Monday, June 17, 2019

Gasp! I Have a Summer Job!

I just finished my nineteenth year of teaching and the last time I had a summer job was back in 2001 when I taught 3rd graders during summer school. Yikes! That was an experience!

Generally, my normal school year doesn't end until late May and then things start up again in late July with junior high softball tryouts. There's typically a six week window during June and July where I'm doing some summer coaching, but not this year. School affiliated summer baseball is dying in central Illinois, but that's a story for another day.
My view from my work station.
A former player of mine is slowly working his way into baseball and he inspired me to give my longtime dream of working in baseball a chance. Knowing ahead of time that I wouldn't have my typical summertime coaching responsibilities I applied with the Peoria Chiefs for a summer job.

I had grand ideas of being the official scorer, but my spring and fall coaching duties conflicted with the Chiefs' schedule of games quite a bit and that bubble burst fairly quickly.

I'm a Data Entry guy! I found my niche with the TrackMan system the Chiefs use.
TrackMan tracks all kinds of numbers and I love it!
A Bradley University intern worked the TrackMan system most of April and May and I filled in a couple of times when needed. The intern graduated and moved back home so now I'm one of four guys who works on a rotating schedule to operate the TrackMan system. As of this post I've worked five games in June and eight overall.

I have a badge!
I clock in about thirty minutes prior to first pitch and enter the starting lineups into the computer.

In general, I'm responsible for numbers 1 through 4, in the picture below, during the game. The main two I spend most of my time are #2 and #3, which includes the umpire's call of each pitch or the outcome of the ball put in play and identifying the pitch type. Pitch types can be tricky!
I watch each pitch live, but sometimes it's difficult to determine the difference between pitches so I look at the data the TrackMan system gives me with each pitch. The velocity and spin rates of each pitch are often good indicators. Once I combine the numbers with my veteran eye I usually can tell the difference between a fastball, slider, curveball and changeup. There are other options, but I'm not privy to information on the movement of the pitch so I try to stay away from sinkers, cutters and splitters.

At the end of the game I upload the data into the system and after it's "cleaned" by the TrackMan staff it is then sent to the Chiefs and Cardinals to digest and dissect. I'm usually clocking out and walking to the parking lot about five minutes after the conclusion of the game.

 Here's a picture of my work station.
The dry erase board is for the radio broadcast. When a home run is hit I'm supposed to write down the distance of the homer and the exit velocity off the bat and show it to guys in the booths to my right (visiting broadcast) and left (home broadcast).

The two gentlemen in front of me run the live GameCast of the game for internet viewers and Dozer Park's scoreboard. The guy on the left has another career and just does this for fun and extra spending money. The gentleman on the right is working for a living in baseball. He does three innings of radio, is in charge of the post game summary and numerous other jobs. They are both twenty-something guys and love to talk baseball, food and women. For the most part I just play the role of "fly on the wall" but occasionally I'll chime in or I'll be asked to settle a debate. For instance, last Monday they asked me to settle the hot dog condiment debate! LOL

The red pieces of paper on the tabletop are "Chiefs Bucks" that I may use how I see fit. I get $10 each day to spend on concessions. Nice perk!

In summary, I get paid to watch baseball. I also get the behind-the-curtains view of how a minor league baseball staff produces its product on game day. Baseball talk and other musings keep me entertained between innings and I also get some coupons to spend on ballpark food.

I'm really enjoying it and am hopeful that I'll be lucky enough to continue working this position during upcoming seasons. For yours truly, it's like the best summer job ever!


  1. Congratulations! Paid to watch baseball? That's the real American dream right there!

  2. They always say do what you love and you'll never work a day in your life. Doesn't get much better than that!

  3. Woof, I'm even more glad that you got me the Gorman because I'm pretty sure you wouldn't be allowed to now :).

    Congrats on the summer gig, very cool to say that I know someone who works in an org's analytics department (kinda).

    1. Yeah, obtaining autographs as an employee is definitely frowned upon. I'm glad I was able to secure this one while in street clothes before anyone was able to recognize me as an employee.

  4. Congratulations! Now that's what I call an awesome summer job!

  5. That is so cool, I am glad you got the opportunity.

  6. What an awesome way to spend the summer. Sounds like a blast!

  7. I think that is every fan's dream job. How accurate is the radar gun at Dozer Park? I was there for Sunday's game and noticed Chiefs reliever Tabata threw a pitched that flashed 101. I would believe low to mid 90s, but not 101.

    1. Tabata has a live arm for sure, but it's not 101. I have seen Tabata throw throw a couple of time when I've been "working" and if I recall correctly TrackMan never has had him higher than 96.

      I'm actually privy to three different sources for MPH for every pitch. The scoreboard usually fluctuates the most and I would say it is the least accurate of the three. There are occasions when all three lineup, but it's pretty infrequent.

  8. That is one cool Summer job! Sure not your grandfather's game behind the scenes is it?

  9. What a great summerjob. When I retired from the Guard, I tried getting a writer's position with the I-Cubs. Despite my years of writing experience (eventhough I spent myfirstfour years on a sports stff), they said hadn't done enough baseball. Good on you!

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  11. I'd have a tough time with discerning pitch types. It's definitely an area of weakness in my baseball fandom. Congrats on the gig though!