My internship with the Richmond Flying Squirrels was a tremendous experience, especially since I completely forgot I had even applied for it (more on that later).
The Double-A affiliate of the San Francisco Giants, the Flying Squirrels came to Richmond in 2010 by way of Connecticut, previously the Connecticut Defenders from 1995-2009. The city of Richmond had been synonymous with the Atlanta Braves organization for years, until 2008 when the team bolted for Gwinnett, Georgia due to on-going desire for a new stadium in Richmond hitting gridlock between the city and team.
So how did I get lucky enough to earn a summer adventure with a professional baseball team?
Well for starters, I applied. And then I kind of forgot about it.
[bctt tweet="What It's Really Like to Intern With a Pro Baseball Team #sportsbiz"]
Probably not what you’re expecting to hear, but I find it noteworthy. Having applied to numerous jobs and internships since my college days, the last thing you want to do is overwhelm your prospective employers. I was a senior in college, and though I needed an internship to graduate, I was also preoccupied with knocking out assignments for my last 3 college courses, as well as writing my senior thesis. Then one phone interview later, I was in.
I was told that I was the last intern accepted, bypassing the pain-staking wait that is usually sure to follow any interview. I couldn’t be more ecstatic. I was finally working in baseball. The minor league baseball season started in April, though I, as well as most of the interns, started well after the college semesters ended.
Interns worked all home game days and were expected to arrive three hours prior to first pitch.
Typically this would mean arriving at the stadium around 3:30 or 4:00 pm, aside from the occasional noon games, and getting home around midnight more often than not.
The first thing you locate upon arrival is the daily schedule, which is posted on the bulletin board and outlines pre-game roles including:
Each intern was assigned to work a specific job during games, usually rotating each series in small teams.
Most of the jobs revolved around stadium entertainment - working the kids zone, selling raffle tickets, soliciting fan participation - but the most valuable experience was learning Ticket Return software to sell game day tickets.
Gaining familiarity with this software added a marketable skill to my resume, while spending quality time with the sales group provided hands-on experience in customer relations and a deeper understanding of the technical side of selling seats.
In addition to the standard myriad of duties with the Squirrels, I worked on another project independently of the other interns.
Being a student of Longwood University, a small university in southern Virginia, interns within the communication studies program like myself had to tie an internship with the communications major.
Stefanie Sacks, the community relations coordinator for the team at the time, and the direct supervisor of the interns, assigned me the task of producing work samples to promote 80’s Movie Night at The Diamond. The work samples I produced included advertisements, press releases, in-game scoreboard slides, as well as writing up the scripts used on game days that detail everything that happens before, throughout, and after the game.
My work also included Facebook and Twitter social media samples.
Being involved in such an in-depth promotion helped me build my professional portfolio and gave me experience handling the many facets and layers of a event of this magnitude.
I had never done anything like it, and now I hope to do more of it.
Todd Parnell’s office was the place to be after home games. Parnell is the team Vice-President and most recognizable face in the organization; he had an open door policy that everyone took advantage of.
Even celebrity guests would find their way to "Parney's" office.
Kevin Nash, former wrestler and actor, told many stories but my personal thrill was when Giants starter Ryan Vogelsong was in town rehabbing from a broken finger suffered earlier in the season. He was the first major leaguer to rehab as a member of the Flying Squirrels, and after his first start, he came to hangout and chat in the small office.
I loved hanging around after games and it was these times, well past the time most of the interns had already left, that I had my most memorable networking moments.
Putting in a little extra time made a big difference.
In 2006, well before my internship with the Flying Squirrels, I wrote letters to every General Manager in Major League Baseball, including a few local teams.
Dave Dombrowski of the Detroit Tigers, and John Schuerholz of the Atlanta Braves were among the GM’s to write back and offer their advice. They explained you’re going to have to work your way up from the bottom, but above all they advised how important it is to get your education.
Former Potomac Nationals General Manager Bobby Holland once told me that he even ran the grill on game days, in addition to business-oriented tasks most accustomed to a General Manager.
It is a networking game.
There’s an understanding that you are going to have to work your way up. Of course that’s typically the case with any profession. But in sports, internships are huge.
Stick to the basics - internships and networking - you never know where it will take you.