Working for the Dodgers, part 2

“There was a place on my ankle that got to itching, but I dasn’t scratch it; and then my ear begun to itch; and next my back, right between my shoulders. Seemed like I’d die if I couldn’t scratch. Well, I’ve noticed that thing plenty times since. If you are with the quality, or at a funeral, or trying to go to sleep when you ain’t sleepy—if you are anywheres where it won’t do for you to scratch, why you will itch all over in upwards of a thousand places.”
Mark Twain, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

After the 1998 season ended for the Dodgers, so did my employment as an intern.  After a few months of substitute teaching, I went to work for a sports memorabilia company in 1999, but I spent the entire year keeping my eye on opportunities in Major and Minor League Baseball.  I also kept in touch with Scott Bolton, who I met while working as an intern for the Dodgers. He told me he would keep me informed of any opportunities that arose and, late in 1999, I received an email from him that informed me that there were season ticket sales positions available for the 2000 season.

Lisa Johnson, who was Scott’s boss, called a short time later after I sent in my application and resume. She told me she could meet with me at the Anaheim Hilton where the winter meetings of 1999 were taking place. I told my employer at that time that I needed a longer lunch for an appointment, which allowed me to drive to Anaheim and change into my suit while in my car in the parking lot. When I entered the lobby of the hotel, I encountered a sea of people, but I didn’t have time to gawk at baseball celebrities.

I found Lisa sitting in the lobby where she told me to find her. My interview with her lasted less than 10 minutes. In fact she told me the only reason she was interviewing me was because Scott Bolton recommended me highly. She said there were a lot of people who wanted this job and there was just one left out of the seven or eight positions. She also told me at the interview that I was hired. I didn’t have to sell myself as a candidate at all.  I couldn’t believe how easy it was, but I quickly realized that when you develop relationships with people and prove yourself as a worker, things can work out for you in the end.

I am listed in the media guide

My employment with the Dodgers began early in January of 2000. The first step was to attend a week of training by a professional sales trainer from Oregon who had experience training the Nike sales force. After that training week, we were shown how to work for the organization, including how to navigate the stadium, which was under construction, tips on making cold calls and warm calls, and how to process season ticket orders. We officially hit the ground running shortly after the training phase ended in January.

The key to selling season tickets was obvious: sell more seats, make more money, since we were paid $8 an hour plus commission. Selling field level seats was clearly better than selling an upper deck package, but not as attainable for most fans.  Many fans were usually disappointed with the fact that they couldn’t be sitting behind the dugout, I guess they didn’t understand that it took years to improve your position with season tickets.  Actually, they probably just wanted a free tour of the stadium since it was undergoing a massive renovation.

By the time February ended, I had made $8 per hour.  I officially had zero sales. I think the next guy up the latter had sold eight or ten total seats at this point. The top guy had sold 18 or 20.  While I was stuck at zero sales, the sales leader closed a deal with one of my clients.  He just wanted to select his seat location in person, but he showed up 2 hours early for his appointment with me while I was at lunch.  When I confronted my colleague about it he smirked and said he was just handling a customer (a customer who asked for me when he arrived).  We didn’t box over the matter, but we had to be separated since my blood was boiling.  I’m not proud of how I acted, I’m just sharing the story that, ultimately, has a silver lining.

As March arrived, I started making some sales. In fact, I was doing pretty regular business and I quickly moved up the ladder in total seat sales. By the time our job ended in April, I finished at #1 in total seats sold. I didn’t make the highest commissions, since many of the seats I sold were cheaper locations, but I still felt satisfied that I had sold more seats than anybody else.

There were some perks to enjoy when I worked in baseball. We had access to four free tickets to every home game, including the home opener when 41-year old Orel Hershisher pitched the Dodgers to a win over the Reds, which was the final pitching victory of his career.  We also had access to the Press Box during games.  We could eat for free in the press box dining room after a certain number of innings had passed.  Once, in the press box restroom, I encountered Kevin Kennedy with his pants at his ankles as he adjusted his shirt.  The moment wasn’t necessarily unusual or noteworthy, just odd for me to see a guy who had managed in MLB and was now broadcasting to be found in a regular human activity.  I also recall walking behind the Press Box and seeing the back of Vin Scully as he called the game.

I encountered numerous players (current and former), coaches, writers, and broadcasters in various spots in and around the stadium.  Even Jack Clark parked right next to me in the Dodger parking lot, but his car was a lot nicer than my Mazda.  I encountered Steve Garvey on a number of occasions and found him to be quite friendly and well-groomed.
The most memorable moment for me was a time not long after the home opener.  I was standing by an elevator when Orel Hershiser walked up.  I decided to introduce myself and compliment him on his victory in the home opener.  He was genuinely friendly and asked about what I did for the Dodgers. In fact, just as the elevator opened, Shawn Green walked up as well and the three of us got on the elevator together, just ahead of Kevin Brown. As the doors closed, Orel turned to Shawn and introduced me by my name.  I couldn’t believe it.  He didn’t think of himself as lord and me as serf.  Meanwhile, Kevin Brown loomed in the back of the elevator like an executioner manning the gallows.  I’d always heard that Orel Hershiser was a great guy and, now, I can attest to that claim.
© Jerry Coli | – Tommy Lasorda Los Angeles Dodgers

Another memorable moment occurred during an office birthday party.  I was standing near the traveling secretary when Tommy Lasorda approached.  Tommy took a look at me and then turned to the traveling secretary and said, “I don’t recognize one #$%@ person in this room!”

As the season was underway and the month of April was coming to a close, so was the employment of all the season ticket sales reps. There weren’t many opportunities to remain employed in baseball at that point, but I did find a few possibilities with the Cincinnati Reds and the Oakland A’s (I could have been part of Moneyball!), as well as several minor league opportunities, but I wasn’t prepared for a big move at that time.
Just before our final week of employment arrived, I had a reprieve with the Dodgers. My boss, Lisa, asked if I would stay on longer to handle the customer service issues that would arise with season ticket holders. I agreed to remain with the Dodgers into June. Instead of selling tickets, I was now handling all the calls from people who had questions as new season ticket holders.  Actually, most calls were complaints.  A majority of the complaints were directed at one particular sales representative: the guy who stole my first sale.  Throughout my conversations with these unsatisfied clients, I found out that he was promising all sorts of things in order to sell seats.  He promised opportunities to throw out the first pitch, meet certain baseball players, tours of the locker room, and anything else that would close the deal.  I won’t name this particular rep since we parted on positive terms and he is likely (hopefully) a different kind of person today.
I have never returned to baseball, other than writing this blog, but I do think about it at times.  For now, I feel content that I have scratched the itch to work in baseball. During my final week of employment I made sure to thank the people that made it all possible for me: Lisa Johnson, Scott Bolton, and Elaine Olivas.

Author: Jake White

I am a child of the 1980's who became engrossed in baseball after attending my first Angel game in 1982. As we headed to the Big A, I was told great tales of a man named Reggie. Sitting down the first base line, I watched the lineup announcement with great anticipation, but discovered that Reggie wasn't in the lineup. It didn't matter, the experience was magical, my grandma bought me my first Angel cap, and I fell asleep in the car on the way home. As the next decade emerged, I started a 25-year run in fantasy baseball, which ended with the 2014 season. I have been working in education since 2002 and also spent 2 seasons working for the LA Dodgers. Now, I am having fun observing baseball rather than obsessing over every box score that included one of my fantasy players.

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