Welcome to Game Day at Eastwood Field
NILES, Ohio – For those who work at Eastwood Field, home games are much more than baseball players on the diamond and fans in the stands.
Game days usually begin at 8 a.m. and end around 11:30 p.m. for Jordan Taylor, general manager of the Mahoning Valley Scrappers and vice president of HWS baseball, a Massachusetts-based sports management firm that owns and operates professional sports franchises.
The Scrappers’ front office workers and groundskeeping crew prepare during the day. Game-day hourly employees working in other facets such as concessions, parking lot operations, ushers and ticket takers trickle in a couple of hours before the gates open an hour before the first pitch.
Game day operation costs can range from $3,000 to $15,000, says Taylor, who was interviewed before the June 16 game against the State College Spikes. Costs soar for the team’s “buck nights,” where beverages, hot dogs and general admission tickets are $1, and a lot of food and drinks are sold.
Taylor’s day starts with checking in on the box office and walking around the ballpark to address any issues. He meets with sponsors and ticket holders, along with the manager and coaching staff to discuss player welfare and plan road trips.
“There’s a little bit of everything,” Taylor says.
From full-time to seasonal employees, the Scrappers employ 200 in a normal year.
Some workers have been with the club since its inception in 1999, while others are seasonal and range from college- and high school-age to retirees and teachers.
Depending on the job, Taylor says the average wage is $10 an hour, going up to $12 for cooks and higher pay for overseeing operations of the concession stands.
The clubhouse is where the Scrappers and visiting teams prepare before the game. A portion of the club’s staff makes sure the uniforms are washed and meals are prepared, along with taking care of the visiting team’s needs.
“It’s a big operation and very labor intensive,” Taylor says. “Those are very long days as well for that group.”
Groundskeepers maintain the playing surface, dugouts and bullpens with a head groundskeeper and hourly workers on game days. Their day begins at 8:30 a.m., and ends an hour after the game is complete for the staff of two to five people.
Manicuring the field, cleaning bases and painting white lines on the field are completed first.
Rain delays during a game? That adds to the work.
“I have not been through a rain delay yet so thanks for jinxing me on that,” says Scrappers head groundskeeper Noah Bard, who was hired in early June.
For weather stoppages, Taylor, the managers of both teams and the grounds crew consult with the umpires.
“Without the field, we don’t have a product,” Taylor says.
The maintenance building is behind the outfield fence near center field. Two chairs overlooking the field are there for the crew to keep an eye on the game.
“If we want to jump on the roof of the dirt bin, we do have a nice view,” Bard says.
For fans, the view of any Scrappers game is not complete without a beverage and something to eat.
The club operates its own concessions at Eastwood Field, preparing popcorn, hot dogs, hamburgers, nachos and other food, along with making sure the drinks are cold.
“It’s basically running a restaurant for thousands of people every night for 30-some games,” Taylor says.
All-you-can-eat nights feature a variety of food and drinks, along with other specials.
A point-of-sale system is used to keep track of what comes in and goes out. A par level is set, which is the minimum amount of on-hand products to meet demand until additional inventory is delivered.
No two nights are the same.
“Depending on what the presale [of tickets] is, we can kind of expect how much more of a bump we’re going to get as opposed to if it was a night that wasn’t quite as nice,” says Matt Thompson, assistant general manager of sales.
For the June 16 game, stacks of Pizza Joe’s boxes were being delivered to the stadium before the crowd arrived.
Thompson said if it is early enough in the game and slices are running low, the team can call for more pizza. Hot dogs on buck night are handled on site.
“Some nights they go quicker than we expect,” he says. When that happens, “It’s getting on the radio. It’s all hands on deck in the concession stand, getting back there to roll some hot dogs.”
Before the game, promotions and merchandising manager Anthony Marino receives a call on his walkie talkie to come to the Scrappers team shop. It is one of many places at the stadium that require attention.
Scripts choreographing the in-game entertainment, integrating sponsors into public address announcements, video board messages and music being played has to be checked multiple times, Marino says. Promotions and prizes have to be addressed as well, which comes up during
the daily meeting held at 5:15 p.m. for 7:05 p.m. games.
“People say 7 o’clock game, you have all day to prepare,” Marino says. “It goes by really, really fast. Being prepared, being ready to go when 5:30 hits is very important.”
Production manager Kendra Hoover arrives at 8:30 a.m. By 10 a.m., she is upstairs in a control center where a handful of people operate the PA, music, cameras, video board and scoreboards.
She controls the promotions, directing everyone to get off the field before the batter comes to home plate. Scripts for these promotional events are normally taken care of a week in advance.
“Hopefully, about 3 we’re ready to go and set,” she says.
Richie Juliano is the Scrappers PA announcer. He prepares his stack of papers with rosters and scoring sheets before each game,and goes over the pronunciations and scripts 90 minutes before gametime. So what’s the hardest name he has pronounced? Damiano Palmegiani, who played for the State College Spikes.
“Being Italian, it was a lot easier to pronounce that,” he says.
It’s important for Juliano to provide fans a flawless experience at Eastwood Field.
“It’s a place to get away from day-to-day life so they can relax,” he says. “I just provide some excitement throughout the ballpark.”
Is there ever a normal night at the ballpark?
“I don’t know if there is,” Taylor says. “That’s what makes it exciting. You’re running 100 miles an hour, working on different things. It makes the day go super fast. It’s always challenging. But days like this are always a little bit better when you don’t have to deal with the rain.”
Copyright 2022 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.