What makes you stay?

With the end of the 2016 Fightins season, I wrapped up my 12th season of work in Baseballtown. During those seasons there have been many times when I have been asked “What makes you stay?” or “Why do you keep coming back?”.

I’ve never given these questions much thought until now, but I know that there are a number of reasons why I return to FirstEnergy Stadium each summer.

The main reason is simply because I love baseball. I love watching the game and continuing to learn more about it. Having had the opportunity to play softball for eight years and to manage for four, I understood baseball pretty well when I started working at the stadium. Even so, I continue to learn more about the game each year. A few years ago I even learned that you can play a game under protest! I enjoy the game so much that even if I don’t have to work, there is a very good possibility that I will still be at the game.

Another reason I come back each season is the experience – and I don’t mean work experience for my resume.

Over the past 12 seasons, I have had some great experiences both as an intern and working in concessions. There have been a number of proposals, prom invites, a wedding, and even a military homecoming that I have had the chance to witness. A few seasons ago I travelled with some friends to cheer for the team at an away playoff game. I’ve had the opportunity to sing the national anthem a number of times, met a Hollywood director/producer (I have actually seen at least one of his films multiple times,) and even talked strategy with Reading’s manager one night while watching a Philadelphia game on television. It’s experiences like these that add to the excitement of working in a baseball stadium.

Along with the experience and my love of baseball, another reason I come back each summer is the atmosphere of the ballpark.

Many people will say the environment or atmosphere of the workplace has a big impact on the attitudes of everyone who works there. I agree with this thought 100%. The atmosphere at the stadium is a great one to work in. Everyone is there to enjoy the game, people start conversations with complete strangers, and in general everyone gets along. I love seeing the regulars who come out to every game. You get a chance to truly know some people and they in turn get to know you. It’s a great feeling to walk through the stadium and be greeted by all the employees that I have gotten to know over the past 12 seasons – both game day staff and front office members. Getting to know these people I only see for roughly five months out of the year is a large part of why I come back. It’s almost like reuniting with an old friend each summer.

These are just the main reasons that I find myself returning to Baseballtown every summer for another season of baseball. Don’t get me wrong the job is not perfect, but it is part of what helped me realize that my ultimate goal is to work in sports. Sure the team won’t win every game or it might rain. You occasionally get the parents who are so frustrated with their kids that they are no longer enjoying the night. There are ups and downs and it’s not always the perfect place to work, but the positives definitely outweigh the negatives.

Confessional: What’s one thing, not money related, that makes your job fun and keeps you there?

Too much ice cream?!

“Oh, that’s a lot of ice cream.”

“My kid will never eat all that.”

“Can you put smaller scoops in the next one?”

These are a few of the statements we hear almost every night after customers receive their order. Our ice cream is served two ways: in a cup or in a miniature batting helmet. When customers order, I tell them that the cup holds two scoops while the helmet holds three. They are also told the ice cream will sit higher than the top of either container.

ice-cream-1

The miniature batting helmet is a popular treat at FirstEnergy Stadium and most fans are surprised when the ice cream comes up over the top of the helmet itself. (Photo: Amanda Cain)

They’re still surprised when they see the final product.

After the initial shock wears off, things can get complicated. More often than not, the customer will decide that it is too much ice cream. While I never knew there was such a thing, this turns into us being asked to take some of the ice cream back. This is when it gets interesting.

The one thing most people don’t understand is that once we serve the ice cream, we can’t put some of it back in the freezer. Instead, we have to throw it away. While this doesn’t happen very often during the season, it’s still frustrating because that ice cream could have gone to another customer.

The second most common reaction is to ask for another cup to put some of the excess ice cream in. This would be the best solution to the problem except for one tiny detail. All of the cups are inventoried before and after each game and those numbers are matched with the totals in the register. As a result, we have to charge for any soda or ice cream cup that we hand out. Most of our customers are understanding when we explain this, but every now and then we get the occasional grumbler who will ask two or three times before leaving.

The worst reaction to the amount of ice cream is the “order change.”

An “order change” is when a customer decides after they have been served that they want something different. This reaction typically comes after a customer who ordered a helmet receives said helmet and realizes how much ice cream is actually in three scoops. When a customer decides they want to change their order, a few things must take place. First, we have to take back the ice cream they were already given and mark it down as a waste. Second, the order has to be reversed in the register and the new order has to be rung up. In most instances, the customer receives money back because the smaller item costs less. The other issue we have when customers change their minds is when we have a line of people waiting to order, and we then have to go back and remake an order that was already completed.

The one thing we don’t understand is that people don’t typically go into an ice cream shop and complain about the amount of ice cream they are receiving. Also, people don’t seem to understand that when it is 95 degrees outside, the ice cream is going to melt quickly. If you want to get your child ice cream, but are worried about them having too much simply order the smaller size. We are more than willing to make your servings smaller if you simply ask when ordering; just be aware that the price will remain the same even if you ask for less ice cream.

If there is one thing that we have taken away from these types of experiences, it is to make sure that a customer is absolutely sure they want what they are ordering before serving them. This will make it easier for both them and us and will save us time and merchandise in the end.