Wittenberg students have excelled at a variety of internships this summer. Jack Houck, class of 2025, is one such intern. This summer, Houck landed an internship with the Minor League Baseball team, the Akron RubberDucks, the Double-A affiliate of the Cleveland Guardians. He shares his experience, which he says has provided a solid foundation for working in a professional sports business environment.
From the time I was old enough to swing a bat, I was playing baseball. There is actually a video of me hitting a ball off of a tee with a bat that was larger than I was. And although my playing career is finished, I never stopped being a fan of the sport.
Why the Akron RubberDucks? Throughout the fall and winter of my sophomore year, I began exploring potential internship options for summer 2023. I met some great people throughout this process, but often received the same answer: "We are looking for someone who will graduate next year.” And that was not me.
Fortunately, I did not give up on applying for internships. With my marketing major being somewhat broad, I applied for internships at organizations that were of interest to me. Out of curiosity, I began looking up professional sports teams in baseball, basketball, and football to see if they had internships available in hopes of supporting my dream of working in the sports industry. Then it hit me; I have a team essentially in my backyard, one that I am extremely familiar with called the RubberDucks. The Akron RubberDucks are the Double-A affiliate of the Cleveland Guardians baseball team.
Looking through the team’s website, I found the page with career opportunities and sent in my resume and cover letter, not fully expecting a response. A short while later, I received an email about setting up a call with Jimmy Farmer, the team’s media relations coordinator. The call went very well, I thought. I had done my research on not only the team but the man interviewing me. My childhood baseball memories began flooding back, including when I threw the first pitch at Canal Park (the RubberDucks’ stadium) when I was eight years old. I relayed the experiences I had with the team which he seemed to appreciate.
“We love when our employees have also had the experience of being a fan/customer because they can have that perspective in mind while working,” Farmer explained.
The interview process was ongoing, so I had to wait in anticipation of the results, but soon I received the message that I had been chosen as a social media intern for the 2023 season. I accepted the offer, and the experience began.
My first day was brief, as it served as the introduction to what the rest of my summer would entail. I received a tour of the stadium I had only briefly explored before, which ended with sitting in the press box where much of my time would be spent. The RubberDucks had its first homestand of games soon after, which was when I met the other intern I would be working with this summer. Immediately we created a bond, and the experience became comfortable. Together we work to create content for the RubberDucks’ social media accounts, as well as interact with fans. Our role in the media department allows us to move everywhere in the ballpark to film and capture our ideas. On a normal day, we will start in the press box before game time where we receive the schedule of promotional events for the day along with lineups/stories for each team. When the game begins, we are everywhere, including the field, dugout, concourse, and press box area.
My favorite part of our flexibility is the relationships I have built with members of different departments in the organization. This was one of the main reasons I wanted an internship before my senior year: to make connections. These new relationships allowed me to ask questions and shadow those people in different departments to give me a broader scope of how the organization functions as a whole. What this experience has helped me learn about myself and others is that we are all just regular people. Although there may be a power dynamic between what position someone has in the organization compared to my role, everyone is still approachable if you present yourself in a respectful way. From this realization, I have enjoyed interacting with the team owner, numerous players, coaches, and other staff members.
One memory, in particular, helped open me up to this. Another intern and I were talking in the dugout during the pregame warmups when an unfamiliar voice asked how we were doing. We turned around, and it was one of the catchers, Michael Burglund. He proceeded to talk to us for five minutes about who we were, where we were from, and what we were looking to accomplish in the future. He then told us about himself. I appreciated this experience because we weren’t sure if the players thought that we were in their way or were not fans of us being around. From that moment on, we would talk to players if they were around us but not push the boundaries.
“Affordable Family Fun” is the RubberDucks’ slogan, and this approach has brought a majority attendance of families and children. I mention this because interacting with the kids can often be the best part of my shift. Whether it’s waving back at a smiling baby or high fiving a kid who is excited to meet us, those moments do not happen at many other jobs. For example, a little girl who could not have been any older than four had a bubble blower that she pointed at me and my coworker. And when we popped one of the bubbles, she thought it was just the funniest thing she had ever seen. She went on shooting bubbles while we popped them, and, after a while, her mom thanked us for entertaining her and said she really appreciated us.
Passing My Light
This July I had the privilege of being invited to coach the youth baseball camp hosted by the Akron RubberDucks. I said “yes” because I want coaching to be a part of my life once I graduate from Wittenberg, and this was a perfect opportunity to coach even earlier. Seeing all of these kids being dropped off for camp and meeting new friends reminded me of when I went to baseball camps as a kid. One part of those camps that I loved was when the coaches and volunteers made the drills fun and helped me one-on-one when I needed extra support. So to pass my light on to others, I became the coach that my younger self would’ve loved to be around. I went back and forth between stations each day of this three-day long camp, and at every point I tried to be the most supportive and fun coach that I could be. On the second day of camp, the RubberDucks’ players came and talked to the team with autograph signing afterward.
One of the kids whom I had given one-on-one instruction to came up to me with an ear-to-ear smile on his face. He showed me his newly autographed baseball and gave me a hug because I had given him that baseball earlier in camp. This camp was a better experience than I could have imagined. I also gained new and deeper relationships with other staff members that have carried on into the workplace since then.
One of the most important lessons from this internship is that everything is intertwined. To work in a professional sports environment, you are going to know and have responsibilities for multiple departments. All groups also have to coordinate schedules, and much of the gameday work can be changed on a moment's notice. Having the respect of your coworkers and using communication skills make everything easier for the organization as a whole.
While joining a team with no familiar faces could have been challenging, one thing learned about myself is that I can adjust quickly and find people with whom to connect. These connections made every day at the internship fun and less stressful. It is important to be professional when necessary, but I have learned that a friendly and collaborative work environment is one that I thrive in and will seek out for future employment. Seeing the ins and outs of a professional baseball team has given me a base of what to expect and how to work in a sports business environment. I am incredibly excited to build off of what this internship has done for me this summer, and I will apply what I have learned to my future career.