It’s been too long between blog posts, folks, and I sincerely apologize. As much as I wanted to beat the odds and write during baseball season, it just wasn’t too high on the priorities list. I’ve also wanted to write about how terrible the offseasons are for me, but to tell you the truth, it’d didn’t start getting undeniably brutal until the last couple of weeks. I promised a few people I would write about my job search this offseason, as I refer to it, clubbie free agency, but I wanted to wait until that process was one hundred percent finalized.
The process was finalized at approximately 10:20am on Monday December 19th.
The Anatomy of Clubbie Free Agency
I’ve been the home clubhouse manager for the Birmingham Barons, the AA affiliate of the Chicago White Sox, for the past three seasons. It was a good job with some great perks in a fantastic city that I’ve grown to call “home.” But, sadly, it has drawbacks and hardships and isn’t a place that I could possibly spend the rest of my career, or even afford to continue my career. I should have looked for other clubbie work sooner, but I’ve been loyal to my staff and players, and like I said, I’ve fallen in love with the city.
The last two offseasons have been difficult for me. I’d have a little chunk of change left after the season, but I’d still have to find a low paying offseason job for a few months. Then, by November or so, I’d be struggling so bad that I’d have to find a second low paying offseason job to make ends meet. Not the best way to live.
My dream job is to work at some teams spring training complex. There’s no offseason at those places. Between mini camps, spring training, the regular season, instructional league, and all the other fun activities that go on there, it’s eleven or twelve month baseball work. No crappy offseason jobs necessary.
I applied for a complex job that I found posted on MLB.com. The money was great, the job sounded amazing. I exchanged emails and phone calls with the people in charge and eventually had a great interview. In the time between seeing the job posting and hearing the results of my interview, I was offered another job outside of baseball. The restaurant that I’ve worked at the past three seasons offered me a very well-paying management gig. I worked in restaurants for a long time before getting back in baseball. I’m pretty much completely burned out on restaurants, but a stable job that paid well and was close to home was a solid back up plan. I decided if I didn’t get offered the complex job, I was going to hang it up, and take the restaurant job.
So…… I didn’t get the job, the team promoted from within. Word went up the corporate restaurant ladder that i wasn’t hired and they gave me some pretty good pressure.
But I couldn’t do it. I was pretty close, but I had a lot of great people talk me out of it and talk me into continuing to pursue my baseball dream.
I spent the next few weeks, sending emails, tweeting, calling, and texting everyone I knew, to see which teams had openings where. I was constantly checking the online job boards, then checking my email. I found a few jobs that I liked and was told that a few other great jobs were not going to be open. One conversation with another AA team in a different league was going well. It was for a visiting clubhouse manager position. The job description and pay seemed great. I know a few people who had been to the town. Their reviews where that it was a decent to great place to be. I also know the home clubhouse manager for the team. He gave me the run down on everything, it seemed like a pretty sweet gig. I was pretty enthused. The interview process was awesome and the team made a great offer. There were a couple of minor details needed to be worked out, but they offered and I 99% accepted the job.
(See below for my criteria for selecting clubhouse jobs.)
The following day, however, I received a reply to an email that I had sent prior to finding out about the above job. The email was from the Tampa Bay Rays, whom I had emailed asking about possible openings at their Florida complex in Port Charlotte. The gentleman told me that the Port Charlotte position was not available, but the home clubhouse was open at their AA affiliate, the Montgomery Biscuits. I had to tell him “Thanks but no thanks.” I politely told him I already had a great deal in place, and I wouldn’t want to back out of it unless I was offered a job at a complex.
He said he understood and appreciated my loyalty,…….. then he gave me more details about the job. It was very comparable to the other job I was offered, actually, it was a little better. AND, it was close to home. Montgomery is about an hour and a half from my house, and two and a half hours from my son. The other job was more than ten hours away. I was really leaning toward Montgomery being the job that I wanted.
I emailed the president of the Biscuits after the Winter Meetings, and we met at the ballpark a couple of days later. We had a great conversation, I met some great baseball people, and I got the complete tour of the ballpark and all the details about working for the Biscuits. Pending a background check, they wanted me for the job, and I wanted the job.
I got the phone call at 10:20 am on Monday December 19th. The background check checked out, they formally offered me the job, and I formally accepted.
I’m very impressed by a lot facets of working for the Montgomery Biscuits and the Tampa Bay Rays. I’d love to go into detail, but I don’t think there is a way to do that without sounding like I’m taking jabs at former organizations. Let me just say, “I’m genuinely very excited about this upcoming season and the future.”
This is definitely a good move for me.
My criteria for selecting a clubhouse job
1. Spring Training – Most major league organizations bring their minor league clubhouse managers to spring training, but some don’t. Spring training is our chance to network and show our skills to the bigwigs of that organization and even other organizations. If a job did not include spring training, it was automatically eliminated. I’m not going to spin my wheels in place anymore.
2. Location – I mentioned that Montgomery being close to home was huge for me. But being close to home don’t totally encompass what I mean by “location.” Entertainment options, weather, and proximity to fun stuff also were factors. For example, I was playing on Mapquest, doing a little research on two jobs that I was interested in. One job, was 3-4 hours away from the nearest bigger city, that could have made for a long boring summer, AND offseason if I was planning on moving. Mapquesting the other job, I found there were 13 other professional ballparks within a two and a half hour radius. How much fun would that have been to see thirteen or so new ballparks in one summer!?
3. Money – It’s harder to gauge how much money you’ll be making with clubhouse jobs than most other jobs that exist. First, there’s the salary. In addition to that, the major league teams usually chips in some cash to cover various expenses. From what I hear, those amounts vary from $30 to $150 per game. What the minor league affiliate covers varies from team to team too. Some teams cover Powerade, dugout cups, replacement shower towels, shower soap, shampoo, or even furniture or any combination of those items. Those costs are covered by the clubhouse manager with other teams. I know of one team that doesn’t even provide laundry detergent for the visiting clubhouse manager. Outrageous.
Both the Rays and the Biscuits appear to be very generous. But even after accepting the job, I was told of a substantial check that I’d be getting from the Rays to help cover costs. Bonus.
4. Ballpark and clubhouse – This encompasses a lot of things. Ballpark atmosphere, location and proximity to stores and restaurants, as well as clubhouse size, amenities, and maintenance. Riverwalk Stadium in Montgomery is my favorite ballpark in all of MiLB because of its beauty and fantastic atmosphere, but the downtown location that’s 15 minutes from a grocery store and having to park 1/4 of a mile from the clubhouse honestly terrifies me.
5. Team notoriety – Everyone knows who the Durham Bulls are. I couldn’t tell you how many times people asked me if I worked for the Barons when Michael Jordan played there (No, I did not. I was in high school in Washington when he played for the Barons.) It was borderline annoying, but at least people know who the team was. In college football country, that’s not always easy. The Biscuits have one of the most popular logos in the game.
6. Relationships – Last, but not least. I’ve made some great friends in the Barons’ front office over the years, but I get the sense some front offices aren’t so friendly. Clubhouse management is a pretty lonely profession, you spend many hours each day in a concrete clubhouse by yourself. You’d be surprised how important your relationship with the front office is to maintaining your sanity. They’re usually like-minded baseball people who you can have a baseball conversation with.
In a business that is driven by sales, you’re going to meet a handful of “used car salesmen.” I got good vibes from most of the teams that I talked to this winter. I was offered a job at the ’08 Winter Meetings. When I told the somewhat “used car salesman” assistant GM that I was interviewing with that I’d have to think about it. His smug reaction was like, “But we’re the ______ _______! How could you NOT want to work for our glorious team?!” I didn’t accept the job.
This is part three of a three part series.
The Birmingham Barons players, manager, a few front office members and I caravanned to the Red Cross disaster relief center at The Scott School in Pratt City, AL on Monday May 2nd (See Part Two: “How Can We Help?”) to volunteer our time and energy . The following day the Barons’ front office and I (the players left on a road trip to Jackson, TN that morning) were planning to go back to do more work.
Coincidentally, The Jacksonville Suns professional baseball team had also planned to stop and work at the relief center on their way from Montgomery to Huntsville. They were supposed to have a game in Huntsville on Tuesday, but it was postponed because Joe Davis Stadium in Huntsville still did not have power. The team could have had a day off, but they chose to help the citizens of Jefferson County, AL.
We arrived at The Scott School around noon, and the scene was completely different than the day before, the impending weather undoubtedly kept donors, people seeking aid, and, perhaps, a few volunteers away. Where there was a line of police officers and military patrols the day before, there was one cop, maybe two.
There was still work to be done. We made our way to the back parking lot of the school where were people loading and unloading. I spent more time on the unloading donations side than I did Monday. There were individuals dropping off trash bags of clothes, cases of water, and bags of cleaning supplies. There were church vans dropping off racks of clothes and loads of food. There were also individuals and companies from as far away as Wisconsin and South Florida dropping off trailers full of donations.
The Red Cross’s system had slightly evolved for the better in a day’s time. Instead of bringing cases upon cases of bottled water into the school, just to bring them back outside, they had just started stacking them behind the school. “How many cases of bottled water do you need? Ok, let me just walk over here and grab one for you.” Much more efficient.
Because of the slightly slower pace than the day before, I actually got to have conversations with a few donors and other volunteers. There was a younger guy, he looked barely eighteen, who had pulled his grill trailer from Greensboro, NC to cook hot dogs and burgers for the volunteers to eat. I met a girl who was a student at the University of Alabama. She watched the tornado take out Tuscaloosa from her dorm just a few miles away.
The rain began to come down around 2:00. The center slowed a little more, and the parking lot turned to mud soup, but we continued to unload, sort, and load.
I had talked to Suns’ broadcaster Roger Hoover earlier in the day, the team planned to show up around 3:00. I was worried that there would be little for the guys to do and they might not be able to grasp the severity and scope of the situation.
The Suns’ bus pulled in right on time. I walked over to the area where the Red Cross representatives were briefing Andy Barkett and his team. I found a few players that I recognized and recognized me, shook some hands, and walked them around.
The team had been asked to stay out of the cold rain as much as possible. I don’t blame them for that, these guys have careers on the line. You miss a few games with pneumonia, you may get passed up in the organization, and miss your one chance at a big league career. Once again, I do not blame them for that.
I was walking with Jeff Allison and Jake Smolinksi toward the back door to explain what we’d been doing. Allison asked if we could see the damage from the tornado. He wanted to see the town out of genuine care and concern and to be able to fathom what had happened. I told him it wasn’t but a block or two away, but I hadn’t tried to walk toward it for fear of getting M-16’d. So, the three of us walked down the road in front of the school a little way, waving or nodding at National Guardsmen on our way, what we saw was unbelievable.
From a little ways a way, I saw a roof. It was a roof to a big building, like a church. It looked funny, but we couldn’t quite figure out why. It looked like it was a roof to a building that was over a hill, where the building part was being hidden by the hill, and you could only see the roof. As we stepped over shingles, tree branches, and boards to get closer, you could finally see that the building had collapsed. It looked off because the building was basically gone, the roof had kept it’s shape and was resting on the ground.
From about two blocks from the school, you could see houses with half the house missing and a flat part on the top of a hill that once had houses on it. You could also see military vehicles and work trucks of all varieties; debris removal, power, water, and vans to transport workers and volunteers.
I went to the Mississippi Gulf Coast three days after Katrina. It was a different scene. In Biloxi, 75% of the buildings were about 75% gone. In Pratt City, 20% of the buildings were 100% gone. I don’t know how to describe it, I’m not trying to be funny, but it was a different level and different type of goneness than Southern Mississippi was six years ago.
The two Suns and I turned around, headed back to The Scott School. I had a great conversation with the two about what it was like in Birmingham, what parts of the state were affected, and what we, as a state, were trying to accomplish.
When we got back to the back entrance, there was a Ryder truck pulled up to the door of the kitchen. Five or six male volunteers were just beginning to shuttle a truck full of MRE’s from the truck about 30 yards through the mud and into the building. I left my conversation with Allison midsentence and ran to join the chain, not expecting he or Smolinski to disobey orders and follow me. However, they were right next to me a second or two later.
I looked to the door at the side of the building, and about fifteen players were standing inside the doorway. They looked like excited little puppies with that “My master told me to stay and not go outside, but look at those other puppies! They’re all outside and it looks like they’re so much having fun!”
The group simultaneous broke their leashes, ran to the line, and started passing MRE’s! What started out as five guys passing a thousand or two boxes inside became five guys, plus me, plus half the Florida Marlins’ AA roster. From that point on, it was open season. The Suns’ players were in the rain, walking through the mud, loading and unloading cars.
Before too long, my body had had enough of the cold rain and I had to walk inside to warm up. I started a talking to one player about what had happened in Pratt City, Tuscaloosa, Pleasant Grove, and Fultondale. That one player turned into two players, then three, and before long, I was talking to about ten guys.
Talking to the Jax team was completely different than talking to my team. My guys had been through it, seen it all unfold on the the local news, they had rode buses through these towns and had at least seen signs for the cities that were on their tv’s being destroyed by Mother Nature.
The Suns hadn’t. They hadn’t seen much of anything on the news, they didn’t know which areas were hit or if Regions Park had sustained any damage. They were totally interested in what was going on and listened to every bit of the information I gave them, it was the first they heard of it. Despite knowing nothing about the situation or the people affected, they were genuinely enthused and wanted to help in any way they could.
I told the Birmingham Barons and Jacksonville Suns this same thing:
It’s great that you want to help, it’s awesome that you want to carry boxes and get sweaty in the heat or muddy in the rain, but you being here is doing two things that you may not be able to see. You’re showing the citizens in this community that there are people outside of the area that you are from somewhere else and you care and know what’s going on. You’re also talking to your people back home (or in Jacksonville) and telling them about what’s going on and making them aware of the difficulties and the need. Those two things are huge because this situation was buried by and wedged between the royal wedding and the death of Osama bin Laden.
The Jacksonville Suns and Florida Marlins have all my respect after Tuesday. Not just for the work that they did, not only because they sacrificed an off day for us, Birmingham citizens, but also because the chose to get rained on and muddy in their street clothes, two hours from a shower and change of clothes at the hotel in Huntsville. Thank you, gentlemen.
This is part three of a three part series about the effect the tornadoes that swept the South on April 27th have had on baseball and the communities in the area.
Part Two: “How Can We Help?”
Photos Courtesy of Jacksonville Suns radio voice, Roger Hoover
This is part one of a three part series.
The Birmingham Barons’ 11:00am game on Wednesday, April 27th in Huntsville was cancelled. I was at home in Birmingham at the time. I knew we were supposed to be getting some pretty rough weather later in the afternoon, but it was just warm and cloudy at that time. I figured it got to Huntsville first and washed away the game.
The team bus arrived back at home around 2:00 that afternoon. That was when I found out the real reason the game was cancelled. The Huntsville Stars were aware of the weather headed to North and Central Alabama and decided to cancel the game to be sure that my team could make the bus ride home safely, not driving home in the storms. The bus driver told me about the rain and wind they encountered on the way home. He had to pull over for a while to let the wind subside before driving his large metal sail over the elevated Tennessee River bridge, thus avoiding the “Barons Team Bus Blown Off Bridge’ headlines. But it was still warm, dry, and cloudy at our ballpark. The Huntsville Stars and the Birmingham Barons knew we had some serious weather headed our way, but I still hadn’t figured it out.
Sometime around 3:30, as I was unpacking from the road trip in our quiet underground clubhouse, a female voice startled me.
“Excuse me, sir. If there’s a tornado, can we come in here?”
I looked up to an older woman poking her head in to the clubhouse door that leads to the parking lot. It was obvious she was from the neighboring RV park that’s out past the right field line at Regions Park
“Ummmm….. Yeah, I guess. I don’t know what the actual procedure is, but you can totally come down here.”
I later found out what normally happens during severe weather. The park ranger unlocks the gate on the first base side and the people from the RV park hang out on the concourse.
No chance was I going to make the residents of the RV park dodge flying mustard packets and beer stands while I was safely watching tv under millions of tons of concrete. I posted the following status on the Inside the Clubhouse Facebook page:
We have a pitcher who is from Gadsden, AL this season, Kyle Cofield. Gadsden is a little over an hour away, he’s local, but he’s not local enough to drive home everyday. He’s been staying with a friend of his who has a house across town….. in Fultondale. Cofield came in a little early Thursday morning. He said that his buddy’s house had some damage, but most of the buildings in the immediate vicinity were crippled or gone.
Cofield showed me a few pictures he had on his phone. I used to live in Fultondale too, I knew exactly where he lived, and exactly where the pictures were taken. Judging by what Kyle and my son’s mom have said and the pictures they’ve shown me, my family dodged disaster by no more than a couple of miles.
This is part one of a three part series about the effect the tornadoes that swept the South on April 27th have had on baseball and the communities in the area.
Part Two: “How Can We Help?”
Part Three: Day Two in Pratt City, Alabama
I’ve been working a big project for a week or so now. I didn’t want to share it with anybody until I got approval or details, but I can’t contain myself any longer!
I was walking into my offseason job at Academy Sports and Outdoors the other day, when I
started thinking. “It’s getting to darn hot for this offseason beard…. too bad I can’t donate it to charity or something.” It’s been hanging around the 70’s and been sunny, here in good ol’ Birmingham, AL, USA.
Later that night, after I got off work, probably around 2am, when I do my best thinking, I came up with a glorious idea. A cross-promotion between my two employers, a new or gently used baseball equipment drive for the Boys & Girls Club / R.B.I. of Birmingham. What the heck does that have to do with a hairy face? I’ll tell ya. The equipment drive in my head had a twist to it. For every X amount of equipment donated, I was going to shave a one inch gash out of the beard. I figure, including the mustache, I had about 12 inches of hairy area. If we had it $500 of gear per inch, I could raise $6000 worth of bats, balls, gloves, bat bags, and other stuff for a fantastic cause.
I’m not a celebrity or local celebrity by any means, but my two jobs give me a level of notoriety. My baseball job is kinda sorta almost a big deal, and my sporting goods retailer job allows me to speak, help, and be recognized by people who come from literally a five counyt area to buy baseball stuff for their children. With some promotion to it, that could get a lot of people off of their behinds to come see the guy with the holey beard, buy stuff, and donate it to the Boys & Girls Club / R.B.I.
I slept on it. I woke up the next morning and thought to myself, “This is either one of the greatest ideas Jeff Perro (I often think to myself in third-person) has ever had, or it’s WAAAAAY out in left field and totally farfetched.”
When I got to work, I pitched it to my department manager.
“This is either one of the greatest ideas Jeff Perro has ever had, or it’s totally farfetched…….”
He loved it! I called a couple of my Barons’ people, they loved it too! Then I pitched to more of
my local Academy people, surprise….. they loved it! The next step was to email the Academy corporate marketing guru. I emailed him a novel late Thursday night, then waited through Friday and the entire weekend for a yay or nay. Finally, he emailed me on Monday.
He loved it too!….. except….. for the whole beard thingy. That’s cool. I just hooked up two humongous sponsors in local Birmingham to start a baseball equipment drive for the Boys & Girls Club! Woo Hoo!!
As I said, I wanted to wait until I had details about this event before I started promoting it, just couldn’t contain myself. From what I understand from the marketing guru and the Barons’ rep taking it on, this whole thing should go down in three to four weeks. That should give enough time to print signage, advertise it, and promote it. Keep your tv’s tuned to this channel for more details as they become available. I’ll even post a mailing address if any of my distant readers want to help.
Maybe next year, with more time to plan, we can included every Academy in Birmingham (There’s three.) Maybe next year, we can include every Academy and minor league team in Alabama. Maybe we can get the entire Southeastern United States based sporting goods chain in on the Action. Maybe next year, the Braves, Rangers, ‘Stros, Nashville Sounds, Tulsa Drillers, Jacksonville Suns, El Paso Diablos, and Round Rock Express can help promote it.
I still have this hot, fuzzy beard, though.
The Beard and The Kid
I’d estimate there are less than 500 people in the world that are in the same profession as I am. You can say we’re all in competion to get one of the 60 coveted big league jobs that exist. The saying is, though, “Clubbies don’t retire, they die.” The national media caught wind of the story of Mike Murphy, the Home Clubhouse Manager of the San Francisco Giants, this past fall. “Murph” began working with the Giants as a bat boy in 1958 and has held his current position since 1980. With a turnover rate like that, I’d say it’s tougher for us to get to The Show than our players.
You’d think, then, this would be a pretty dog-eat-dog, cut-throat, step-anybody-you-have-to-to-get-to-the-top world of people trying to fight for jobs at the tip top of our industry, but it’s not. We have a bond. We all sharing stories with each other stories and I don’t think any of us are above sharing tips (the advice kind, not the money kind,) with each other. For example, if any of use have had great (or horrible) experiences with a certain manager who we see has been named manager of a team of one of our pals, we’ll let him know.
Visiting clubhouse managers in our league often help prepare other visiting clubhouse managers in the league for the teams in our league with a phone call. Such as, “Team X are a bunch of jerks. They thrashed my clubhouse when they left and I think somebody stole my blender. They’re coming to your place next week, just thought I’d warn you.” Call it, “professional courtesy.”
Dan Brick, the Visiting Clubhouse Manager of the AAA Buffalo Bisons for the past eight seasons, says, “I talk to most of them [clubbies of the International League], but I’ve only met one of them before, but I like to think we all work together pretty well. When it comes to calling each other when a team leaves for a heads up, that kind of stuff.”
We’ll also, occasionally, strike up conversations with players about their home clubhouse manager or other visiting clubhouse managesr. I’ve been told that the food in Chattanooga is legit. I have don’t have too much pride to tell John White, the Lookouts’ clubbie, that I hear good things about his work. If I overhear a team talking abut how lazy their clubbie is or how nasty their clubhouse is, I won’t say “Yeah, I’ve heard that from a lot of guys. I don’t know how he still has a job.” If I know it’s a new guy or if it’s somebody I know, I don’t mind giving him a call to give him a heads up. I’m not going to bash anybody to make myself look better.
I’ve become familiar with the clubbies at the Sox affiliates above and below Birmingham and I wouldn’t be affraid to talk to them if I needed something. Players will occasionally be promoted or demoted and accidently bring their old team’s jerseys with them or forget to pay dues. If I’m hearing those negative reviews about one of my “competitors” within my own organization, I will definitely act professional about it.
Each individual minor league team works differently with their clubhouse managers. Some teams provide things that others don’t, some teams pay more than others don’t, some teams have better facilities than others. We can converse with each other about how our situation compares to that of other clubbies. I had a discussion with one of my brethren with a different team, in a different league, at a different level, with a different organization, in another state. He wasn’t sure if he was being treated fairly by his team and was considering searching for greener pastures. After our discussion, I guess he decided it was likely best for him to stay put.
I’ve also received tweets, emails, and Facebook messages from people who are either interested in becoming a minor league clubhouse manager, or are were recently hired and looking for advice. I don’t have a problem with that, I can always make time to talk baseball. In fact, one of the teams in the Southern League recently go a new home clubhouse manager. He hit me up on Facebook to introduce himself and ask for pointers. He was formerly a bat boy and assistant clubhouse manager in the big leagues. Seems like a cool guy and he is going to make a nice addition to our fraternity.
With Hall of Famer Ryne Sandberg during the 2009 season.
Everybody has had a “brilliant” idea that they didn’t follow through. Like an awesome invention, where you say to yourself “I’m going to invent a ______ _______ and I’m going to be rich!” Sorry, folks, somebody else invented the Snuggie and Shoedini while you were just talking about it. Some people have an amazing career path planned out, but end up changing majors after two semesters. You can’t be an astronaut if you hate math, sad but true. Most people have had hobbies or collections that they have start, but just got bored and found other interests. I used to collect beer caps and baseball cards, but that’s been awhile. It’s hard to say what makes somebody fall in love with and stick with an idea, a career, a hobby, or even a cause. I guess when you know, you know. Right?
I pretty much have always known that I wanted to work in professional baseball, I guess you’d say being a clubbie is my “calling.” I stepped away from that career for eight years, but I was scheming up a way to get back to it. There’s been one other thing that I’ve aspired to do with my life for several years, and I’ve never really explored it, until recently. I want to create or work with a program that provides baseball to disavantaged youth.
I’ve been around baseball all my life and I owe a great deal of my character to it. It’s taught me how to be a part of a team, the benefits of having a positive state of mind, the rewards of hard work, how to learn from failures and successes, and, most importantly, it’s taught me how to interact with and treat other people. I want to be able to share those lessons with the young people of my community.
I’ve been following and reading about the R.B.I. (Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities) concept for quite awhile. R.B.I works with Major League Baseball and has succeeded and expanded and is now in over 200 cities worldwide. They have partnered with the Boys & Girls Clubs of America to join forces and expand the abilities and reach of both programs. The BGCA’s SMART Moves program teaches the kids about alcohol, drugs, health, and general education.
There is another organization similar to R.B.I. that is based in Atlanta, it’s called L.E.A.D and was founded by former professional player C.J. Stewart. I am constantly reading about the amazing things L.E.A.D. is doing in Atlanta. This organization’s primary objective is to get younger players to and through college. Their select travel ball team, the Ambassadors, boast that 100% of their players have gone on to college and 83% of them received baseball scholarships. They’ve worked with the Atlanta Braves and local professional players to put on clinics at Turner Field. Jason Heyward is a huge supporter of L.E.A.D. and it is the official home of the Jason Heyward Fan Club.
These programs are not only for developing young men from the city into major league stars. They teach these young men the life skills necessary to develop in to adults who can enrich their communities, not be involved in drugs or crime, and the value of an education.
The timing couldn’t be better for me to begin laying the foundation for this. The A.G. Gaston Boys & Girls Club in Birmingham, my hometown, is an R.B.I. partner. I happened to run into a coach from that organization a few weeks ago, we discussed the league’s history, facilities, instructors, contacts, and needs. It was a very exciting and informative fifteen minute conversation, even though it wasn’t much of a conversation because I mostly just listened and asked questions.
Working for the Barons will only help with this project. Being a clubhouse manager gives me access to professional baseball players. I can collect used equipement, collect memorabilia for fundraising auctions, and things of the like. My job has also introduced me to leaders of business in the Birmingham area, businesses that would possibly be interested in donations or sponsorship. I believe that my involvement could raise visibilty and awareness of the program.
In addition to working for the Barons, I’ve been working at Academy Sports & Outdoors (a sporting goods chain that has stores in the Southeastern U.S.) this offseason. There is a corkboard outside the office that is covered in letters from various schools and organizations thanking Academy for their donations to their schools and causes. I haven’t asked about equipment donations yet, but you can bet that I will!
Social media, especially Twitter, has been and will continue to be a great resource for me to use. I’ve been able to talk to Brian Emory, the Executive Director of Mississippi RBI which is based in not-too-far-away Jackson, MS, on Twitter. He’s excited by my enthusiasm and is looking forward to lending me a hand. I’ve been following the work of C.J. Stewart and L.E.A.D. and I intend to bother C.J. with and lot of questions in the near future. I also have 457 awesome followers (and spammers,) who I’m sure would be willing to lend me a hand in any way that they could. This is what I want to do, and the timing is perfect.
Please click on the links to the programs mentioned in this post:
L.E.A.D. – http://www.lead2legacy.org/
Mississippi RBI – http://mississippirbi.com/
A.G. Gaston Boys & Girls Club of Birmingham – http://www.aggbgc.org/
As with my first blog, I think it would be best if I tell you some more about myself and what I do before I get rolling with the fun stuff. I am the Home Clubhouse Manager, or Clubbie, for the Birmingham Barons professional baseball team, the Double-A affiliate of the Chicago White Sox.
“Interesting, Jeff, but what does that mean?”
I am the ultimate behind-the-scenes guy. I never touch the field during the game, but the game could not be played without me, metaphorically speaking, of course. I’m the guy who feeds the team, orders the baseballs, loads and unloads the bus, gets the baseballs game-ready, washes the uniforms, puchases the shower soap, gets the mail, inventories the bats, assembles the pitching machines, keeps track of the pine tar, folds the towels, schedules the bats boys, picks up the new players at the airport, and prepares the water and Powerade coolers, among many, many other things.
“Sounds glamourous, dude [sarcasm.] They must pay you a lot to do all that stuff, huh?”
Kinda. The way that I get paid is….. complicated. The team pays me a monthly (minimal) salary that is reimbursed by the big league club. The players also pay me dues for the services, foods, and other things that I provide. It’s an atiquated system that has been around since the Late Middle Ages, I suspect, but it works and nobody really complains, so I doubt it will ever change, but that’s another story for another time. The players pay me $11 a day in dues. Out of those dues, I pay for the pregame and postgame meals, as well as things like the tables to set the food on, shampoo and soap, paper plates, bottled water, shower towels, sodas, and ping pong supplies. If I spend less than I am paid, I keep the profit. That, plus tips, is how I am paid.
“If I were you, I’d put out crappy cheap food and pocket the money! Feed the guys cold ballpark hot dogs everyday and buy that new Acura SUV after the season!”
If I did that, I’d be murdered. The team pays me, and my personality requires me, to provide a quality service. Most jobs pay you more if you do a good job, with this job, not so much. There’s a delicate balance to maintain. I could feed the team cold ballpark hot dogs every game and be out of a job by May. OR I could feed them lobster and filet mignon every game and be out of a home by May….. BUT, the players and staff would at least tell everyone they know that I was the best clubbie they ever had. It’s indirectly, “the less money you make, the better you are (perceived at being) at your job.” On a scale of being cheap and rich being a 1 and being extravigant and poor being a 10, I’d say that my approach to my job puts me at about a 6 or 7. I’ve actually heard stories of 2’s and 9’s, but it’s hard to believe they exist.
“Well even if you don’t makes lotsa money, at least you get to hang out with big league prospects and stuff. Do you guys ever take you golfing or to the clubs or anything?”
To make a long story short, no. I personally think it’s just unprofessional. I know of guys with other teams that do do things like that, and are extremely buddy-buddy with the players, but it just gives a shady projection if you ask me. I refer to those guys as the “used car salesmen” type. The type that tell you how great they are, how great you are, kiss your *** 24/7 and just have the used car salesman smug smile. It’s all just a ploy to get a little bit of an extra tip and ride somebody’s coattails to The Show.
I’ve heard stories of a guy that I once replaced who was like that. He was so close to the players that one would even let the guy borrow his $40,000+ Expedition while the team was on road trips. He’d also slack at his responsibilies to get done with his postgame work to go to bars with the team. His doing in was the day the team came in for a game and all their laundry was still wet in the washer. Dude just got wasted the night before and didn’t get his stuff done, so they hired me. On top of all that, it’s just hard to work sixteen to twenty hour days and find time to sociaize with the team around that. I’m not saying these guys aren’t my friends, because they are, it’s just not like that.
“Sixteen to twenty hour days? That’s bull. Nobody works those kind of hours.”
I do, usually 5 days in a row. This last season there was a block that I worked those hours 21 days in a row. I work from 10 AM to, on average, 3 AM on the day of a typical 7:05 game. I also have to work the night the team comes back from a roadtrip and on the mornings they leave for a roadtrip. The longest days are the ones when the team comes in at 3 AM from a roadtrip, I’ll have to unload and unpack the bus until about 7, then have a regular day surrounding a 7:05 night game. That’s a rough way to start a five game homestand of long work days.
“So, if you don’t get paid a ton, don’t get to hang out with future big league stars, and have to work ridiculous hours, why do you do it?”
I wouldn’t want to do anything else. I was actually out of baseball for six years, 2002 until I came back in 2008. I had a career that I hated and everything else that normal people have, it just wasn’t for me. My baseball fever got worse and worse every year until I came back. I’m never leaving again.
I have a few sidenotes for my readers. First, if you follow me on Twitter, you may have noticed a new daily feature that I am doing called “Former Professional Baseball Player of the Day.” With this feature, I will give a small write up of a former minor league player who never made it to MLB. This is just a little something that I thought I would do to raise awareness of the interestingness of minor league baseball and the people who play it. My features the last two days have been Aldo Pecorilli and Matt Quatraro.
Secondly, I like to make up words, such as “interestingness.”
Third, and lastly, I’m going to add a little color to each of my blogs. I collect things, more specifically, minor league baseball things. I collect programs, pocket schedules, ticket stubs, pennants, and game used stuff such as hats, jerseys, bats, and line up cards. I’m going to to post a picture of a little bit of my collection at the bottom of each of my blogs.
Top to bottom, left to right.
1) 1997 Mobile BayBears Inaugural Season scorecard
2) 1999 Orlando Rays program
3) 2010 Winston-Salem Dash program
4) 2010 Omaha Royals program from the last season at Rosenblatt Stadium
5) 2010 Carolina/California League All-Star Game Program, from the Myrtle Beach Pelicans