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.
Clubhouse manangement is not for anybody who’s seeking a Monday thru Friday 9-to-5er. This job couldn’t possibly be anything further than a 9-to-5er, and it likely couldn’t be anything further from routine. Sure, the majority of a professional baseball team’s games are going to be at 7:05, but the ‘powers that be’ like to mix in occasional 12:35’s, 2:05’s and toss in a random 10:35am game here and there.
For a 7:05 game, I’ll get to work around 10am that morning. If I’m lucky, I’ll be done by 1am that night. If we go extra innings or Mother Nature decides she’s upset with me, I could be there till 4am. If there’s an 12:35er scheduled for tomorrow, I’ll be lucky if it’s 4am. By 8am the following morning, I’ve hit snooze three times and I’m getting started on my day. Work done at 5pm, boom, nap time.
My homestand “routine” is sandwiched between two always exciting bus days. The team bus will arrive back at the ballpark from a roadtrip sometime around…… whenever. If there was a day game in Huntsville, it may be 6pm. Extra inning rain delayed game in Carolina? They might be back 8am the following morning….. which may also be the day of another glorious 7:05 home game. Once the bus pulls in, it’s my resposibility to unload it, unpack the gear, and wash the laundry that’s been sitting underneath the bus for several hours. I shoot for getting it all accomplished in four hours. Maybe then I can sleep again, or maybe then I start getting ready for the next game.
Loading the bus is a lot more fun, it signifies my “Friday” and the beginning of my “weekend.”. The bus generally leaves the morning after the last game of the homestand (In the case of a longer bus ride, they may leave immediatley after the last game of the homestand.) If the bus is scheduled to depart the stadium at 8am, I’ll wake up around 6:30. 8:01, as soon as that bus leaves, boom, nap time. Nap time over around noon, or maybe 2:00, or maybe 5:00. I don’t really care, it’s the weekend!
If I punched an actual time card, it’d probably look a little like this:
Soooooo….. when the baseball season is over, do you think it’s pretty easy to adjust back to a human sleep schedule? You’re right, it’s not. For the first month or so, My internal clock still keeps me up till at least 2am every night. EVERY NIGHT. But I take a month vacation after the season, so it’s cool, I can sleep until noon everyday and that’s allowed. When October rolls around, it’s time to get back to work (AKA, a crappy offseason job.) I’m still staying up till 3am, even though I have to get up at 8am. The next night, even though I had to get up 8am that morning, I’m still up well past midnight. It’s usually not until December that I’ve adjusted to reality.
This offseason, however, is different. I can probably count the nights that I’ve been to bed before midnight on one hand. I may be tired, but I’m still reading a book, watching an old Kevin Smith movie, or catching up on baseball news till whenever o’clock a.m. Tonight, my insomnia enabled me to publish a blog about my insomnia at 1:30am.