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Warehouse Windows

Orioles or Bust

Middle of the Third, like a few of the “Intern Chapters,” really is more autobiography than anything else. And if it had not happened to me, I would have thought it to be some improbable Disney story … too good to be true, too unrealistic, too much like fiction. However, it is true, and it is one of my favorite stories to tell, although I feel like it has been ages since I’ve told it. To this day, it is one of those things in my life that causes me to believe in miracles.

In the Spring of 1994, I applied for an internship position at the New Jersey Cardinals, a brand new Single-A Short Season team playing in a brand new ballpark about 30 minutes from my parent’s house. I managed to land that internship and worked out an agreement with them that they would let me work games and a couple of times a week to work another job that would help me pay for college.

The experience at the Cardinals was both very memorable and fun and absolutely horrible at the same time. The interns were, effectively, free labor for the Cardinals management that they could have to do whatever they wanted them to do, regardless of whether it had anything to do with our majors. However, without it, I don’t get anywhere else in baseball, and this novel doesn’t exist.

During my senior year in college, I applied for an internship with the Baltimore Orioles. I was in school at York College of Pennsylvania, about 45 – 60 minutes from Oriole Park. I actually got an interview, I want to say sometime in the winter or early Spring, but I don’t have a clear memory of the timing. I went down and talked to the Public Relations director and thought I had a good showing. Unfortunately, I was told, due to the uncertainty of the players’ strike at the time, they weren’t going to bring me on.

So, I graduated college in May of 1995 and stayed in York to be close to Andrea. I managed to get a job at a local bank as a teller and really made some good friends there. While it was a decent job, it wasn’t for me, and job hunting for something in public relations wore me down. I was inexperienced and, on the rare occasion I got an interview, I presented myself horribly. Looking back, I probably would have thrown out my resume as soon as the interview was over if the roles were flipped.

By the time October rolled around, I was not in a good place. I had grown increasingly miserable in the job and felt lost. I had higher – maybe unreasonable – expectations of myself. I had found a lot of college success, and it did not translate into the real world. I think this all bled into my relationship with Andrea as we started to experience some tension between us. It was beginning to look like I needed to move back home to try my luck in the New York area.

My days off from the bank were Sunday and Wednesday (or something like that), and on one Tuesday night, after a bit of a fight with Andrea, I gave myself an ultimatum. I would drive down to Baltimore on the next day and knock on some doors. If I didn’t get a prospect, I would call it quits and move back home. I had no idea what “knock on doors” in Baltimore really meant, but it didn’t matter much as I only had one intention.

So, Wednesday morning, I got up somewhat early, drove down to Timonium, Maryland, jumped on the Light Rail, and headed to the ballpark. While I told Andrea and others that I planned on knocking on a whole bunch of doors, I knew that the only job I had my sights set on was the Baltimore Orioles. I did not have a plan B. With a literal “Hail Mary” on my lips, it was Orioles or bust with what felt like everything at stake.

I don’t remember how I got from the Light Rail to the second-floor reception desk of the Baltimore Orioles. Obviously, I walked…the train was right outside the stadium, but I remember parking my car at the furthest north Light Rail station, and the next thing I knew, I was standing at reception.

The receptionist was very friendly and, with a resume in hand, told her I was looking for a job. I could tell she had seen the likes of me before and told me to give her my resume, and she would give it to someone else, and she was sure they would call me back. Not usually being the bold type, I handed the resume to her and took a step back, ready to leave. However, somewhere inside my head, a voice told me that I shouldn’t go. It told me to speak up, or I would regret it the rest of my life. I had come that far, with everything in my young, naive life at stake. Turning around to leave meant surrendering everything, including my dreams, and giving up. I knew I had to write a new story for myself. I needed a miracle.

And from there, a series of improbable made-for-Hollywood moments happened, and my life, in nearly every sense, changed.

So, I stepped back and told her that I would like to talk to someone (sort of like Rudy in the middle of the night at the gates of Notre Dame). She looked at me quizzically and let out a deep sigh…She had no idea what to do with me at that point.

Then someone to her right caught her attention, and her face lit up. She stood up and stopped the woman trying to make her way through the lobby and explained to her what the situation was. I could see the woman sort of let out her own deep sigh and take my resume from the receptionist. She signaled me over to her and walked me over to a couch in the lobby.

We sat down, and she turned towards me, sort of annoyed (to this day, I don’t blame her…I would be, also). She introduced herself as the director of Human Resources for the Orioles as she glanced down at my resume. She then asked me what kind of job I was looking for, and I told her that I was looking for something in Public Relations/Media Relations.

Her head suddenly snapped up as she made firm eye contact with me. Her attitude towards me took a 180 as she asked me a couple more specific questions before she stood up. She told me to wait there and quickly went back through the door she had just come out.

After a few minutes, she came back out smiling. She told me that right before the receptionist had stopped her, she had been in a meeting with the Director of Media Relations (a different person than I had met previously), John, to discuss finding a full-time paid intern to work in the office. She also told me that John would be out to talk to me in a minute. Honestly, she seemed as excited as I was at this point. Whether it was the chance randomness of encountering me at the exact right moment or the fact that I may save her a bunch of work, she genuinely seemed happy.

A moment or two later, John walked out. Instantly, his personality hit me like a freight train. He carried this boisterous energy about him that filled every room he was in, and he seemed to fill that lobby and the entire stadium that was just out the window over my left shoulder. He was smiling, almost laughing as he too recognized the absurdity of me walking into that lobby just moments before the HR director was heading off to start the search for, well, me.

John invited me back to his office and carefully reviewed my resume. In the two years following I would learn that he had this unique ability to go from laughter and joking to complete business in an instant…and then back in the next moment. He wasn’t going to let a little something like serendipity or a miracle mislead him into making the wrong decision.

We talked a bit about my time at the New Jersey Cardinals. Like me, he was from New Jersey as well, so we talked a bit about that. He asked about the things I did at college. And, eventually asked me if I would be interested in a six-month paid internship in his media relations office. He explained a few things I would be doing and how the office worked and then asked me if they should offer me the job when I could start. He mentioned the salary was somewhat low and gave me a figure, about $500 more than I was making at the bank.

I would walk out of Camden Yards a short while later, having basically landed the internship. I needed to send them a couple of things like transcripts, and John had to check a couple of things on his end. However, effectively, the understanding was that the job was mine. I remember waiting for the Light Rail train talking to myself, pacing back and forth, trying to figure out how the hell that just happened. I was over-joyed and beyond excited, bursting at every seam. This was in the days before everyone had a cell phone, and I had no one to share the excitement with, and I was near tears with joy.

October 25, 1995…Nine years after the New York Mets Game Six World Series miracle was the day after my last day of working at the bank and the day before my first day at the Baltimore Orioles. Somehow, that felt perfect to me.

I would end up extending the six-month internship to 12 months and then to 18 months before I would shift over to help with the Baltimore Orioles website. In February of 1998, I would leave the Orioles to settle into my office at the New York Mets as their first Website Administrator.

I’ll talk about my time with the Mets and Orioles more later. They were such extraordinary times for me and almost wholly fulfilled every dream I ever had as a teenager, even if it wasn’t exactly in the order I expected.

I would work for John for 18 months and, more or less, with him six months after that. He would be one of the most influential people I ever met in my life and taught me so much. His personality was the polar opposite of my own, and there were times where I was completely intimidated by him, but I loved working for him.

He taught me that you could have fun working, take time to laugh, and appreciate what is going on around you, but at the same time work as hard as you can to make sure shit gets done. Yes, there was a time to work and a time to play, but there was definitely a grey area between the two, as long as the work got done.

He was always open to new ideas and welcomed innovation. Even though I was quiet, he was always willing to hear what I said. He was the first to pat you on the back for the good things you did and but would also make sure to let you know, in a gentle way, when you screwed up. He had this acute ability to know when it was time to be serious, and the exact moment it was okay to lay down a corny joke.

I often ponder where my life would be right now had I not encountered John that October day in 1995. I wonder if I would have packed my bags and moved home, likely ending any chance Andrea and I had. There is a straight line between getting that job and getting into web work, which would become the career that I have now. (I do wonder, in that regard, if the Orioles derailed any kind of writing career I may have had early on.)

Previously, I mentioned how I believe in miracles. I think they genuinely do happen, and I think there is sometimes an inclination to call a miracle a coincidence. The series of events that occurred that day, for me, is truly a miracle. I have no other explanation for it.