One of the first roles in my professional career was a front office internship with the Trenton Thunder, a minor league affiliate of the New York Yankees. It was a phenomenal experience that has left a lasting impact on on my career—in terms of how I think about topics like teamwork, work ethic, and customer service.
As minor league baseball takes a hiatus amidst the COVID-19 crisis, I thought I’d share a few thoughts about what I learned during my “cup of coffee” in the minors—albeit in the front office and not on the field.
Lesson #1: Everybody pulls the tarp! On my first day in the Thunder front office my supervisor told me to keep an extra pair of clothes at the ballpark so I could help the grounds crew pull the tarp on and off the field when it rained. I learned that minor league organizations have much smaller grounds crews than their MLB counterparts. The field is still the same size and the same work needs to be done—but there are a lot less people to do it. It doesn’t matter what your “job” is, everyone in the organization top to bottom helps. This ingrained in me a philosophy that the best teams and organizations are powered by individuals who contribute in unexpected ways.
It inspired me to launch Everybody Pulls The Tarp, a weekly show & podcast where I interview inspirational leaders in sports, entertainment, and business about leadership, work ethic, productivity, and teamwork. You can watch all of the recent episodes here and on Instagram—or listen on Apple Podcasts and Spotify.
Lesson #2: Most fans don’t know who wins the game! It’s not about wins and losses—the game is customer experience. Early on in my days interacting with Thunder fans, I realized that many (perhaps most) of the fans at a minor league baseball stadium don’t remember the final score of the games. Unlike major league baseball fans, a lot of people at a minor league baseball game are there for the customer/fan experience. They are there to spend quality time with family & friends—at a great price point and have some fun. Customer service is king in minor league baseball. We would always try to go the extra mile to make sure each and every fan had the perfect experience. I recall a few instances where I saw a child who just missed catching a foul ball. Afterwards, I would grab an old game baseball and bring it to the child. Things like that would make their day.
Lesson #3: Hit me with your best shot! For 10 days while the Trenton Thunder mascot was away on his honeymoon, the organization asked me to play the role of understudy for Boomer, the legendary thunderbird mascot. Days as the mascot—especially 95+ degree summer days with thousands of kids clamoring for you—can be really challenging. To that end, one evening I had the chance to ride as Boomer in a H2 Hummer slinging t-shirts into a sellout crowd with Pat Benatar’s “Hit Me With Your Best Shot” blaring across the stadium. The fans were screaming and my heart was pumping as I fired the t-shirts all over the place. I won’t forget the adrenaline rush—and won’t ever forget that the most important thing each day is to let yourself have a little fun (and keep your customers happy!).
What lessons from previous career experiences have left a lasting impression on you?