With low pay and almost unprecedented long hours, Minor League Baseball may not seem like a great place to start in the job market. But, in 2012 when I had the opportunity to leave my agency job for a one in sports, I knew it was the right decision for my 24-year-old self. Here are five reasons why working for the Triple-A Indianapolis Indians was the best way to start my career.
Work hard, play hard
My first job with the Indians was an internship in 2011. Tarp pulls at 7:00 a.m. weren’t fun and yes, driving all around Indianapolis hand-delivering pocket schedules to businesses was the worst, but when it was closing time, we celebrated a hard day’s work. That spirit continued when I was hired full time. Whacking baseballs in the indoor cage, or running around the outfield chasing a soccer ball, or throwing back a few after a Friday night game with the staff, the ballpark as our backdrop are all are perks left unmentioned in the job description. It’s not all fun, of course. We string together 14-hour days for 12 or 13 days in a row a dozen times a year, losing our summers to baseball, but while there is a lot of non-fun things in this business, we’ve learned to manage it not only as a staff, but as friends. Working for a baseball team, particularly a minor league club where individuals are often asked to do much more than they can comfortably handle, establishes comradery and forges friendships that could only otherwise be achieved in war.
Trial by fire
There’s not much room for specialization in Minor League Baseball. MiLB teams are often short-staffed and the workload sometimes overbearing meaning employees are regularly working at or near capacity. It can be a high-stress environment. For me in the creative department, the life is particularly grueling January through June. The bad? One will have moments questioning whether or not working in sports is all it’s cracked up to be. The good? Anywhere you go after a stint in MiLB, you’ll know full well what long hours and hard work look like. If you can handle the minors, you can handle almost anything else the white collar job market can throw at you.
Freedom to dabble
When I was hired full time as a graphic designer in 2012, I was merely expected to put together flyers, brochures, and social media graphics. But, when I showed up to the game on Opening Day the following spring, I didn’t have anything to do. So, with every other department holding their own, I decided to grab my 10-year-old Canon 10D camera and start shooting. A month later I convinced the Indians to buy me a cheap 70-300mm lens so I could reach second base and thus conceived my career as a photographer. I spent the next three seasons acquiring equipment, becoming the go-to videographer, and taking on sole team photography responsibilities. It all led to my promotion to creative director Fall 2016. Looking back, I could have easily spent Opening Day roving between departments filling in when someone had to grab a dinner or deal with an irate fan, but the Indians allowed me to follow a passion I wasn’t even really sure I had at the time. Often at an agency or another employer, you’re hired to do a job and you’re typically expected to do that job exclusively. Specialization can come in handy and it certainly reduces some stress if you’re not worried about several different disciplines at work, but for me, I’ve tried to learn as much as possible in the creative realm and the Indians served me well.
Room to experiment
I try to remind myself when I’m discontent about something at work that at the end of the day, it’s just baseball. People come to the ballpark to be entertained. People come to the ballpark to drink beer, eat hot dogs and watch baseball or watch their kids run around the outfield berm. We’re not performing brain surgery.
We're not flying a 747 where a slight misstep or an idea of "trying something new" could literally kill someone . . . at the end of the day, it's just baseball.
We’re not flying a 747 where a slight misstep or an idea of “trying something new” could literally kill someone. So, when a custom ticket box doesn’t come out perfectly or the new content piece that we spent two weeks working on didn’t get the engagement we were hoping for, it’s important to realize that it’s just sports. It’s supposed to be fun and energetic. We’re supposed to be trying new, sometimes crazy ideas because at the end of the day, it’s just baseball.
It's easy(ier) to stand out
I’m certainly not the best creative in Minor League Baseball, but I’d like to think I’m close to the top (?). I’m definitely not the best designer around, but in MiLB I can be noticed. It can be easy to go work for an agency and disappear into the ether among a dozen other designers and their work that would likely outshine my own, but in sports, we’re a family spread across the country. We know each other’s work, we follow one another on Instagram and we shoot emails to each other once a year or so to check in. When I design a pocket schedule and we print 300,000 of them to deliver around the city, a LOT of people will see my labor. When I take a nice photo of a play at home plate and it gets tweeted out to the Indians 100k Twitter followers, people will see how I created the shot. I can be in a group of doctors and lawyers at a networking event, but people are most interested in talking to me. Not because I’m the best-paid guy in the room and definitely not because I’m the most chatty, but because I work in sports and everyone loves sports.