It’s 3:30 PM and my phone alarm is blaring – an indication that it is time to leave for the ballpark. I only live 10 minutes from the stadium, and traffic is never too bad around that time on Rt. 1 South. I usually make it to Cass Street by 3:40, but then get stuck at the longest red light in New Jersey for at least 5 minutes. But a 15-minute commute is nothing to complain about, even if waiting at that light makes me want to scream at times. Most of my fellow interns live within a half hour of Trenton, but some live up to an hour or so away – just to work for the Thunder! For example, Lindsey comes from the shore daily, and Kevin lives much closer to our sister-team, the Lakewood Blueclaws.
It’s4:00 PM, and the 17 of us interns have a meeting with our supervisors to discuss what is going on at the game later that night. Our Directors reiterate to us of what pregame ceremonies are planned, which sponsors have tables on the concourse, what the giveaway is, what still needs to be set up, special promotions… and the list goes on and on. But the most important and most anticipated topic of the meeting: the “assignments”. Each intern is assigned to a specific position for the game, ranging from ushering and selling Launch-a-Ball to front office duties such as manning (or womanning) the front desk or assisting Jeff in the accounting department. Sometimes, jobs are created for interns depending on the event. For example, during the past two weeks, I was placed at the autograph tables for Ottis Anderson and Harold Reynolds! Everyone (usually) crosses their fingers to be put in accounting, promotions, or front desk. My favorite game-day position is being Strike’s handler, hands down (the person who assists in escorting the mascot, as term our GM has coined “Mascorting”).
It’s 5:30 PM, and Waterfront Park is ready to go. The seats have been wiped, launch-a-ball has been organized, the inflatables have been set up, and the merchandise tables are all ready to go. The gates have just opened for season ticket holders, who are trickling in one by one to get a glimpse of batting practice or to get their favorite snacks at the concession stands without having to stand on line. Once a half hour passes, the gates open to the rest of the fans. The pregame atmosphere always has a sort of “hustle-and-bustle” feel to it as people come from every direction on the concourse in hopes of finding their seats.
It’s 6:42 PM, and the pregame ceremonies are underway. Krysten ( of the “Storm Chasers “ promotional crew fame) introduces the throwers of the ceremonial first pitches, and the mascots emerge from the dugout shortly thereafter. Boomer and Strike roam the field while the umpires explain the ground rules to the coaches at home plate. A tribute to our nation’s soldiers is then shown on the video board in right-center field, followed by the performance of the national anthem. To wrap up the pregame ceremonies, a young Thunder fan says “play ball!” into the microphone. Now, it’s game time.
It’s 7:05 PM, and the first pitch is being delivered by a Thunder starting pitcher. The pitch is released, and everything freezes for a split second. “STRIKE!” the umpire yells. Each first pitch seems to captivate the audience, whether it’s thrown by Dellin Betances, Manny Banuelos, or an ex-Thunder-player-turned-Yankee-making-a-rehab-start like Phil Hughes did on Wednesday, June 29! I was one of the lucky interns that got to usher the first base side that day. Hughes was lights out through about seven innings. I’m sure he’ll be back to the Bronx in no time!
It’s the end of the game, and the Thunder (hopefully) win! Once the final out is recorded, Greg cranks up the song “Celebration” and the fans high five one another to do just that – celebrate. Then comes Launch-a-Ball, a game where fans throw tennis balls onto the field in hopes of landing it in a hula hoop, or into the bucket on the pitchers mound (sometimes held by an intern), to win a great prize. Once all the fans have exited the ballpark, cleanup begins. The picnic area chairs are folded up, the merchandise tables are put away, and the A-frame signage is brought inside from the approach. Before we all go home, we end the night with a meeting. Our bosses want to hear any feedback that we might have from the game, such as any issues that may have popped up or questions that need answers. After those problems are addressed, we are reminded what time we have to be in the next day. And then Ryan says those magical words: “See you tomorrow.” All in a day’s work.