Leadership / 03.31.21
INTIX Members Share Their Most Treasured Baseball Memories
For many sports fans, this is a magical time of year. College basketball’s March Madness is a nail-biting spectacle like no other. Both pro hockey and pro basketball are in the stretch runs of their respective regular seasons. The NFL is gearing up for its annual Draft Day. But there is nothing that compares to opening day of Major League Baseball (MLB).
There are the sights. Your favorite team taking the field, the first pitch, the first home run, the pristine grass of a ballfield. There are the sounds. The crack of the bat, the thump of the catcher’s mitt, the umpire’s command to “Play ball!” Mostly, there are the instant memories. Someone will be seeing their first game. Someone will be playing in their first game. And a guy like me will remember movies like “Field of Dreams.” And, in my head, I’ll sound like James Earl Jones when I quote, “The one constant through all the years has been baseball. America has rolled by like an army of steamrollers. It’s been erased like a background, rebuilt and erased again. But baseball has marked the time.”
INTIX decided to mark the beginning of this new baseball season by asking some of our members who are closest to the game (and one super fan), this one question: “What is your favorite baseball memory?” Inevitably, the question drew some wonderful, emotional responses.
First, there are the family connections the game of baseball has excelled at creating for decades now. Lori Murphy, Assistant Ticket Manager for the Washington Nationals, says, “All my baseball memories are tied up with my dad and my grandmother. For as long as I can remember, we listened to the games on the radio or watched them on TV. To this day when I talk to my dad, he’s giving me the latest update on the St. Louis Cardinals and their pitching, while commenting on how the Washington Nationals pitching is going to be.”
She continues, “I remember being at my grandmother’s house years ago, and we were watching her beloved Yankees play. In all seriousness, she turned to me and said, ‘I don’t know what we’re going to do about tonight.’ I asked what she was talking about, and she said, ‘Well, your Mets are playing at the same time as the Yankees, so I guess we’ll switch games during the commercials.’ I didn’t have the heart to tell her that I was a Cardinals fan, and I didn’t like the Mets. However, we watched both games anyway. Every new baseball memory I have, I think about my grandma. She loved the game so much.”
Jessica Lee, Senior Manager of Ticket and Financial Operations for the Atlanta Braves, says, “I was only 7 when Atlanta won the World Series in 1995, but I still remember watching the games with my dad and screaming in our house. My dad got me the commemorative VHS tape, and I still choke up when I watch it — when I get the chance to come across a VHS player, that is!”
AudienceView Senior Marketing Manager Nick Begley, a die-hard New York Mets fan, says his favorite baseball memories are tied tightly to sharing the game with his wife and three kids — 9-year-old Landon, 6-year-old Camryn and recently born Delaney. “Beyond attending home Mets games each season,” he says, “our goal is to visit every MLB stadium. I’ve personally checked half of them off my list, and my two older kids have been to seven of the 30. We can’t wait to get back on the road and add another ice cream helmet to their collection — our fun way of tracking the stadiums we’ve visited.”
Nick Begley and family
Opening Days Past
With the first games of the season drawing near at the time of these interviews, some said their fondest baseball memories are of opening day. Anthony Esposito, Vice President of Ticket Operations for the Atlanta Braves, fondly remembers April 14, 2017, when the Braves opened the gates to Truist Park (then called SunTrust Park) for the first time. “It was a three-year labor of love on my end,” he says, “to develop a seating manifest, pricing strategy, make the magic behind the button work, then work with our internal sales staff — as well as Van Wagner Sports & Entertainment — to get all of our A-List Members [season ticket holders] re-seated from Turner Field into the new ballpark along with selling new memberships.”
He adds, “Opening the gates for the first time and ultimately seeing a standing-room-only crowd of 41,149 was a great feeling knowing how much work went into making our dream a reality. Plus, it’s always nice as a ticketing professional to see a full house and know that you played a small role in making that happen.”
Mark Plutzer, Senior Vice President of Ticketing for MLB Advanced Media, says the New York Yankees’ 1997 opening day was a day he will never forget, even though he barely saw any of the game. “I was lucky enough to be in attendance as a fan at the Yankees Game 6 World Series clincher in 1996,” he says. “And, at that time, never did I imagine that only a few months later I would be working at Yankee Stadium for the 1997 opening day. It was my first opening day as a baseball employee, and I’ve been blessed to be able to witness every opening day since working within the game.”
The Indelible Moments
Finally, there are the memorable individual moments that stand out the most to other INTIX members. Josh Ziegenbusch, Senior Director of Service and Retention for the Oakland Athletics, has worked in Major League Baseball for 20-plus seasons. And while his fondest memory is the no-hitter he threw in 6th grade Little League, his all-time favorite moment came a lot more recently. “I was fortunate to attend the A’s/Mariners series to open the season in Tokyo,” he says. “Seeing the crowd react to Ichiro Suzuki and honoring his career was something I will never forget. The impact he had as an athlete is what makes sports the ultimate connector to societies and cultures around the globe.”
The greatest baseball memory Russ Stanley, San Francisco Giants’ Senior Vice President of Ticket Sales and Services, has is his team’s 2010 World Series victory parade. “We were gathered in line with the entire front office and planning to march down Montgomery Street,” he says. “We were taking the same parade route that Hank Sauer and Willie Mays took in the 1958 parade when the Giants arrived in San Francisco. We had finally won a World Series in San Francisco after 52 years! That alone was mind blowing to be a part of. Before we started, our EVP of Communications, Staci Slaughter, came to me and said I was to be part of the group carrying the front-office banner. She had gathered me, Mario Alioto, Pat Gallagher, Gene Telucci and Jorge Costa. I couldn’t believe I was included in this group of Giants front-office legends. These were my mentors, co-workers and very good friends.”
He and his colleagues walked the parade route, waving to a crowd that was estimated to be at least 1 million fans. They walked toward City Hall, soaking in every second knowing how hard it was to get there and not knowing if they would ever get to do it again. “I have a photo of the five of us that a fan sent me, and it’s framed at my house,” he says. “I get to relive that moment every day when I walk by that photo.”
Paul Froehle, Vice President of Ticket Operations for the Minnesota Twins, summed up baseball’s return as eloquently as James Earl Jones ever could. “Baseball continues to evolve with change,” he says, “but it will always bring communities and families together on an annual basis. No matter the extenuating circumstances, baseball remains a pillar that unites us as we witness the many first pitches thrown across our country from Little League to the Major League. There is nothing more satisfying than seeing the gates open at our various ballparks with the smell of spring in the air. It’s a magical day across our country.”
You May Also Like
Want news like this delivered to your inbox weekly? Subscribe to the Access Weekly newsletter, your ticket to industry excellence.
Tags: Sports , Leadership