Thursday, May 30, 2013

Behind-the-Scenes in Major League Baseball - The Beginning

Billy Martin and Jim Devitt, circa 1979

Wow, it's been over 30 years since I was a batboy in the visiting clubhouse for the Seattle Mariners. That time of my life had a huge impact on me—working on the field in Major League Baseball, dealing with million dollar athletes, and picking up jockstraps in the clubhouse while participating in an exclusive club. 

The first question people ask is, "How did you get the job?" Most don't believe the answer. I got the job through a contest sponsored by the Seattle Times and the Seattle Mariners. I submitted an essay on "Why I wanted to be a batboy for the Mariners." Ten finalists were picked based on the essays and then we went through a series of interviews. 

I didn't realize how lucky I was at the time, or, maybe I did. It's hard to tell. I had one of 28 jobs in the country. There's so many stories to tell from behind-the-scenes. You can find a bunch of these stories intertwined in the Van Stone novel, The Card. However, many more can't be told in a teen novel or just didn't fit the flow of the book. I figured that this would be a good place to fill you in on some of those times. 

There's no better place to start than the beginning. In the first draft of THE CARD (A Van Stone Novel) , I had a scene that was a little too much back-story and never made the cut in the book. I edited it out during the first revision. It's a mostly true accounting of the interview process with the Mariners.

Consider this something like "Deleted Scenes" from the DVD. Here it is in all its unedited glory! 

… You see, I’m a batboy, and not even a batboy for the home town Seattle Mariners, but for the visiting teams coming in to town. Today I’m wearing an Oakland A’s uniform. To be honest with you, I have no idea what I’m doing. This is my first day in the “Bigs,” the “Big Show.” Describing me as nervous is probably an understatement.  After all, three weeks ago, I was trying to decide what I would do all summer, well that, and playing Xbox.

    I barely remember that day, I was sifting through the sports section, checking out the spring training stats and there it was, Boy’s/Girl’s, enter for a chance to be batboy or ballgirl for the home town team”. On closer inspection, I saw that just by entering, I would win four box seats to a game! Sweet, I was all over that, I loved going to Mariner’s games. All I had to do was write an essay on why I wanted to be a batboy for the Mariners. I sat at the computer and typed out a brief story, filled out my entry form, and promptly forgot about it. About a week later, I get a call from the Seattle Mariners.

     “You’ve been selected as one of the top ten finalist, we would like to have you come in for an interview.”

     Unbelievable, this is the biggest opportunity that I’ve ever had! Only friends and relatives of the team ever get the chance to be a batboy! I could break into the inner sanctum of Major League Baseball. Imagine, hanging out with multi-million dollar ballplayers, being on the field at games, and who knows maybe even getting a crack at the Major’s myself. I’d never been to an interview like this before, who would I interview with, what would I wear, and what questions would be asked? On the day of the interview, I was a mess.

       When I arrived at the team’s offices, I looked around the room at the other nine finalists. Sizing up the competition, I really started to get nervous. One kid looked like he just walked out of an Abercrombie commercial, another straight from J. Crew, and of course you had Mr. Under Armour, who looked like he could rip your head off. Boy was I out of my league. Most people looking at me wouldn’t think I was 16 years old. As a sophomore in high school, I am probably a little taller than most 10th graders, and I still have that sort of clumsy way about me. My curly hair and cracking voice is a dead giveaway that I’m not used to the limelight. But, the one thing I do have is a brain. When it’s my turn, I’m going to nail this interview.

     I sat in the waiting room as one by one the candidates went in the conference room, all I could hear was the muted noise of traffic on the street below, the muffled cough of someone down the hall, and the tick, tick, tick of the logo clock on the wall. Little by little, each candidate left without a smile, goodbye or wave, just a bug-eyed look of bewilderment. 

     “Van Stone,” the very professional lady uttered as she made a check mark on her clipboard.

       “Uh, that’s me!” Gulp, here goes nothing, I thought. I walked into the room and looked around. The conference table was so shiny that I could see myself like looking into a mirror. There was that strange feeling of coolness that you feel when you walk into a place so plush with carpets and comfy chairs that it absorbs all sound. The very professional lady closed the door behind me as if it were an airlock in a decompression chamber, and stepped off to the side like a sentry standing guard. The three men in the room were all smiling at me as I was invited to climb into a chair.

     After an exchange of pleasantries, they opened fire with questions. I felt as if I were in the speed round of a game show. I rattled off answers like someone with Google overload. Honesty, integrity, work ethic, punctuality, respect, honesty again, no problem working late, integrity again, all came out of my mouth like a reflex. 

     “Thank you for your time Van, we’ll be in touch,” the apparent head honcho said after only about 10 minutes.

     I got up and was escorted out by the very professional sentry lady, and now I understood the look on the other candidates faces. What had just happened in there?

     Over the next three weeks, I attended two more interviews until it was down to me and one other kid. That time they invited me into the same interview room, gave me a jersey and congratulated me on becoming the newest Seattle Mariners Baseball Club Batboy …

is the author of the #1 Kindle Bestselling Young Adult novel, The Card. He's also a healthcare consultant specializing in helping healthcare companies and practices develop a social media marketing platform, and maximize cash flow. You can find him posting weekly to Indies Unlimited and occasionally as a contributor on Yahoo!


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