Working for baseball team provides inside peek at boys of summer

Despite the shabby weather Monday and despite the Twins’ perpetual suckitude, this time of year is still baseball time to me. Maybe you’ve noticed the topics in our columns over the last few months — we all like to write about baseball.
But it’s funny to see things from the other side of the fence, an opportunity I had last summer.
Last summer, I had the internship that many marketing majors and business majors would probably covet. I had the internship that baseball fans would drool over. I was a front-office intern for the St. Paul Saints.
You’ve probably heard enough about the Saints in the past, but for the uninitiated, a quick history. The Saints are an independent, minor league team owned (partly) by actor Bill Murray and baseball veteran Mike Veeck. Daryl Strawberry played for the Saints in ’96 and J.D. Drew in ’97.
This is the team that gave away dollar bills last summer. They have a fishhouse from where you can watch games in left field. On the outside, it looks like a pretty zany place to work.
But things look a little different when you’re the one running the asylum. After last summer, I came to two conclusions about working for a baseball team:
1. As someone who gets stadium food for free, you can make it through an entire summer without buying groceries.
2. Working in baseball probably isn’t as much fun as you might think.
I get it all the time when I talk about my experience. People just assume that when working for the Saints, the entire office is a wacky, Pee-Wee Herman-esque affair.
Don’t get me wrong; I enjoyed the people and the atmosphere. But baseball is a business. That’s not a shock; I knew that before I took the job. But it’s different to see it in living color.
If you like working for businesses, maybe a baseball job isn’t such a bad idea. But it can be nothing short of painful for someone who has no interest in corporate reports or advertising.
But while the days were frequently boring (and unbearably hot in a ticket office with no air conditioning), game nights were often electric. As slow as it can be during the day, game time is fun time. The staff was known to have water-gun fights in the middle of games.
It was the best job in the world during games. Watching overweight 40-year-olds try to sumo wrestle in July, getting booed off the field by drunken fans, chucking bags of free peanuts into the stands — it was nothing short of the best time around.
And then, at 9 a.m. the next day, the front-office staff was back at the park, roasting in the heat upstairs. Most of the staff stayed up late, taking advantage of summer. Some would hop in the hot tub late at night or sing karaoke until the wee hours of the night.
We weren’t a well-rested group.
I never fit in with the Saints. Some would say I was a wuss and wouldn’t stay out late, some would say I had too many other obligations, and some would say I was the worst intern ever. Whatever the case, I never could quite meld into the weird pseudo-business world of the Saints.
It was strange on the other side. I was accused a few times of being a “groupie.” That’s not entirely inaccurate — I was in baseball-fan hog heaven for most of the summer. I liked seeing the strange parade of stars, baseball and non-baseball alike, who came by last summer.
For instance, one day my job was to go shoot an on-field promotion with AndrÇ Dawson. The Hawk. This is a guy I watched as I was growing up.
My job was to shoot pictures — “proofs” as they’re called — to prove to the sponsor of the promotion that they were, in fact, at our ballpark, in case they forgot. Just one of the glorious jobs we had to do for the business side of things.
About halfway through the promotion, I realized I was standing about five feet from The Hawk, a guy I alternately rooted for or against, depending on what team he was with. I wanted to shake his hand. I wanted to ask him why he was doing a promotion for a liquor company where the goal was to strike him out — which the contest-winning pitchers did with alarming frequency. I wanted to hear his story.
But that wasn’t part of my job. I didn’t get to talk to him or many of the other people who happened by with stories to tell. Working for a baseball team can be a lot of fun; it’s just hard to be a fan at the same time.

Jim Schortemeyer is the sports editor and welcomes comments at [email protected]