Through my journey as the General Manager of the Hartford Yard Goats, I have the pleasure of speaking at many dinners, lunches, breakfasts, Rotary Clubs, Chambers, colleges and high schools. In the words of the late former mayor of Providence Rhode Island, Vincent “Buddy” Cianci, if there is a letter opening I’m there. Without fail, during the question and answer session, someone asks me something about baseball. Actual baseball. The game, not the business. And that’s a problem, because I don’t actually follow baseball.
I used to. In the late 90’s, when I was living in Boston, I went to more than 30 Red Sox games and followed every other game on radio or TV. I listened to sports talk radio throughout the day on a small transistor radio I carried around (it’s like ear buds, but bigger). I watched ESPN in the morning, and NESN in the afternoon. I chewed large wads of gum and kept it packed in my cheek. I obsessively adjusted my watch band in a ritualistic fashion when I stepped up to my desk at work. I played in 4 Fantasy Baseball leagues in 2006. I even wore a cap for a while. But then I went to work in baseball, and had kids, and I lost my ability to carve out 3 hours each night. I moved from the game stories in the newspaper, to the game notes, to the box score, then nothing. This is the way the world ends, not with a bang but a whimper.
“You work in baseball? Cool! You must have been a player! What did you play”?
“Guitar, occasionally bass”.
And yet I work in baseball. I practically live at a ballpark. My entire job is wrapped around the game. The irony will crush you if you allow it.
In reality, though, my job has almost nothing to do with baseball. I oversee sales and marketing for an entertainment venue, in to which people come to be entertained. For my purposes, the thing that happens on the field is secondary to the experience of the customer. It could be a football game, it could be a circus, it could be a concert. It just happens to be baseball. At the end of the day, I can’t always tell you if we win or lose… but I can tell you if we play extra innings. Because I have to stay later.
And this is an important thing to know, particularly if you’re interested in working in sports. Unless you’re going to work specifically in player development, there isn’t going to be a lot of sports in your sports job.
There is something, though. When the team is at home, and players begin to take the field for batting practice early afternoon, music wafting in through the PA and into my office, the hum of ballpark preparation… there’s an energy, an excitement. A sense of being part of something larger. And when the fans begin to enter through the gates in the evening, and I see the smiles and the look of wonderment on the faces of thousands of children… that’s what it’s all about. It’s what keeps me here. It’s not the baseball, it’s the game.