Tagged: Clubbie

Clubbie Free Agency

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.

 

The End

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.

Location, Location, Location

Lockers. Everybody needs one. They’re important. You’ll be spending a couple hours a day there for six months, seventy games, and a handful of rain delays. Who decides which player get which locker and how do they decide? In the minors, I have encounterd three methods.

1. The manager decides. The manager may have a certain idea of who he wants where, usually he makes his assignments based on position, experience, or culture.  If there is a young stud prospect shortstop on the team, he may want to put him by the veteran middle infield. The thinking is that the youngin’ can learn how to act professionally or gain some positional guidance from the vet.

He may also want to break up the cultural divide  that sometimes creep into the clubhouse, thus, promoting team unity. He might put the order; country boy, Dominican, Cali boy, country boy, bonus baby, quiet reader, party animal, married guy with a baby, etc… You are more likely to see this method at the lower levels of the minors with the younger players.

2. The clubhouse manager decides. If the clubbie assigns lockers, he’ll put in in some kind of order that’s convenient for him. Probably either numerical or alphabetical. Hanging laundry is one of the last things we do at night. When you have a basketful of jerseys with no name on the back, it’s a little of work to first have to mentally match a name with the number, then match a locker location with the name to hang it up. 1, 2, 3, 4 is the easiest system there is.

3. The players decided. When players get to choose their own lockers, a lot of thought goes into it. Do they choose one near the tv? Near or away from the door? On the end? In the corner? Near the ping-pong table or away from it? The same one as last year or on the opposite wall? Who do I want to be my neighbor? Do I want to be near the couches or the card tables? By the stereo or the other side of the room from it? If a player wants a locker that someone else, possibly a vet who got to pick first, has chosen, a trade or cash transaction may go down.

 

In Birmingham, the power to assign lockers is mine!…. Kinda by default. In 2009, my first season here, I put locker nameplates up before the team arrived. I went with the alphabetical-by-position approach. A couple guys switched, but there was no mutiny.

Last year, the power was mine again, but I decided to let the players choose. On one of the last days before the team broke camp and I had a relatively certain roster, I started texting and calling guys who were here the previous year, seniority. I started by getting in touch with the guys who had been here the longest and/or been the best tippers in the past. Seniority pays, and so does gratitude. The guys made their choices based on the couches, the ping-pong table, the corners and the ends, and their potential neighbors. It took about half a day to get in touch with everybody and organize so everyone could be where and next to who they wanted.

I could have gone with the easier do-it-myself numerical approach, but doing it this system was fun! It was also a good way for me to reconnect with some guys I hadn’t seen or talked to in a few months. When I player walked in and saw his locker exactly where he wanted it, winks and smiles were exchanged.

I think my method is good for the team, too. A guy may be in the dumps a little about his second or third season in Double-A, but getting that clubhouse real estate exactly where you want is a relief. The season’s long enough, comfortability is a must-have.

I’m going to do the same thing this year. As soon as I get my hands on a somewhat final roster, I’m going to make some calls. I’ve already had a text exchange with one player who said he knows he’s coming back.

He asked me politely for his old locker back, and said “See if you can put [Player A] and [Player B] near me too.”

I replied “[Player A] and [Player B] already asked me not to put them by you.”

See? I told you it was fun!

 

Empty Clubhouse.jpg

I Want to be a Lifer – Infield Singles

I accomplished a good bit in my second day at the ballpark, I’m kinda proud of myself. Proud enough to sit back, pop open a cold cheap beer, and watch some replayed spring training baseball. May as well be a little productive and produce a blog, right? Let me briefly introduce you to a couple of guys I admire, two guys whose names you will see here many times this season.

 

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Ken Dunlap is the Birmingham Barons Visiting Clubhouse Manager. Ken’s worked in the Barons’ clubhouses in some capacity since 1994, the Michael Jordan year. He is truly the most interesting man alive. His stories are top notch. Most of them can’t leave this ballpark basement, but one of my favorites is safe for me to retell.

Pete Rose Jr. played for the Birmingham Barons in 1995 and ’96. Those were back in the days before cellphones. Every clubhouse had a pay phone or two that always had a line of players, and was always littered with spent long distance calling cards. The phone would ring ever ynow and then with incoming calls too. Rule of thumb was who ever was closest answered it. The pay phone rang one afternoon, Ken answered it.The conversation went like this:

“Hello, Barons’ clubhouse?”

“Hey, is Pete Jr. around?”

“I’ll get him for you. Can I ask who’s calling?”

“Tell him his dad’s on the phone.”

Ken Dunlap was on the phone with THE Pete Rose. This was the mid 90’s when Rose still at the top of national news stories. Even if you weren’t a baseball fan at all, you still knew who Pete Rose was. Not to mention the fact that he is one of the greatest players of all time and holds that all-time hit record.

Pete was slightly before my time, but he was one of the best in the game back when Ken was coming into his prime as a baseball fan. It’d have to be the equivalent me talking to Ken Griffey Jr, Roger Clemens, or Cal Ripken. Wow.

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Curt Bloom. If you ever run into this guy at Regions Park or any other park in the SL, stop him and talk to him. 2011 will be CB’s twentieth year as the radio voice of the Barons. Unlike myself or Ken, his job is to actually watch the games and talk about him. Every home and away game the Barons have played the last twenty years. How many? Roughly 2800 games.

But he doesn’t only watch and talk about the games, he meets and learns every player that comes in this clubhouse, often a few that are in the opposing clubhouse too. How many is that? Barons, plus a handful of visitors, I’d guesstimate at least 700, easy.

You can imagine the stories that this man has in his brain. The great part is, the man is a paid talker, and he is damn good at it. He can take those stories out of his brain and send words out of his mouth like few people I have ever met. All you have to do is stop him, talk to him, and let him take care of the rest.

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Back to the Action – Infield Singles

Today was my first day back at the ballpark. You’d think I’d be excited to be back at the baseball job after five months at sub-awesome jobs. You’d be correct. I’d love to say I missed everything about this place, but I’ll settle for saying I missed almost everything.

 

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The first thing that hit me when I took the elevator to the clubhouse level, before I even saw the field, was the smell. The smell is awesome. It’s a mix between musty lack of circulation, cut grass, and leather. Even though this ballpark hasn’t seen baseball since the first of September, the smell of leather never leaves.

My first season working in the clubhouse at the Hoover Met Regions Park was 2001. I remember when Chris Jenkins, the director of stadium operations at the time, took me down the elevator to the lobby between the clubhouses. I remember the carpet, I remember the excitment of hoping to get hired, I remember it being dark until he hit the light switch, I remember the sound of him unlocking the clubhouse door, and I remember the smell. After the 2001 season, I took an eight year hiatus from the Birmingham Barons to work with other teams and pursue other careers. When I returned to Regions Park on March 30th, 2009, it caught my attention that the smell of the clubhouse was the same as it was when I had left.

 

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It’s March 21st, my team arrives from Arizona on April 1st. That leaves me ten calendar days to get this place ready to rock and roll. Doesn’t sound bad, till you see my list of things to do and consider that I still have a forty hour work week left at one of my offseason jobs.

By the end of this week, I hope to have the coolers cleaned, carpets vacummed, 3000 pounds of weights put in place, table put where their supposed to be, cable and wi-fi hooked up, the fridge sanitized, towels rewashed and folded, the tunnel blown, the dugout hosed, the showers scrubbed, the plates purchased, fifty cases of bottled water bought, chairs in place, the ping pong table stocked and set up, chairs in lockers, hangers hanging, a new George Foreman grill hooked up, trash cans lined, food serving tables set, boxes upon boxes of bats organized and locked away,  balls locked away, my personal clothes hung, cardio equipment put in place, bench cups put in place, the dryer fixed, a washer replaced, a flat bed cart “borrowed,” TP filled, couches couchified, and pass lists copied.

If I get all of that done by Monday, next week I can organize the uniforms, hang the boxes full of balled up pants, put away the equipment truck (which delivers the trainer’s stuff, pitching machines, ball bags, hitting tees and screens, back up helmets, coaches’ luggage, more balls, more bats,….), assign lockers, procure hats, pass out socks and belts, buy the food, talk to the caterers, purchase the toiletries, and print and post the locker plates.

 

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The main problem that I’m having right now is a traffic-of-stuff gridlock.  

Examples:

The stuff that’s crammed in the managers office needs to go in the corner of the food room. The stuff in the corner of the food room needs to go into the training room.

The stuff on in the cage needs to go into the locker room, but it’s path is blocked by stuff that needs to go in the cage.

The stuff on the front wall of the food room needs to go on the right wall, which is occupied by the stuff our front office is storing there.

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Yeah, I’m getting excited now, it’s hit me a little bit. Baseball season is around the corner and I’m back at my career. To be honest, I’m a little surprised by how excited I’m not. I thought I’d be busting at the seams or trying not to pee my pants. Last year, I was a little more excited on “Back to the Action” Day than I was this year, but the real excitement came when my players arrived, I’m sure it’ll be the same this year.

I’ll probably ride the bus to the airport to pick the guys up this year. I didn’t last year, I had too much work to do. Last year, I was waiting in the parking lot when the bus pulled up. I was still a little nervous because I didn’t feel like I was ready yet. Still had things I had wanted to accomplish before the team pulled up. 

Then, I saw my dudes, and life was good. A few of my faves from ’09 were back. Matt Long, Johnnie Lowe, Jared Price, Jim Gallagher, Kyle McCulloch, Jhonny Nunez, Christian Marrero, and Charlie Shirek were all here again. Life was awesome. We had a few new guys who seemed friendly too. I hit it off with Dale Mollenhauer and Tyson Corley on the first day.

I can’t wait to see who we have this year. The Chicago White Sox know how to drafted superb men.

 

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I’ve been hit with this question a lot the last couple of months:

“Who’s gonna be back this year?”

I don’t know. I will not know for sure who is going to be back in Birmingham this year until they are on the plane from Phoenix. I could speculate with the best of em, but what’s the point? It may kill a little time in the offseason, but I’ll just wait and see.

 

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Another question I hear often:

“Who do you want to come back this year?”

Easy and honest answer: None of em. I would love to see each of the guys who have passed thru here in Chicago next year. Seriously. Yeah, I’ve have my favorites that I’d love to have in my clubhouse everyday, but I’d rather be watching them on television.

 

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One last thing.

Prior to the 2009 season, the Birmingham Barons played an exhibition game versus the University of Montevallo baseball team. Montevallo is a Division-II school from down the road in…… Montevallo.

The Barons pitched nine pitchers that night, one each inning, to give their guys a little work. The Barons one-hit the Falcons that night. Carlos Torres was the pitcher who gave up the one hit. After the exhibition game, Carlos Torres was promoted to Charlotte and later was promoted to the Big Leagues.

Carlos Torres was statistically the worst of nine pitchers that night, and he earned a promotion.

 

Life, Love, and the Single Clubbie

This will be the most personal blog I ever write. I was very hesitant to make this much of my life public domain, but it seemed like people want to know about not only my job, but my life and how it’s affected by my job. So, here is a look at

Life, Love, and the Single Clubbie

In my experience, there is one factor that can make or break a relationship above all others. Time. How much time you have to give to you significant other and how much time they have to give to you heavily influences both parties happiness and satisfaction in a relationship.

It’s a two way street. Not only do you have to have enough time to devote to the relationship, you also have to have a reasonable expectation of the amount of time your partner should have to devote to you. If one partner has a significantly less or more amount of time, no good. You’ve all probably been there.

“Why doesn’t my bf/gf want to spend time with me? [sobbing] I never see them!” Or, the opposite. “My bf/gf expects too much of me. I’m in school and I work. Stage Six Clinger.”

My life has two different halves; baseball season and the offseason. Not only is the weather different in both of seasons, the allotment of free time that I have is vastly different. During baseball season, I work ridiculous hours for five or six days. I’m almost completely unavailable during game days, not even for quick lunchtime rendezvous . However, after those five or six days, I am off work for three or four consecutive days and am completely UNunavailable….. I mean, available. I can do my own thing, or I can be completely involved with a female person. The amount of time that I have to give is limitless, for three or four days.

Is that kind of schedule conducive to building a healthy foundation for a relationship? I’m still trying to figure that out. “I guess not,” may be my honest answer.

September rolls around, and that’s when the seasons begin to change. After such an intense six month baseball season, I usually take a month vacation before I run out of funds and find a lame-o off season job (future blog teaser.) During that month, I have all the time in the world! I can do my own thang or dedicate as many hours as I want to a specific chica and/or chicas. I have a little money in my pocket, so I can even wine and dine pretty well!. We can take a little vacation type thing together and the relationship can be whatever we decide it should be.

Not too bad to lay the foundation to form a quality relationship, huh? Maybe, but the temp’s about to change from warm to cold.

The roadblock that I usually encounter is the change from vacation to the offseason. The offseason officially begins when I have to go back to a forty hour a week work schedule like a normal civilian. The jobs that I find (same future blog teaser) usually aren’t routine 9 to 5ers though. If any of you have ever work in restaurants, retail, or any other job where you don’t have a set schedule, you know that it’s not the easiest thing to juggle a work schedule and a relationship. Still, it’s only forty or fifty hours of work a week with a few off days thrown in there.

It’s not so much the time factor of baseball season or the time factor of the offseason that is the kiss of death for my relationships, it’s the TRANSITION between the two. It’s the transition between having entire days off for whatever to working odd hours and rarely having days off. Or it’s the transition from being available to hang out at night or in the afternoon to disappearing for five or more days. Girls don’t handle that change well, I don’t blame them, I don’t always handle it well either.

Over the past three and a half years, three seasons and four offseasons, I have never been talking a girl in March, and still been talking to her in May. Conversely, I have never been talking to a girl in August, and still been talking to her by October.

I didn’t want this post to sound too much like a personal ad, “Looking for baseball fan. Must be low maintainance, and have a flexible schedule.” I think I’ve succeeded at that.

I want to finish by saying that I am happy with my life. After a few years of doing this, I realize that I may be choosing my career over a conventional relationship. I wish it didn’t have to be that way. I wish I didn’t have to choose. But it is what it is. (Man I really hate that overused phrase.)

The Timing Couldn’t Be Better

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.

Anyway….

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:

R.B.I. – http://mlb.mlb.com/mlb/official_info/community/rbi.jsp

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/

 

 

 

WTH is a Clubbie?

 

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.

 

 The End 

 

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

 

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