Communication is Key

Last week I spent my days at work helping prepare for the San Francisco Alumni Day and the Legends for Youth (LFY) Dinner. For the dinner and Alumni Day I made phone calls to collect RSVP’s over the phone. These weren’t just your typical phone calls either.. As I made my LFY Dinner calls to former players, I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to discuss the dinner with alumni members such as Kevin Youkilis, Doc Gooden, Wade Boggs, Mike Mussina, and many others! As a kid growing up watching players like Youkilis and Mussina play, I never once thought that I’d be calling them for my job. It has truly been a joy speaking with players about our upcoming events. Typically, someone wouldn’t enjoy making 50+ calls in a day, but when you look down your list and see MLB All-Star’s, Hall of Famers, and players that you grew up watching, it’s almost like you’re in a dream.

Additionally, I’m gaining some valuable experience with the MLBPAA. The one skill or strength that I have used daily is effective communication. Whether it has been with employees or players, it didn’t take long to realize that it was one of the most important things for me to work on and improve upon. On a daily and/or weekly basis I utilize communication through face-to-face interactions, telephone calls, e-mails, and blog posts. I know that the longer I’m with the MLBPAA I will continue to gain experience in communication and many other areas that will allow me to grow even more as a professional.

Landon Ocker

 

Doing What I Love

“If you do what you love, you’ll never work a day in your life.” – Marc Anthony

The quote above by Marc Anthony is something that has become a reality for me in these last two weeks. Working in baseball has been my goal for a long time and I’m so thankful for this opportunity with the MLBPAA. Each day I wake up and look forward to going to work for an organization that I love!

As things are starting to pick-up in the office during week number two, I have enjoyed every second of it. Of course,  I have my day-to-day tasks that aren’t what you may call “flashy”, but when you’re surrounded by great co-workers and America’s Greatest Pastime it’s hard not to enjoy each day. This week I have been working on multiple projects that have been assigned by the membership and communication departments. Specifically, I have been brainstorming  ideas for our Giving Tuesday campaign, pursuing membership benefits for our alumni, completing stat sheets for alumni days and clinics, as well as assisting with the preparation for the Legends for Youth Dinner coming up on November 15th in New York City.

The Legends for Youth Dinner was established in 1999 by the MLBPAA to recognize current players on their accomplishments on the field, for example; winning the Heart and Hustle Award. During the event the MLBPAA also recognizes current and former players on their off-field achievements and contributions to communities around the world. Additionally, the dinner serves as the primary fundraiser for the MLBPAA and all proceeds go towards the Legends for Youth Clinics that take place all over the world.  Although my work for the dinner just started this past week, I look forward to continuing to contribute to the planning by making calls to receive RSVP’s, sending out invites, attempting to sell tables, and other communications related tasks.

Life outside of work the last two weeks have been also been great! During my internship I am staying with my aunt and uncle in Castle Rock, which is about 45 minutes North of Colorado Springs. Spending time with family is a top priority to me, so it has been a wonderful experience being able to live with them. On the two weekends that I’ve been living here I have had the opportunity to go hiking in Vail and play a round of golf with my uncle at Castle Pines North. I don’t think that there is a place in this state that doesn’t have a beautiful scenery! I don’t know many people that would enjoy a 45 minute drive to and from work, but I will tell you that the Rocky Mountains in the distance makes my drive much more enjoyable.

I have already learned so much throughout my internship thus far and it’s just the beginning! While the work I do here is great experience, it does not feel like “work” to me because I enjoy it so much. I can’t wait to  learn more! Thank you for reading!

Landon Ocker

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The Ridge at Castle Pines North

 

 

 

The Call-Up

I played competitive baseball for a long time, and I would like to think that I was pretty solid. I had success in high school at the varsity level, and felt good about my chances to make the baseball team at Whitworth University, the small D-3 school that I would be attending in the Fall of 2012.

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The Woodinville High School infield in 2011, featuring me at first base.

I showed up just about as prepared as possible. I had been lifting and conditioning all summer, and I was ready to make my dreams come true. In four weeks of Fall tryouts, I batted well over .400 in our scrimmages and played strong defense. I knew I had made the team.

As I walked from my dorm to the coach’s office, I have never had a better feeling in my life. After 18 years, I was finally about to realize my dream of playing college baseball… That was the most difficult day of my entire life.

Still to this day, I cannot think of a good reason why I should have been cut from that roster as a freshman. But I still tell myself the same thing that I had to force myself to think that day–Everything happens for a reason.

If I would have been a member of that team, sure, it would have been an incredible experience. But what else would I have missed out on if that would have been my fate? Friends, free time, travel to New York, Hawaii, Washington, D.C. and New Zealand… All of these experiences that I compiled while in college have led me to where I am right now, including that devastating moment in Dan Ramsay’s office.

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It’s always good to remember a time when baseball was nothing but fun and games.

I do think about it often, absolutely. I think about the way that I missed out on an experience that I will never have another chance at. I think about the friendships that I missed out on by not making that team. I think about the way that my playing career in baseball came to a screeching halt without any inkling of a warning. And I think about the long term possibilities that could have been if I had been given a shot on that roster.

But now as I sit here writing this blog post in the office of the MLBPAA on my last day here as an intern, I think about how for all of the ways that baseball has broken my heart, it has also given me more joy than I could have ever asked for.

I didn’t get to play college baseball or professional baseball. I didn’t get to report to Spring Training or grab hand fulls of unlimited Double Bubble or get the call-up to the Major Leagues. These things passed me by, though not for a lack of effort on my part. As I reflect on what I missed out on, it makes me grateful for the things that I have. I am in a place where I get to call up former Major League Baseball players and call it work. I get to wake up every morning and drive to work with a view of the mountains and a smile on my face. A lot of people search their whole lives for a job like that.

The game of baseball has intertwined through my life since the day I was born. When I got the news that I would be an intern here for the summer, it felt like something I had known for years. When I first entered the office here at the MLBPAA, that feeling grew even stronger. And as I finish up my final moments as an intern here, I can’t help but get a little bit romantic about it all. The fat lady may have already sang her sad song about my playing career, but the song of my professional career in baseball has just begun. That said, through all of the ups and downs, through all of the juicy fastballs and the knee-buckling curveballs, I could not be more certain that I ended up exactly where I am supposed to be.

New Beginnings in Colorado

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My family and I at the Royals game for “Bark at the Park” with our dog Lucy.

Hello! My name is Landon Ocker and I recently graduated in May of 2016 from the University of Central Missouri with a degree in Sport Management and a minor in Marketing. I grew up an hour north of  Kansas City in a small town called Cameron, Missouri. While growing up in the Kansas City area I was fortunate enough to be raised in a household that loved sports. My family  has been quarter season ticket holders for the Kansas City Royals and season tickets holders for the Kansas City Chiefs for quite some time, so naturally, I became a die hard fan.

During my childhood I spent most of my summers playing America’s Greatest Pastime, impersonating major leaguers during competitive backyard baseball games with my brother and attending Royals games with my family. Being a Royals fan in the early 2000’s was rough to say the least, but Kauffman Stadium is where we spent a lot of our time watching the game I fell in love with so quickly. My passion for baseball continues to grow each day and I’ve always hoped  I would someday work in Major League Baseball. Now, I can finally say that my dream has come true! My trip to Colorado was one that was different from the past. I wasn’t just coming to visit family or for vacation. This time, I was fortunate enough to be traveling to the beautiful state of Colorado for an internship opportunity with the Major League Baseball Players Alumni Association (MLBPAA).

So, as my first week with the MLBPAA is wrapping up, I wanted to share a little bit about my experience so far! My first day was a little nerve racking, but I was very anxious to get things started. At the beginning of  the week I met with the majority of the staff members and was able to learn about the different departments and what they specifically do for the organization. After the meetings and learning more about the MLBPAA, it got me excited to start contributing.

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My first hiking trip in Vail, Colorado.

Throughout the first week I had a wide range of tasks and became a bit more familiar with the day-to-day operations, thanks to my co-workers. My work so far has included social media analytics, making membership lapse calls to former players, assisting with birthday cards, and other miscellaneous tasks. Additionally, I received some different projects that I will be focusing on during my internship. A few of those projects consist of interviewing a former player for the “Where Are They Now?” article in our newsletter, helping form a fundraising campaign for Giving Tuesday, as well as assisting with the preparation for the Legends for Youth Dinner in New York. I am looking forward to gaining experience in many valuable areas, while growing and developing as a professional during my time with the MLBPAA. Until next time, thanks for reading!

Landon Ocker

 

Crazy Thing Called Life

You go to class, you take good notes, you graduate and you go and do the big adult thing. It’s simple! Well, no, it’s really not that simple. Not even close.

When we are young, ambitious teens, it does seem that simple. We will just go out there, work hard and our dreams will come true, right? Well, partially right, because there are numerous unique challenges and bumps in the road that none of us can fully prepare for as we begin the journey through adulthood.

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My father and I at The Broadmoor. I got to give back in an awesome way to the man who has taught me so much about golf, and life.

As I find myself three months into my time here at the MLBPAA, I have had to face many challenges, both in the workplace and in life. Some of these have been classic challenges such as time management or patience. Some of these challenges have been unique and personal

The process of reforming oneself to the point at which you understand how to be a mature adult is no easy task. That is because there is no guide book. Each individual human being is different, and therefore, each individual human being’s path to their true self is also unique.

With a degree in Communication Studies and a strong understanding of interpersonal communication, I feel as though I may have a small leg-up, so to speak, when it comes to learning the ways in which “real adults” interact in life and in the workplace. I say “real adult” with a tongue in cheek, in reference to those who are more acclimated to this thing called life than myself. However, I have certainly identified a few areas to address when it comes to my understanding of professional life.

At this point, I feel quite comfortable with my responsibilities at the MLBPAA, and have a confident grasp on what I need to do and how it needs to be done. The area that needs the most improvement and focus is more personal. I hold myself to extremely high standards. I always have been and always will be my greatest critic. This stems from a deep competitive nature that has practically been innate in me since the day I was born. When I do things, I want to do them well. When I compete, I want to win, and I want to win by a lot. I try to carry this same attitude into the workplace.

That said, it has been an interesting process to observe the value of harnessing a strong emotion or quality. While my competitive nature has played a major role in propelling me to where I am thus far, it can also grow too strong, clouding my judgement and/or patience. During the last month or so in my internship, I have been aware of this, and have consciously worked on finding ways to channel that competitive nature in a way that is most efficient and effective for not just me, but everybody in the office.

When I first arrived here, my only goal was to do the very best that I could on whatever I was working on at the moment. All that I was concerned with doing was proving my abilities and doing professional-grade work that not only met the standard, but exceeded the standard. Since day one with the MLBPAA, my goal has not been to just be a good intern, but to be an asset to the company. But now that the dust has settled and I have had some time to acclimate to this new environment, my understanding of the bigger picture has widened.

I have come to realize that my success here at the MLBPAA is not measured by the sum of my product, but by the sum of our product as an organization. I could have the most productive day in the history of the company, but if somebody else had something important that didn’t get done because I was working so hard in my little zone, then as a team, we didn’t necessarily win that day. Coming to that understanding has been, and still is, an ongoing process.

I have been a part of many teams in my life. I have won state championships with teams. I have finished community service projects with teams. Heck, I have even won a recreational softball league with a team. But never before have I been a part of a team that is doing such big things on a daily basis. I have become a part of something much bigger than myself, and that has been a transition for me. One moment I am a college student trying to get good grades and make myself look as good as possible for employers, the next moment I am a part of a group of people trying to make each other look good as a collective whole.

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My buddy Andrew and I at commencement in May. Hard to believe that was only a little over three months ago.

 

I have truly enjoyed every moment here at the MLBPAA, both the good and the bad, the easy and the challenging. I have felt myself grow more in the last three months than ever before, both personally and professionally. Of course, I still have a long way to go and a lot to learn, but I feel that I am well prepared to do so. As I sit here three months later, I think back to the person that sat down in this chair at the beginning of June. That person knew that he was going to work extremely hard this summer. That person knew he was going to be pushed and challenged, and that he would grow immensely in the professional realm. What that person could not have expected is the amount of personal growth and knowledge that he would acquire from this internship.

Aside from what I have done in the office this summer, I am proud of myself for what I have done outside of the office. The ways in which I have grown as a man are palpable as I head home every day, moving on to the next responsibility with patience and grace. Granted, that is not always the case. But I am definitely getting there, and I am most certainly pleased with where I am at.

Returning Home

Throughout this summer I have learned so much and had some of the most amazing experiences working for the MLBPAA. I couldn’t feel more fortunate to have worked with such a great organization. I feel that I learned a lot about what kind of things I enjoy and what type of job I will want to pursue after graduation.

I have made great connections with some of the best role models and mentors I have ever had. Learning more about how to integrate marketing and communications within sports is something that I enjoyed most. I want to remain working in sports and would love the opportunity to be in Colorado again working one day. As I take my journey back home I will reflect on my summer with the MLBPAA and all the memories and opportunities I was given. The people within this organization made my experience very enjoyable and I hope to stay in touch with everyone.

Having one more semester left of school makes me nervous but also excited for my next step in life. Working here this summer has made me realize going into the real world is a lot of work, but also very gratifying. I am excited to start applying for jobs, continuing to build connections and see where I end up. The MLBPAA will always be in mind and I couldn’t be more thankful my coworkers gave me the chance to learn from them. As I say bye to all my new friends I will feel sad, but also blessed that I met such amazing people.

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My coworkers and me.

There and Back Again, A Fan’s Tale

This is a brief story, but one that means a great deal to me.

When I was a kid, there was a baseball card shop in my hometown that I would frequent with my mother. I wasn’t spoiled necessarily, but I was able to earn packs of baseball cards with tasks such as taking out the trash or vacuuming the living room. The store was called “Rain City Sports Cards” but for 9-year-old Max, it may as well have been called heaven.

The Honus Wagner T-206 card is incredibly rare and even more valuable, selling for upwards of $2 million.

The Honus Wagner T-206 card is incredibly rare and even more valuable, selling for upwards of $2 million.

The owner of the store was an awesome guy named Jim Beattie. He could see my fascination with baseball cards and anything baseball related, and he would always go out of his way to give me a great experience when I would come into the store. One of the things that I remember is that he would let me open a sample pack for the new boxes of cards that he would receive. This was the pack that was displayed with the cards so that customers could see what the cards looked like. Every time I went in there, Jim would make my day. Eventually, I had thousands of baseball cards. Some average, some rare, but all of them fascinating.

And then I experienced tragedy for the first time.

I just remember getting home from school one day, and being greeted by my mother, who had a very solemn look on her face. She took me to the living room and sat down on the couch with me, and she told me the news. Jim had passed away in a car crash on a road near where we lived. I’ve never cried harder. I’ve lost loved ones. I’ve lost pets. I’ve lost championships. But for some reason, I cried harder than I ever have, still to this day.

The reason that I thought to share this story from my life is because of a voicemail that I received the other day. It was a call from an ex-big leaguer who I had called about an event that we were putting on. His name was Jim Beattie.

Baseball has taken me on quite a journey in my life thus far. First I was an innocent little leaguer just playing in the dirt. Then the Seattle Mariners won 116 games in 2001 when my father and I had a 16-game plan. Then I wasn’t given a fair shot by my little league coach when I was only 12 years old. Then I won two state championships during summer baseball in high school. Then I batted .400 in Fall tryouts at my university and got cut. And now I am working for the MLBPAA. It has all taken me to here. The ups and downs have been interesting to say the least, but there is no question in my mind that this is exactly where I am supposed to be. And I would like to believe that maybe that wasn’t an ex-big leaguer, but my old buddy Jim, giving me a call to remind me why I love this game so much.

One Degree of Separation

Boy, have I been busy. Never before have I faced such an organizational challenge as here at the MLBPAA. Things are really vamping up, as we have numerous Alumni Days, Clinics and Golf Tournaments coming up, as well as the Heart and Hustle Award Presentations on the horizon. I am enjoying every moment here, but that is not to say that it has been easy.

It has been just over a month since I started as an intern here at the MLBPAA, and in that short month I have felt myself grow and mature more than I ever have in one month. Now that I have entered the professional world as a college graduate, the stakes for everything that I do are a bit higher. However, that has not intimidated me, rather it has motivated me to see what I am capable of. I know that I still have an immense amount to learn, but thus far I am very pleased with myself for the way that I have handled my workload.

Sandy Koufax retired Chris Krug for the first out of the ninth inning during his perfect game on September 9, 1965.

(AP) Sandy Koufax retired Chris Krug for the first out of the ninth inning during his perfect game on September 9, 1965.

Although I have enjoyed just about everything I have done so far here, there is one assignment that stands out above the others. In our newsletters, we feature stories about former players called “Where Are They Now?” that showcase the post-baseball lives of former big leaguers. Coming up in our summer newsletter will be a feature on Everett “Chris” Krug, the opposing catcher during Sandy Koufax’s legendary perfect game. Krug made a throwing error to third base that resulted in the only run of the game that night, but that was not the biggest impact that Krug had on the game of baseball.

After retiring from the game, Krug started a company called “Athletic Turfs, Inc.” and began building fields and laying turf for local ballparks. Eventually, Krug and his company began working on college fields like Tony Gwynn Stadium at San Diego State University, and then graduated on to big league stadiums such as Angels Stadium of Anaheim, and Dodgers Stadium. However, Krug and Athletic Turfs, Inc.’s crowning achievement was a fictional field. Ever seen Field of Dreams? Yep, Chris Krug built that field.

Being a lifelong baseball fan, it was a surreal and humbling experience to spend thirty minutes on the phone with Chris. He shared stories about working on the field with Kevin Costner, speaking about how the two stars had a mutual respect for each other. He shared a fascinating anecdote about a time when he was watching batting practice with Ernie Banks. Ernie Banks!! To hear somebody casually chat about an immortal legend like Banks was something else.

There was a moment during that conversation when I realized the magnitude of exactly who I was talking to. This was a man who had seen things that I have only dreamed about. A man who has shared hotel rooms with legends that I used to hit home runs with in video games. This was a man who had lived the dream, and who found a way to continue to live that dream for his entire life. And if you ask me, that is about as special as it gets.

Max Carter

Dreams Do Come True

Since I was in a diaper, I have been fascinated by the game of baseball. From the intricacies of the rules, to the personalities of the players, to the energized chatter of 40,000 on a Friday night. As a player and as a fan, I have grown to develop a deep love and appreciation for baseball. I only dreamed that one day I could become more than a fan, and several years ago, as is the case for all but a small handful of lucky individuals, my career as a player came to an end.

The first year of my life without playing the game of baseball was definitely a challenge. No longer did I have hours of my day committed to America’s Pastime, and I had to find different ways to fill that time. It was difficult at first, but eventually I dipped my feet into enough new ponds that I was happily busy once again. That said, the absence of baseball in my life still left a void that could not be filled.

Fast forward to my senior year at Whitworth University in Spokane, Washington, as I was beginning to look towards the future and potential job prospects. One thing that I knew for sure was that I would not be working at a job that I did not enjoy. Knowing myself, I would never be able to give 100 percent in a situation like that. That said, I also needed to find a job. I had reached out to a few MLB related opportunities, one with the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, NY and one here, with the MLBPAA. I had sent those applications in sometime in January, and didn’t think much about them after the fact, as I was focused on completing my final semester of college and dealing with all that comes with graduation.

My father and I on the Ambiente Course at Camelback Golf Club in Scottsdale, AZ.

My father and I on the Ambiente Course at Camelback Golf Club in Scottsdale, AZ.

It was March 24, a few days after my 22nd birthday and the final day of a golf vacation that my father and I were on in Arizona. We were getting ready to tee off for the pinnacle of our trip — a round on the Ambiente Course at Camelback Golf Club in Scottsdale — when I received an unexpected email from Nikki here at the MLBPAA. The email informed me that the MLBPAA was interested in interviewing me for an internship, and I quickly replied that I would be elated to.

A couple of interviews later, I learned that I had received the internship, and I can honestly say that was one of the most victorious feelings of my life. It is a dream of most college graduates to apply their degree towards something that they are not only knowledgeable about, but passionate about as well. I am extremely grateful to have been given an opportunity to work in a field that I love so deeply, let alone right out of college. It has all seemed so natural, from the initial phone call, to the road trip to Colorado, to the first full week in the office. Regardless of where I end up come September, I feel that I belong here. I feel that I am exactly where I am supposed to be right now.

Of course, most college grads are just peachy to receive any kind of job or internship offer immediately following college. I would have been. But rather than being in a position where I am just showing up every day to do my job, I now have been given the opportunity to show up every day in a place that gives me energy, and that stokes the embers of my passion for the game of baseball.

I could be making phone calls to Joe Shmoe about his insurance claim. Instead, I am calling Mike Mussina about attending an event as an honored guest. I could be driving across the country to attend a conference full of stiff, boring people in suits talking about things that I hardly understand. Instead, I am helping organize events all over the country and the world, where my childhood heroes are attending to make a difference in their communities. I could be hanging out at home in Woodinville, Washington working on my golf game and trying to find some jobs to pass the time. Instead, I am applying the communication skills that I learned at Whitworth, and the 22 years of baseball knowledge that I have organically compiled, in order to contribute to Major League Baseball, as well as the game of baseball all around the world.

One of my favorite spots in one of my favorite places, Safeco Field.

One of my favorite spots in one of my favorite places, Safeco Field.

If you would have told freshman or sophomore me that this is what I would be doing after graduation, I would have said something like “Yeah, that would sure be a dream come true”. Well, after a lot of hard work, positive thinking and a little help from some friends, here I am. 10 years ago I was a little kid playing in the dirt, hoping that one day, when I would become a big old scary adult and have to enter the big old scary adult world, that baseball would still be prominent in my life somehow. There is something about this sport — the kid’s game — that fuels the inner-child and the dreamer in everybody who’s life is touched in any way by the game of baseball.

All of that said, my work has only just begun. I have so much more to learn and do, and only God knows where I will be in a few months, or in a year, or in five years. But it seems that thus far, I have been guided to this place. Every assignment I receive here gives me a new boost of life, as I get to dip my hand ever further into the industry of the game that has given me so much joy. From a little kid in The Kingdome cheering on Ken Griffey, Jr. with his dad, to a starter on the varsity team in high school, to an intern with the MLBPAA, this is a long journey that is not even close to it’s end. I don’t know what that end will be, but thus far the journey is off to a fantastic start, and I am confident that whatever the future holds, it is going to be awesome.

Max Carter

Embracing Change

My first week in Colorado Springs was lonely because I hadn’t made any friends outside of work, yet. As I lay in my bed on a sunny Friday evening I decided to go out by my apartment complex pool. I saw there were a few people enjoying the beautiful evening as well, but I didn’t want to be the creepy new girl that awkwardly scopes out the area for new friends. Fortunately, it turned out to be a much easier process in meeting people. As I was laying by the pool, little conversations started to arouse among everyone. A guy named Dre asked where I was from. As soon as I replied, “Illinois”, the cute little brunette next to me said, “No way! Me too!”

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My apartment complex.

We started talking about what part of Illinois we were from, where we went to school and how we both ended up in Colorado Springs. Interestingly enough, she was from only 45 minutes away from my hometown. Sometimes it really does feel like such a small world. Both of our outgoing and fun personalities allowed us to automatically connect. She later introduced me to some of her friends and they spent Friday night showing me around downtown Colorado Springs and some of the fun areas. The rest of the weekend included my new group of friends laying by the pool and grilling out. A weekend I thought was going to be lonely ended up being a blast before my first full week of work, which made me extremely happy.

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My new friend, Ally.

I was excited waking up early Monday morning knowing that it was my first full week with the MLBPAA. So far, this week has been full of many different tasks and learning experiences. I learned how to write a press release, post to social media, fill out stat sheets, make phone calls for lapsed memberships, and some different basic intern tasks such as; sorting files, the mail and opening the return letters from different members. Learning different tasks such as these will better prepare me for a job after college.

Unfortunately, even though I love the game of baseball, I do not have much knowledge on the subject of baseball. Sitting in on meetings and trying to follow the conversations on different players can be difficult at times. I would like to be able to provide input and have an opinion on some topics during meetings. In order to do this, I borrowed a few books from Geoff Hixson, the Chief Operating Officer, and Nikki Warner, the Director of Communications of the MLBPAA. These books have information on recent baseball players as well as some of the best baseball players in history.

My plan is to study at least three players a night all summer in order to familiarize myself with different players. I am hoping after a few weeks of studying, my baseball knowledge will help me become an active participant in baseball discussions around the office and in meetings. Although I don’t know much on the subject, I find it motivating to work harder to learn more in order to help make a difference at the MLBPAA. Overall, my first full week in Colorado has been enjoyable both in and out of the office.