Minor league baseball is a place that reminds me of the Wild West. While there are basic guidelines as to how everything runs, there are a lot of personalities and room for creativity where every day is different. I’ve been lucky enough to spend three seasons in this traveling circus and have had many unique experiences, good and bad.
My first season saw me in the Texas League. It was the first time I’d ever worked with professional athletes and I was nervous. But it quickly wore off after one of the players snuck up behind me making elephant arm fart noises while I was waiting to do an interview. And I felt like could fit in with the merry band of misfits after watching someone hide an Albert Pujols standup in the ballpark because the Cardinals beat the Rangers in the World Series.
That season I got to write about everything under the sun from connecting the team to Kevin Bacon to Roy Oswalt’s rehab stint. I got to do a photo shoot setting a player’s bat on fire. (We had to do it in the player’s tunnel so we didn’t set the field on fire since it was so windy.)
While most of my experiences there were good, there was also some bad. I had other sportswriters tell me I didn’t belong and that I had no idea what I was doing. Some of them were verbally abusive to me when we were on the field doing interviews during batting practice. The coaches and players saw this. Steve Buechele was my hero that day telling them to leave me alone and that I was doing a good job. When they walked away, he said if they ever gave me any trouble, I could come to him.
Perhaps the worst incident that season was whenever we had a player make his MLB debut and was sent to the minors for playoffs. I hadn’t seen him in three months. During batting practice, he came over, gave a quick hug hello, and we talked about his debut and how his family was. I went back up to the press box and was accused of sleeping with the player. It felt like a slap in the face. I was just being friendly and all of the sudden, everyone turned on me. The next day, Steve Buechele flagged me down to talk. He said he had heard what happened and wanted to let me know that him and the rest of the team supported me. They had seen the way I conducted myself throughout the season and knew I was there for the right reasons. It lifted my spirits but I still felt uneasy going back into the press box.
Fast forward to my second season in the Pioneer League. I wore every hat under the sun balancing writing, ticketing, grounds crew, street team, etc. You name it, I did it. I learned how to prep a field and set up the ticketing system. It was a season of learning and I continued writing. But this season, I was the only female working for the team. You don’t realize how nice it is to have that kind of support until it’s not there. I was on my own and once again took a lot of verbal abuse. The interns took turns driving vans of players from the ballpark to the hotel after the games. The clubhouse was a separate building with no tunnel. I sat outside the clubhouse on the groundskeeper’s tractor waiting for the clubhouse manager to hand me the van keys. A few sportswriters came out of the clubhouse and accused me of trying to stalk the players. I said I was waiting for van keys and as I told them, the clubbie came out with them and I went to the van. Thankfully, the coaches and players came to my defense and protected me once again.
You could tell there was some tension between the team and the front office and somehow I ended up being the middle woman. It led to some cool memories. I took player headshots for the website and we had three new guys join the team. One of them didn’t like his first shot and it became a Zoolander photo shoot. Another night, we had Spiderman throw out the first pitch but he didn’t have a glove so one of our outfielders let him borrow a glove. He was stoked saying now his glove had superpowers.
This past season, I was in the Midwest League. I spent most of my time writing, working in the box office, and going to community events. I went to an elementary school as the team mascot. My handler and I were walking around the track when I thought I felt something touch my crotch. The next thing I know, a little kid is running away yelling “Rascal’s a girl. He doesn’t have a thingy.” No one could see my face under the huge raccoon head but I was so embarrassed and trying not to laugh.
I also wrote for the team program and got to know some of the players. The news broke that Alex Bregman would be joining our team and autograph hounds were waiting outside the front of the ballpark. I could see them from the box office window where I was working. A group of three ballplayers were walking in from the parking lot whenever they were stopped. The man asked all three of them if they were Alex. When they said no, the man said he didn’t want their autograph. I felt so bad for them. A week later, we were giving away team photos so after the game, I went up to them with the photo and a Sharpie and was like you guys aren’t Alex? Will you sign my photo? They laughed pretty hard and I was glad to cheer them up.
There are so many stories I could share from working in minor league baseball. It’s definitely an adventure and moving across the country feels like you’re a gypsy but through the ups and downs, I have loved every minute of it and hope to continue my career in the minors.