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.
My most recent example happened just a couple minutes ago. I heard sirens outside my ground floor apartment, I decided to look out the window to see what was going on. I tripped out for a minute when I looked out my window because I was expecting to see the 2nd story view of outside from my old apartment in Hoover!! That’s pretty understandable though, I had just moved out of that place a couple weeks ago. Things like that happen to me often though, and it’s only get worse with evey move!!
For the last couple years, I’d be sitting in my bedroom and realize that I need to go use the bathroom. Basic human function, you learn to do it at a very young age, go to the bathroom, then use it. Well, I’ve had to stop many times before I opened my bedroom door to figure out which house or apartment I am in and where the bathroom was!! Honest to God, TRUE STORY!! Can’t find the bathroom in my own house.
Went to the Best Buy in Birmingham on Highway 280 today for “Operation: Must Get XM Radio.” I struck out with the XM, and I was so confused when I walked outside to the parking lot because it looked nothing like the Best Buy that I subconciously thought I was at in Augusta, GA!! I haven’t even been to Augusta in almost exactly ONE YEAR!!!
I was talking to a friend of mine tonight who lives in Gadsden, AL, which is a place that I actually used to live and a place that I’ve spent a lot of time. She told me she was in Old Navy doing a little shopping. Well, ya know when you’re talking to somebody on the phone and they say that they’re somewhere, you kinda try to picture it in your mind? I must have had 30 Old Navys pop up in my head before I could even picture what the Old Navy that she was at looked like.
Last week I had decided that I wanted to go to Target to get a few things for the house. The first thing you do, usually without even realizing it, when you decide to go someplace is get a mental picture of that place and plan a route to get there. People do it without even thinking about it. Well, I was walking out my door with my route of travel in my head….. when I realized I was not in Lafayette, LA!! I stood, staring at my car to realize where I was and figure out how to get to Target which is literally right down the highway from where I live, no turns involved.
Whenever I get hungry, it becomes a difficult geography homework assignment. I’d be sitting on the couch, for example, and decide that I want some Arby’s (and the cowboy hat would appear over my head, just like the commercials.) It takes me a pretty good moment to figure out what city and state I am in, and usually longer than that to figure out where the nearest Arby’s is. I literally picture 10-15 of the roast beef heavens in 2-4 states before I can figure out which one was neaest tor me.
I could think of many many more examples of this little problem I have, but it would only make you think I’m crazier!! I’m not crazy!! It’s not my dumb brain or alzheimer’s which is causing this, it’s just my life…
Let me give my friends who haven’t known me too awful long a litte rundown of what they’ve missed. This may give them a better understanding of the root my problem. In the last 8 years I have lived numerous places and had 2 jobs that required extensive travel. Here are the places I have lived (or stayed for work for at least 3 months) since 2001, in chronological order:
Suburbia north of Birmingham, AL
Suburbia south of Birmingham, AL
Places I stayed for at least a month at a time while working with Ruby Tuesday, in paragraph form to conserve space:
The Birmingham area; Texarkana,TX; Shreveport, LA (twice); Memphis; Jackson, TN; Troy, AL; Montgomery, AL; Chattanooga, TN; Biloxi, MS; New Iberia, LA; Fort Payne, AL; Nashville, TN ….. I’m sure I’m forgetting a few.
Places I travelled in the South Atlantic League last year. Usually 3-4 days at a time, all places 1 to 3 times: Rome, GA; Charleston, SC; Charleson, WV; Columbus, GA; Savannah, GA; Greenville, SC; Lakewood, NJ; Salisbury, MD; Lexington, KY; Greensboro, NC; Kannapolis, NC; and finally…. Asheville, NC. And 6 weeks in Scottsdale for Spring Training.
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
“Find a job that you love to do and you will never work a day in your life” – Confucius
I am one of the truly lucky ones, I know it, and I am very thankful. Since I was a child, baseball has been my primary interest, pretty much my only interest, it is also my career. I never played football, I’ve never learned to play piano, I don’t read science fiction, and I have never seen a single episode of Lost or American Idol.
I spent my days as a child at the ballpark or playing baseball with tennis balls and racquetballs in the road on Chatham Ct in Grand Prairie, Texas. My family and I had season tickets to the Texas Rangers when I was little, 1986 through 1992. I rarely missed a game. I was there for Nolan Ryan’s 5000th K, his 300th win, his 7th no-hitter, and a lot of Ranger losses. My family became friends with the Petrallis, the Ryans, the Incaviglias, the Sierras, the Valentines, and the Buecheles, the Fletchers, and many more of the players and their families. It was at Arlington Stadium, that hot, stinky, old AAA stadium in Texas, that I became hooked on baseball.
My father was living in Huntsville, Alabama at that time. I’d go visit him during the summers. My dad was not a huge baseball fan, but he knew that baseball was one thing that he could use to bond with me. We went to a few dozen AA Huntsville Stars games together. I got to see Randy Johnson, Terry Steinbach, Javy Lopez, Chipper Jones, Robin Ventura, Denny Neagle, Carlos Delgado, Chuck Knoblauch, and Reggie Sanders play before anyone (that I knew) did! Not only that, but I got to get their autographs and have a conversation with them before the game, and watch them play from seats much closer than our seats in Arlington! The line for nachos was even shorter than in Texas! I was converted, and was now hooked on minor league baseball!
To make a long story short, by 1995 I was living in Richland, Washington with my father while my mother was living in Mobile, Alabama. I visited my mom in Mobile for that summer. She was working as a concessionaire for the independent Mobile BaySharks of the Texas-Louisiana League, she was in love with baseball also. She pulled some strings with the front office and landed me a job as bat boy for the team. I was getting paid to get sweaty, handle baseball bats and baseballs, hang out with professional baseball players, and watch baseball! Holy crap, it was the life! If only I could find a way to do that as an adult……
So….. it’s 2010 and have just wrapped my fourth season as a clubhouse manager in professional baseball. I get paid to get sweaty, handle baseball bats and baseballs, hang out with professional baseball players, and watch baseball, minor league baseball.
Boom shocka locka, there is my first blog post. As you surely can tell, this is not going to be the place to go to see writing on a large array of topics. You will be seeing a lot of baseball followed by more baseball. I will be filling in the gaps of this story in the near future. I just wanted to give a brief synopsis of me on my initial post. Feel free to comment and ask questions. For more in depth Jeff Perro, follow me on Twitter at http://twitter.com/MiLBClubbie.
I’d like to thank Rachel Ganato, Harold Bicknell, Minda Haas, Lisa Winston, Nick Gagalis, and Dave Gershman for their input and feedback.