting had sent droves of job seekers to the resume box. The New York Yankees had posted an internship in media relations. Ashley did not respond the way many others did. She already had an internship and actually thinks she would prefer minor league baseball to the big leagues. I understood and wasn't sure that I would want to face the New York media on a daily basis.
As we were sitting in the hallway, Charleston RiverDogs General Manager Dave Echols strolled by. He stopped and complimented Ashley on landing several interviews. The always-gracious Mr. Echols told her he would be willing to help her in any way he could, including making a phone call if it would help.
Eventually the job fair came to a close, and it became apparent most teams were only conducting preliminary interviews. With some 750 job seekers competing for a little over 300 jobs, there was no hurry to do any hiring. A few teams told Ashley second phone interviews would be conducted at a later date.
So now she's doing what she did most of the week at the job fair - she's waiting. Her hopes for landing a job still are high though spring training is just around the corner.
Ashley still is applying for job openings as she waits to hear from the teams she interviewed with. She still harbors the dream of working for professional baseball.
After all, what could be better than going to the ballpark to go to work every day.
Al Stephenson is The A-T bowling columnist
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