Data Entry & Inventory at Lane Fire & Equipment: I’m making this a double-shot because they happened at the same time, and it’s my website so I can do what I want.
In between college and the real world was the odd Summer of 1998. From May through August I moved from Bowling Green into my parents home in the ‘burbs of Buffalo, New York. It was a good situation as I had landed an internship with the Buffalo Bisons, then the AAA affiliate of the Cleveland Indians, as a “broadcast and radio intern.”
As this was an unpaid position, I spent my mornings doing data entry at my Dad’s company, Lane Fire & Equipment. I don’t remember much , but it involved five or six hours of reading information, most likely sales and inventory, off of large 11×17 dot-matrix printed sheets and inputing into primative spreadsheets. It was time consuming and boring, but as the internship did not pay, this was survivable for three months.
Typically it would be 9am start at Lane, work until 2 or 3 in the afternoon, then hop in my car and fight the side-streets of Buffalo for an hour before arriving at the stadium. Most of the time I’d help one of the other interns print game day packets for the press box and then hit up buffet which always seemed to run low on these really good dinner rolls that were perfect for making sandwiches with the assorted hot and cold meats provided. I’d grab a seat in the press box and watch batting practice/warm-ups with the sports writers and various staff. Every once in awhile I’d get to do something interesting, more on that later.
The basics of the intership were this: throughout the game I manned a dot-matrix printer that pumped out by the minute scoring updates for games throughout major and minor league baseball. Today, this would be the replaced by the internet, but apparently ESPN.com had not yet rose to prominance. In between innings I ran a list of relevant scores into the play-by-play booth so Jim and Duke, the annoucer and color commentator, could have something to talk about during down time, of which there is plenty of in baseball.
Around the bottom of the eight inning I’d make my last trip to the play-by-play box and find out who the player of the game was (most likely) to be, grab a headset/microphone combo and a gift certificate to a local steak house and make my way to the behind home plate, waiting for the game to end. When the last out was called, the grounds crew would open the gate and I’d walk out on the field to find and escort the selected player of the game to the home dug out. I’d hook-up the headset/microphone to a connection box and the Jim and Duke would conduct a brief interview, concluding with me handing them a the gift certificate.
This all sounds simple, but it had it’s challenges. First, the player of the game could never be the opposing player at the end of a series. Why? Because that player is getting on a bus and leaving town in an hour, why would they want a gift certificate to a steak house they may never go to? Second, you had to grab players fast, because many of them hauled ass into the dug out and up into the club house.
One particular evening I had to track down the opposing pitcher who had been pulled before the last inning, upon the last out, made his way quickly to club house. By the time I tracked him down, he was already changing out of his uniform. He was none to happy to have to leave the club house and was a real asshole about having the indignity of putting his pants back on and walking fifty feet to spend a minute being interviewed and giving a free steak dinner. Really, the nerve of us. Actually, he was the only true asshole I encountered my entire time there, and many of the guys I met were truly good guys.
On Saturday afternoons Jim hosted a call-in show that featured interviews with players and a chance to talk to the G.M. Originally it was pitched like I would be able to come up with “show ideas” but it just turned into player wrangling, which meant heading down into the club house to find guys for interviews. I didn’t spend a whole lot of time in the club house, but my few times down there were memorable.
The first time I went my boss (Jim) had apparently mentioned to some of the players I was in a band, who upon meeting me grabbed an acoustic guitar out of some locker, a chair and ushered me into the large shower room “where the acoustics are better” and insisted I play songs for them. I think I got through Stone Temple Pilot’s “Plush” and Steve Ray Vaughn’s “Pride and Joy” before they decided I was either A) okay or B) not a good guitar player. I thought for sure it was a hazing and was going to get the showers turned on me, but it didn’t happen.
Towards the end of the intership I ended up in the coaches room with pitchers Rich Batchelor and Jason Grimsley and a couple of guitars. I dont’ recall what we jammed on, but I distinctly remember thinking what an odd scene it was and it would make a great story one day. And here we are.
Although I worked with the on-air broadcasters, I didn’t spend much actually being on air. Twice, while Jim stepped out and Duke took over the play-by-play, did I come in to read the out-of-town scoreboard and provide some nervous color commentary. I go into greater depth about it here, with audio clips to boot.
I didn’t get to travel with the team, but as game stats had to be faxed (!) to all the local media outlets after the games, that meant I had sit in the home press box alone, listen to the games and keep all the stats like it was live in front of me. Exciting stuff. Actually, the 1998 season had more than few interesting moments. Dwight Gooden, a superstar pitcher for the New York Mets in the ’80s was rehabbing his flailing career and ended up spending four games with the Bisons. You would have thought Elvis was in town.
Rex Hudler, a major league journeyman infielder nicknammed “Wonder Dog” who spent time with the Yankees, Orioles, Expos, Angels, Phillies and Cardinals signed with the Bisons mid-season only to quickly retire. Hudler was beloved. He started playing minor league ball at age 17 in 1978 and every sports writer knew he was class guy always willing to give a good interview. When he announced he was retiring, there was a press throng like I had never seen, and I ended up in the middle of it, holding a mic for Rex while he interviewed on the field from Jim in the press box prior to the game.
I didn’t have a lot of one-on-one interaction with the players, but one guy who was incredibly nice was veteran first-basemen Jeff Manto. It was a rainy Saturday, the prospects of playing the afternoon game long gone. Jim decided to interview Jeff, so I made my way to the club house and found Jeff drinking coffee and smoking while showering. That’s talent. He put on some shorts and t-shirt and we headed to the dug out for the headset hook-up. The interview went on for a while and when it was done we just sat there and shot the shit for awhile as the rain came down. He asked me about school and what I was doing after the internship, being in band, living in Buffalo, and I picked his brain about life in the majors and minors. He made time for an intern, and I always thought that was pretty nice considering most guys, some younger than me at that time, had chips on their shoulders about being pro-athletes.
Most of the time the job was, like baseball itself, fairly mundane spiked with only a few geniunely exciting or interesting moments, like getting to hang out in the dug out post game on July 4th and watch the fireworks go off overhead, or hearing Richie Sexson say during an interview that his favorite t.v. show was Baywatch.
Alas, the internship didn’t lead to a job, and my dozens of resumes mailed out across the country to professional and college sports teams and organizations landed nary a single interview. I enjoyed the opportunity but knew that my interest in music and my pursuit of a sports management job wouldn’t coexist in Buffalo, and so I made the decision to join my college friends and ex-bandmates in Columbus, the home of a minor 1990s musical movement and the large college campus in the country. Surely, there’d be something for me there.