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