From the sidelines
The world is right, as major league baseball season has officially started. I spent 11 years of my summers working in minor league baseball from the roads of the Appalachian League to the Carolinas, selling billboards and organizing specialty nights.
There were also two summers dressing up as the baseball nut mascot for the Salem Avalanche. It wasn’t a bad gig after being Radford University’s Rowdy Red for three years. I got to entertain the crowd and mess with friends that never knew I was the mascot.
In addition, I got to rub elbows with lots of up-and-coming players that spent time developing their skill in the minors.
I became a Chicago Cubs fan out of high school when I worked as a field supervisor for the Wytheville Cubs, becoming friends with Wytheville pitcher John Greene, whose father, Dallas, at the time, was the general manager of the big league club.
John would call his dad during a game at Wrigley Field as we sat in the corner of the bullpen of then-Withers Field in Wytheville.
Those years of the baseball bug were supplemented as I worked as a student in the Radford University sports information office. I saw a club team become a small college Division I program.
Over the years, I have collected my share of souvenirs and the house shows it today. There is the Philadelphia Phillies jersey that RU turned into their first college jersey after the major league team donated uniforms to the school, an Ichiro jersey from when I worked for the Pulaski Mariners, first year baseball cards of many of those rookie league players, a Salem Pirate figurine, a coveted pair of Keith Moreland (Cubs) cleats that he gave to me during spring training in Mesa Arizona and plenty of signed baseballs.
I know that might not mean anything to others, but to me, they are memories—memories of times when I became a true baseball fan.
I never was that good of a baseball player growing up. Yes, I played in the sandlot recreation leagues and dreamed of being another Pete Rose, but that never happened.
So, in so many ways, working in the minors was my way of experiencing the game itself.
One of the big steps that I took several years ago was to become an umpire. It now allows me to see the game from a very different perspective. It doesn’t matter that not everyone is going to like what I call, and you have to have thick skin.
But for me, it’s all about being involved in my favorite pastime—baseball.
Take my advice and catch a game whether it’s a MLB or ones this summer in Salem or Pulaski, or maybe a high school game this spring or even a little league contest later this summer. It’s something that might make memories for a lifetime.
Enjoy a ball game.
And go Cubs! It’s repeat time.