Sports Speaker Series Spring 2017: Justin Decremer

Sports Speaker Series Spring 2017: Justin Decremer


[MUSIC PLAYING] Thank you, Sandy. Thank you very much. I know all of you
probably have to be here. So hopefully in
the next 45 minutes or so I can kind of through
my story, and the experiences that I had in
sports, and outside of sports, from minor
league baseball, to professional
football, in between, to coaching, and moving on to a
whole new career at this point, I can share with you
guys a lot of the stuff that I went through
getting to Ferris, and then moving forward. It’s kind of a neat
story actually, how the whole thing
built itself from where I started to where I am now. As Sandy said, I
graduated in 1999 in applied speech
communication, and I came to Ferris mostly
because of family, so I didn’t really know, coming
here, why I was coming here, what I was doing. So the big thing for me, after
I got out of high school, was my great grandfather,
Judge William Miller, who you might recognize
from Miller Hall, he was a 1902 graduate
of Ferris Institute. And then in 1906 he
graduated from the University of Michigan Law. And after that
became on the first, as Ferris was becoming
a State College, he was on the first
Board of Control. He passed away, and he was
on that Board of Control until he passed away
in September of 1962 long before I was born. But Miller Hall was
dedicated in 1963, again, well before I was
born, my grandfather was in attendance, a
couple of his siblings. So growing up I heard
about Judge William Miller, and how important he
was to the community I grew up in, which is
in Escanaba, in the Upper Peninsula, that area. A little town called Rapid River
is where actually I’m from, where he ended up having
a law office there, did a lot of cool things
for that community. At the same time, worked
with Woodbridge Ferris at establishing Ferris
as a State College, and then eventually
as a university. So to my grandfather
it was important, no grandkid had
come to Ferris, I have a twin brother,
and a younger brother. So my twin brother was moving
out east to go to school. At that time, my
younger brother, I didn’t know what he
was doing, if he was even going to make it to
high school because he was kind of one of
those younger brothers. So it was important to me to
come to Ferris for that reason because my grandpa was
beginning to get into his 90s, didn’t know how much longer
he was going to be around, so I wanted to
come here for him. So when I got here I really
don’t know what I was doing, and I had to try
to find my niche. I was very much
involved with sports, I wanted to have a
sports career somehow, which almost led me to
go to Syracuse University because they have a
broadcasting program there that I looked into very heavily
when I was in high school. And just kind of decided
against it at that time, to come here more. So when I got here
I had spent a year a community school just trying
to figure some stuff out. I wanted a degree, somehow, in
sports field, communication, public relations, at that
time, Ferris didn’t really have much except applied
speech communication program. So when I started
to look into it, and it got down to
the program, and then knowing how I wanted to build
the sports, I didn’t know. I know I wanted to be
in sports, whether it be PR, whether it
be broadcasting, whether it be, maybe,
athletic departments, but I didn’t know how
to work it totally. So as I met with some advisors,
Donna Smith at the time, and Sandy, we kind
of built a program through television
production with Steve. I spent a lot of time in the
television production classes, I took a bunch of those. And then of course, the
communication classes that I had as well. So it became
something where I knew I had to get some sort of
degree, some sort of experience in television production with
a focus on communication, as well. But at the same
time, the first thing I did when I got to Ferris,
the second day I was on campus I got a job in the
sports information department with a gentleman
by the name of Joel Gorby. And through that, oops,
I’m not good at PowerPoint, through sports information
department, which is basically designing of the media
guides, you’re at every game, you’re at every sporting
event taking stats, I was involved with
dealing with the teams, dealing with the coaches. As the years went on,
I spent three years in the sports
information department, I pretty much ran everything my
senior year, at hockey games, at football games, at basketball
games, running all the stats, punching everything
into the computers, getting them back, sending
out press releases. So that’s where
I really learned, through that department, how the
back end of the sports industry worked. Through the
television production, we were doing videotaping
games, we’re in the trucks directing games,
directing broadcasts of football games, which I
got to be honest with you, I liked a lot, and
I was good at it. And that was the direction I
thought maybe I would go into, into directing
sporting events, you know that you see on TV
with the multiple cameras behind the scenes. You know that was
really something I was interested in for a
while and considered a lot. WFSU was a radio
station that at the time really wasn’t up and
running, we kind of got it back up and running. So at WFSU there
was only a few of us then that were even involved
with being in the station, or having anything to
do with the station. So we were deejays
a few days a week, and it just broadcast on
the campus network station that you see. I had some ideas
what I wanted to do, and it never did
materialize, but I actually wanted to bring players,
athletes, and coaches in, and have a sport show for a
couple hours two nights a week, and interview
basketball players, and hockey players, whatever
season was going on. And it never did work
out, but it was always something that was in the
back of my mind to do. Sports radio now
it’s huge, right? It’s huge, it’s huge, it’s
on all day, every day. You know at that time
it was very brand new. And WFSU then was, it was
so small there was only a handful of us, we
really didn’t know how to get it going, and working. Is it even around? Is it working? I’m working on it. You’re, so– And we literally just
started it back up. So it didn’t last
much longer into the– No, it just went
under in like 2014. So, and then– Now you’re getting it back up. To me it was a very
important thing, I don’t know if
anyone ever listened to it, to be honest with you. They probably didn’t, you
know no one ever called in requesting songs, so I
guess maybe they didn’t. You know and I would talk a
lot about sports on the air, as much as I could in
between playing music. You know and that’s
kind of my thing, my DJ name was the Gipper,
for you Notre Dame fans. You know that was my call sign,
you know Maverick was taken, so I couldn’t use Maverick
because that was already taken. You guys are too
young for that joke? No, all right. Campus conversations
is a thing that I did through the
television production where I interviewed
President Sederburg, and had live
interviews with him, I think we did four shows
in the time I was here. So where I actually
sat down with him, and asked some questions,
people would call in. Most likely my roommates
would call in and ask him a stupid question,
and try to get me laughing on live TV, which I
did a couple times, because it was funny. And they were not very smart
questions, like about parking, or whatever. But through that, again, there’s
now I’m in front of camera. Now I don’t really have a face
for TV, it’s more for radio, so I was probably better
suited for that anyway. But at that time, with
the television production, and knowing both sides
of how it worked. I knew how it
worked on this side, and now I was on this side. And at that time
it was coming up to trying to decide what I was
going to do for an internship, I knew I needed an internship. So where was I
going to go to look, you know I sent out
resumes to radio stations in the Detroit area,
the Grand Rapids area. I sent a resume to the Whitecaps
in Grand Rapids looking for a summer internship there. And it turned out I went
to Fox 2 News in Detroit, and interviewed with
Woody Woodriffe, who is still an on-air talent,
spent 20 minutes with him. And on my way back,
I drove from here to Detroit,
interviewed with him. And on my way back he had
called and left a message, and said they offered me an
internship for the summer. So which was really neat, you
know working at Fox 2 News. And the same guys
are still there, as I’ll get into in a
second, and that was what I did with my internship. So I spent the summer getting
up at 5 o’clock in the morning, I lived with my cousin in
Rochester, he did construction. So we would– I was in concrete doing
curbs, it was horrible, it was the worse
thing, it was awful, it was the worst thing ever. So I would do that from 5
to 2, and then at 3 o’clock I’d go into the radio
station which is South– the TV station in
Southfield, and I’d work there from 4 to 11. So you did the 5 o’clock news,
the 6 o’clock news, and then the 10 o’clock news. And my big responsibility
then as an intern, right away was watching,
and logging sporting events. So whatever game was on locally
Tigers, Pistons, Red Wings, you know we’d watch
the game, they had the clocks running
right down to the nanosecond if something happened
you logged it. So when you went back
after the game was over with, or before
the broadcast, we’d have to go into the edit
room, and edit clips. And they’d have a guy, a
union guy sitting there, that you told him what to
do, where to stop the tape, he would cut it
how you wanted it. And that got sent back over
to the on-air talents, which were Dan Miller, Woody
Woodriffe, Jennifer Hammond, who are all still there today,
if you ever watch Fox 2 Sports. Dan Miller’s the voice
of the Lions now, you know he’s been
there a long time. So very cool people, I learned
a tremendous amount from them. The producer at Fox
2 News at that time was a guy by the name
of Mike [? Andral, ?] who’s not there anymore. Everything was behind
the scenes there, I got to go to
old Tiger Stadium, and stand behind Josh
Lewin and Kirk Gibson during a couple Tigers games as
they were doing their broadcast on Fox Sports Detroit. You know back then it was
probably 40 games a year, or 50 games a year, now it’s
pretty much every game’s on. That was a neat experience, the
press box in old Tiger Stadium was about as wide as from
here to the end of that table. So you’re all kind
of just crammed in, and I was standing
behind him, and they were sitting right there. And I tried to get Kirk
Gibson’s autograph, but he hasn’t like
that kind of stuff so he didn’t give it to
me, which is all right. But that experience too, once
I got to do stuff like that. And then there were
other responsibilities that I had, part
of my internship. That year the Red Wings
won the Stanley Cup in ’98, it was there back-to-back
they won the ’97, and they won again in 98. So I was working the
night that they won, they won in Washington. So Dan Miller was
on the air, it was 10:27 he was finishing
up his sports wrap, they scored the winning goal. I ran out into the
studio, he’s over where Steve is talking to the camera,
and I gave him the thumbs up, and he announced on the air that
the Wings won the Stanley Cup. And we were on the air till
3 o’clock in the morning covering all the
celebration, they had trucks, and camera crews everywhere. So as stuff would come
in, we would sit down and edit the tapes out, give
it to Dan Miller, Woody, or Jennifer. Write copy for them real quick,
we would make notes for them, they didn’t like
their copy written, you know like any good
sports broadcaster doesn’t want his copy totally written. But we would give him
sketches, and ideas, and then he would write
their copies from there. So that’s what we
did for five hours, like literally,
straight five hours. And at 3 o’clock
in the morning I went home, and then got up
at 5:00 and went to work. And then did it all
over again the next day, such is life as an intern. OK, so that was a
really cool thing. The last thing I had
to do was I actually had to produce a sports
show on a Sunday, which was an hour, “Sports Works.” So at the end of my
internship, my responsibility was to produce the whole show. That means set up
all the tape, set up all the copy, put in order
what’s most important, what’s second,
and third, fourth. There were guys that would be
in-house interviewing, Jamie Samuelsen, who is a radio
guy in Detroit still. Matt Dery he was in that day. So those guys would
talk to Woody Woodriffe, they would interview them,
and talk about whatever. And it just so
happened to be the day at Michigan International
Speedway, where there was an accident, an Indy race. A car slammed into the concrete
rail, the tire and the axle flew off into the bleachers
and killed three people, and it instantly
killed three people. And injured a dozen more,
and they kept the race going. Became a big thing
that blew up fast. So here I am, I’m in charge,
and they’re all looking at me. Once we see it happen on
TV, OK, so what do you do? Um, send a truck and
a camera crew out? Yeah, sure, OK, do it. So I send them out, I’m in
constant contact with them. They’re interviewing
people, the race kept going, they finished the race, it was
a big controversy at the time. A lot of people
weren’t happy about it, with fatalities that
they kept the race going. I believe it was the
last Indy car race ever at Michigan International
Speedway, they shut it down. And then they’ve actually
built the concrete walls up a little higher now. But it was a big
deal, on top of that, the Tigers were in a big series. So there was all kinds
of things going on, it was my second
to last day there before I had to leave and come
back for my senior year here. So that was a really neat
experience, the internship, and I’ll talk about
the other one. The internship that I
had there set the tone for what I did going forward. That was a really– there were
three of us that were interns at Fox 2 that summer, out
of 100 and some people that are interviewed. It was a really neat
experience, if you’re interested at all into
either, behind the scenes, or in front of
the camera, that’s kind of where you want to lead
yourself to as far as doing any internships. Gain experience,
classroom is one thing, people want to see
experience, people want to see the
sports information stuff, the radio stuff, the
internships that they do. They’re not really worried about
your GPA, that’s an OK thing. But they want to see that
you’ve got experience into what you’re trying to get into. And that will help you
further down the road, it certainly helped
me as I went forward. As I came back
that fall, I knew I had to start looking
for a job because I was graduating in May. What the hell was I going to do? I really had no idea. So come December I’m
searching around, and I see this minor league
baseball thing pop up, right? What, minor league baseball,
OK, all right, so what’s that? So they have this thing of
baseball winter meetings, which happens every year,
it’s where you’ll see all you know big
free-agents will get signed. There’s big meetings, the
rule changes will happen, for the baseball guys
or girls out there, it’s a big deal for
four or five days. Part of the baseball winter
meetings, and this time it was in Nashville, Tennessee. Minor league baseball
has a job fair, go down and try to get a job. A lot of internships,
not much full time stuff, but I said,
OK, you know, I guess. I guess, so I copied
50 resumes, went down, had no idea what I was doing. I got to Dollywood, it
was at Dollywood hotel, I had no idea what I was doing. I just kind of parked,
I got a hotel room. You know you walk around, there
wasn’t a lot of direction. There were 745 people they said
at the opening for 400 jobs, so there’s your
one in two chance. And most of the
jobs were nothing that I even remotely
was interested in, you know stadium
operations, or tickets, you know I wanted
public relations, media relations, broadcasting, that’s
where I kind of looked for. So what you did was, they
had this huge room, and all these tables, and boxes set up. And a job would be posted,
and you’d come by the job that you wanted, and you
throw your resume in it. And you’d walk around and see
all these different things. And the resumes in
boxes would be stacked, it would be like
a book in there. So a couple of hours later,
as the general managers, and the people in
charge of the teams went through them they would
post and interview board. So your name would
be on this huge board that you got an interview
for one of the positions that you put in. Now I probably dropped 30
resumes, I got five interviews. You have a time
slot and your name, and there is a whole
you know there’s 40– 50 people interviewing for
one job, every job there. So you go this interview,
the first interview I got was for the Ranch
Cucamongo, I can’t even remember their surname now. But it was in the valley in
San Bernardino in California, like in the valley. And they offered me
the job on the spot, it was a short season team,
so they played like 120 games. And there was like, no, there’s
no way I’m going to California and living in the valley,
that’s not happen, I just wasn’t interested. The other five– four
jobs I interviewed with, didn’t go very well. I didn’t really like it,
or they didn’t like me. So I was kind of
feeling pretty down, didn’t know where I was
going to go from there, the next day was another day. And then I come across,
after the interview process, Maryland Baseball Company who
was having a little job fair. Maryland Baseball
at that time owned three of the Orioles affiliates,
Baltimore Orioles affiliates. The Bowie Baysox, which
is a double-A affiliate, the Frederick Keys which
is the high-A affiliate, and the Delmarva Shorebirds
which is the low-A affiliate. So their ownership
owned all three of those teams, the food
service, the merchandising, they owned everything,
so they had all these interviews going on. I kept trying to talk to the
general manager of the Bowie Baysox, his name was
John Danos, to try to get an interview with him. It was basically like
you stand in line, it was like Kate Upton
walking into the room and us guys trying to talk to her. It was, you couldn’t get
to her, it couldn’t happen. So I never did get a
chance to talk to him. I got his number, his
hotel room number, I called up his hotel
room a few times, his wife answered, oh,
he’ll get back to you, he’ll get back to you. I was leaving that day to come
back because I had finals, I couldn’t stay, I had to come
back and study for finals. So I never did talk
to the guy, you know and I left there
thinking well, that was that, I didn’t really– that didn’t work out too well. So as I get back, I’m taking
finals, I’m thinking well, I’m going to go home
for Christmas break, I’ll come back and refocus,
see where else maybe I can go. You know, again, you’re
graduating in May, right, that was my thought. I’m graduating in May, I don’t– I’m not coming back, unless
I come back for a masters, I need to get a job,
like that was my focus, you got to get a job. I got to start paying, student
loans are going to come up, I got to start
paying those things. I got to– I’m not going back to my parents
house, that wasn’t an option, there was no way that was
happening up in the UP. So I had to get a job, right? So the day before I’m
leaving the phone rings, and I was living in a
house on Division street. This gentleman by the
name of Dave Collins calls me from the
Bowie Baysox, he’s the director of public
relations and he’s the voice of the Baysox on the radio. Dave’s a really neat guy, who
should be a NASA scientist, and he’s working in minor
league baseball and doing radio. He is a mathematician
extraordinaire, extraordinaire. And I’ll tell you a
good story about that in a couple of minutes. So the guy, he calls me,
Justin this Dave Collins from the Bowie Baysox, of course
my roommate answers the phone. So that was bad because he said
I wasn’t there, kind of played, thought it was a prank
call, gave the guy a hard time a little bit. Which at the time, I
didn’t really know Dave, but as I got to know
Dave I understood how he didn’t take it very
well, he’s not that kind of guy, he’s a smart guy, he
didn’t like that, you know my roommate thought
he was being funny. So I finally get on
the phone with the guy, hey Justin this is Dave
Collins of the Bowie Baysox. Hey, Dave, so I talked
to him, and he said, you know John Danos said you
tried to get a hold of him. I got a hold of your
resume right here, you know we would
like to hire you as the intern in the relations
department for the upcoming baseball season. Really, that’s fantastic. Yup, yup. And, you know very dry,
very to the point guy. So yeah, so we’ll see
you March 21st or 22nd. What? Well, yeah, March,
I need you here like the third week of March
because we start in April. I don’t graduate till May. Oh, that’s not going to work
he tells me, like I don’t– I’ll have to go the
next guy on the list. So I said, well let me, you know
let me try to figure something, can you give me a few weeks
to try to figure something out then. So it becomes how am
I going to do that. So this guy calls me,
Charlie Vascellaro, he’s the director of media relations
for Maryland Baseball, for all three teams. So he calls me 10 minutes
after I talk to Dave. Hey Justin, hey Charlie,
the same conversation. I’m like yeah Dave
just talked me. Oh, well we want to hire you as
an intern for all three teams. I was like well, aren’t
you guys kind of together? He goes, yeah. Well, did you talk to Dave? I just talked to Mr. Collins. So it was a little confusing,
and then he says, yeah, can you be here March 22nd? So I tell him the same thing. Oh, he’s like well, yeah,
I don’t think that will– I just started last week. So I’m not sure
how it works, but I think you got to be here
before the season starts. You know so I thought
I guess, he goes yeah, I’ll have to find
that out he says. Charlie’s a tremendous
baseball guy, I got a couple good
stories with him, too. But he didn’t know
what he was doing, so the whole thing was kind of
confusing to me, and to them, right? So I go back home, I
tell my parents, hey, how am I going to work this
out, this is what I want to do. This is really– I get to move to Maryland
and live in Annapolis working Bowie, you know
Baltimore, the Orioles, I was a big Cal Ripken fan. I wrote a speech
about Cal Ripken in one of my speech classes
in ’98, which I still have by the way, good speech. And I did show it to him
there’s another story, too, I actually gave him a
copy of it when I met him. So that was a big deal to me,
so how am I going to do this? So my parents were
like whatever, you know my dad was like
just don’t come back, I don’t care what you
got to do just stay away. So I get back here,
and now we got to figure out how am I
going to get to Maryland? So I got to meet with all of
the professors, Sandy, and Gary Horn, and Donna, and
Neal, and ask them, and I even talked to
President Sederburg about it, how do
I get down early, how do I leave in March when
I don’t graduate till May? And you know seniors, how
many seniors are in here? You know all the work
you got to do, right? This last semester, to
get done and graduate. So how am I going to do that,
and still party a little bit? That was a big concern, I need
to go out in style, right? You know Earth Day is
coming up, like I’m going to miss Earth Day, seriously? Well, I got to make up for that,
so how is that going to work? You know and they basically,
all my professors were great, Sandy and I talked
about it a lot, how am I going to
finish on March 20th and get everything
done so I can graduate? Now that means I’m
not going to walk because I can’t, which made
my mom a little disappointed. But how am I going to do all
that so I have everything done? Well, basically it was like,
yeah, if you can do it, do it. That was kind of the
response, go for it, you know see what happens. The only clicker, the
little stink pod of it was, I was in a debate that
was in Dayton, Ohio in April, OK, on smoking. And I had to go to
this debate, I had to or I couldn’t graduate. So I left on March 20th, drove
to Maryland, had called someone and I rented a upstairs part
of a house in Annapolis. Annapolis is a great
city by the way, if you’re ever out there check
Annapolis out, it’s awesome. So I spent three and 1/2,
four weeks out there, I took all my research
with me for this debate, I didn’t look at it once,
I never even glanced at it. So I fly to Dayton, my partner
is not happy with me at all, she’s been working on
this thing for four weeks because we were partners, right? I got it, that’s what I told
her, I got it, I got it, I’m the best BS-er
there is, I got it. So we take second place
team, and I take eighth place individual, and I didn’t look
at anything for five weeks, or six weeks, nothing. Mr Horn thought I was
the greatest debater on the face of the earth. Like he was giving you
all kinds of props, he’s like, you must Justin, you
must have been looking at this all your spare time. Nope, not once, never even
took it out of the little box that it was in that I
shipped with me to Maryland, not one time, not one time. So now I’m there, and there I am
in the press box opening night April 15th, or 14th,
1999 whatever it is. That was our PA announcer. So here I am, baseball is
getting ready to start, the batting cages are out. I remember getting to the
stadium that first day, and I drove up, and I parked. And I had a hard
time finding it, and no GPS back down all right. You actually got to know your
north, south, east, and west. So I had a hard time
finding it, and I got there, I was like a 1/2
hour, 45 minutes late for my first day you know. And I run in this office, and
the receptionist is there. Hey, hi, Justin
DeCreamer I’m here it’s– I’m your media relations intern. She’s like you’re who? I’m Justin DeCreamer, I’m
going to be your new relations intern I supposed work
with Dave Collins. And she’s like, oh, OK,
well why didn’t– yeah, OK. So this guy Dave comes up, pants
pulled up to here, it’s 8– 9 o’clock in the morning, right. He’s got the tucked in
T-shirt, or he usually, he’d wear a Polo shirt a lot,
Mountain Dew in his hand, always had a Mountain
Dew in his hand. And I meet this guy, and it’s
like, I’m sorry you’re Dave? Yeah, no, I’m Dave Collins,
yeah I’m Dave Collins, he shakes my hand. And I’m like, I’m looking
at this guy thinking, how is this guy the
public relations director for this
team, this is crazy, he’s got the little pencil
thing going you know. So we walk back into the
office, and everyone else is dressed up, you know
it’s not shirt and tie stuff but they’re khakis. And yeah, I meet Charlie
Vascellaro the media relations guy for Maryland Baseball. He was 10 years
older than me, Dave was like 15 years
older, everyone else in the office late
20s, early 30s, couple older guys
that were salesmen, or advertise specialists. But everyone was
kind of, and as I learned, minor league baseball
is a young man’s, young woman’s game, because of everything
you got to do, it’s tough. So young people really get drawn
to that industry, big time. So as he’s showing me around,
and I get to meet Dave, he’s showing me all this stuff,
going through all the things that I had to do. Charlie tells me, hey, you know
Dave’s really smart with math. So I said really, so I said,
hey Dave, what’s 221 times 97. And he rattled [SNAPS FINGERS]
it off to the decimal point just like [SNAPS FINGERS]
that, just like that. The guy did stats in his
head during the game. So Dave would get frazzled easy,
and if we were stressing out before a game I would always
shoot him some stupid math problem, you know the square
root of 198, or something dumb. And he would just
spit out the answer, and get him to kind
of calm him down. You know Dave was the guy
that would be stressed out five minutes before he put on
the headset to go on the radio, and then he shifted
gears, and he was the best play-by-play
guy, minus Ernie Harwell, I ever heard to this day. The guy was awesome, knew
baseball, loved baseball, was great at calling
a game, and painting a picture on the radio
of what was happening, he was a machine, a machine. And he didn’t prep, it
was the craziest thing, the guy never prepped, and
he had it all in his head. So life as an intern
in the minors for me, number one I learned
right away is long hours. You get there at 9, and
it’s not 9 to 4, or 9 to 5, it’s 9 to 8– 9– 10. You know we’re doing
all kinds of things getting ready for the season. During the season,
you have eight– 10 game home stands. We’re there till
11 o’clock, then we’re going across the street
to Applebee’s, and you get home at 2:00. And then you wake up,
and you’re, again, right back in the office at 8
o’clock in the morning again, and you just do the
whole thing over. So it’s extreme long hours,
and you’re not getting paid, you know we got paid $800 a
month, that’s what I got paid. And I think it averaged
out to about $1.85 an hour when I figured it out
one time, it wasn’t much. But the experiences that
I got were tremendous, as far as how it moved
me into what I was doing. So in the morning if
we had games going on, or even if the team
was on the road, Dave traveled with the team, he
was the radio guy of every game all 142 games. So he was gone, when the
team was gone, Dave was gone. So he would call me back at
the office in the morning, relay me some information. I would get out to the
media, press releases, I would call the
media if they wanted to talk about anything that
happened the night before. You know this is like, you
know Bowie, Maryland is a small town, the Baysox were
big, these communities loved. Like Grand Rapids
with the Whitecaps, you know they’re loved their
team, they covered their team, it was their team,
it was their Tigers. The local media covered
these guys all the time, and they wanted information. So we had to write
press releases, if a big prospect
was coming to town, you had to get a
press release out. If an Oriole was doing
a rehab assignment, you got a press release out,
and so forth, and so on. And I was in charge of
that, especially when Dave was on the road. In the afternoons when you’re
getting ready for the game, I got to go run down
to the managers, speak to the managers,
get their lineup cards, bring them back up. Print them out, write
them down, print them out, we had girls that would
stuff them in the programs, or the little inserts
that we would hand out. Media always wanted
to do interviews before a game,
especially home games. You know if we had really,
the top prospect that year was a kid by the name of Matt
Riley who was from California. He was a left-handed
pitcher threw about 94 or 95, had a
curve-ball that broke out about 85 a foot and a 1/2
or so, had a decent slider, he has a really good pitcher,
he was a knucklehead though. So the media loved him
because he would always say something stupid. And whenever he was in town,
and we had to get to the point where we kept him
away from the media. So if a guy call me and
wanted to talk to Matt, I would say no, you know what,
he’s not available today he’s in the pen throwing,
or his arm sore he’s getting it worked
on by the trainer. And they knew I
was making it up, but we wouldn’t let
him talk to them. And the manager, and the
Orioles didn’t want him to talk. I handed a baseball one time
to get signed for a kid, and he signed it in the
shoe of the baseball, which is like, you might as well just
keep the baseball because it’s worth nothing. Signing it in the
shoe of the baseball, you got to sign it in
the sweet spot that’s– and this kid signs
it in the shoe because he thinks
he’s that good. So I literally told him,
you know I’ll just, yeah, I’ll keep it, I can’t give
this to somebody, but thanks, you know. And as you deal with
things like that. And then as far as the stats are
concerned, Dave was in his head all the time, but
we couldn’t do that. So I was in charge
of getting stats to the media that
was in the press box, the out-of-town scorers. That we would call
different stadiums, and you know teams
in our league, and get information
how they were doing. This was way before you
know you sat in a press box with a computer and you could
look it all up instantly, you know we actually had
to get the information. These guys would
shout, the media would shout it up
to me as I sat down. And if they had that picture,
I would sit right down and look over the
field, information that they needed at the time. Hey, what’s this guy’s ERA after
he throws these two and 1/3 innings and he gave up
five hits and two runs. So we’d figure it out
and give it to him. You know datatronics is
a big thing in baseball, people want stats,
now more than ever. If you’re into numbers, and
you like that kind of thing, stats is huge. These minor league
guys, their chances of making it to the big
leagues are slim and zero. All those– the three
seasons that I was there, all the guys that I
met, Jayson Werth who now plays for the Nationals. Erik Bedard was a pitcher for
the Orioles, and the Mariners, for a while. I met Josh Hamilton who was in
baseball, out of baseball, back into baseball, when
he was 18 years old. Other then that
there’s not a lot, so stats for them
of how they’re going to go up levels, and
down levels, are big, it is a big thing. Scouts love it, I talk to
scouts all the time just to kind of see what
they would say. And there were a couple of
scouts from the Yankees, there would be a lot of games. And they would just tell me, you
know that guy’s three-tool guy, he’s a four-tool guy, his
numbers aren’t good here, he’s never going to make
it past double-A. In fact, you know what, next
week he’s probably going to get dropped back
down, I wouldn’t doubt it. And sure enough, a
lot of times they were right, because those guys
had the inside scoop, too. So and they wanted
numbers all the time, you know if a scout called me
I had to give them stats on it, right now. So I either had to
get it from Dave, or I had to try to figure
it out, hey, you know what, I’ll get back to
you in 10 minutes. OK, fine, no problem, thanks. So the stats part of it
was a big part of it to me, and I got really,
I loved it, it was it was really cool for me to sit
down and figure that stuff out. I knew how to keep
score in baseball, but I never really was a
numbers guy at that point, and it was actually pretty easy
once you got the niche of it. Once the game started
27 things could happen, you know so we really had to
be on our toes all the time, you know Dave was
doing his thing. So if something came down,
if the manager called up and they wanted something I had
to deal with, the Orioles would have guys, people there all
the time looking at players, they would want information,
the media would want stuff. So you’re constantly, I never
really sat and watched the game very much because you were
constantly doing something. You know we had a
19 inning game that went to 1:30 in the
morning, it started at 7:00 and went to 1:30 in the
morning, it was 19 innings. One guy was 0 for 12, and left
27 people on base, or something ridiculous, it was awful. And we’re still at 12:00,
you’re still running around, and there was like, there
was like 2000 people still in the stadium,
I thought it was crazy. And we lost of course, you know
that year that team wasn’t very good I think they finished 500. So once game time
was over with, and I had to update stats,
the out-of-town stuff, I would go back in the office
you fax all this information out, right? Again, way before e-mails,
way before you could just get online, you had to send
it all via fax machine. So you type in the number of
the Baltimore Sun, the News, the Herald, whatever
sheet you had to type out. There is like 12
or 15 newspapers I had to send information
to and you fax it through. And it took me an hour
and a 1/2, generally, to get everything through. So again, that’s your long
hours, you know it’s not easy. On top of that you got
multiple jobs to do, tarp crew to the field
was not something that I ever wanted to hear
because we’re the tarp crew. There is no tarp crew,
they got a groundskeeper, and a couple of helpers. So you see the
guys, Comerica Park, that run the tarp on the
field when the rain’s coming, that’s us. So I would have to have a
multiple change of clothes if I knew it was raining,
or storms were coming, and Maryland it
can storm any time. And you’re running on the
field, you’re soaking wet, you’re muddy, you’re
running back off, you’re running back
on, sometimes it would happen four or
five times a night, where they had
needed the trap on. So I’d change, and I’d change
again, and then after a while I would just stay
in my wet clothes because what was the
point after that? So tarp crew was
not a cool thing, if there was raining at
6 o’clock in the morning, and they needed the
tarp on the field, they would call us at
5:30 to come in and put the tarp on because we
were the crews that did it. They knew that you’d stay there,
sometimes I’d go up in a suite and take a nap till
8 o’clock and then get ready, or just stay
up and start working. Obviously when the
teams on the road you don’t got to
worry about that. Stadium operations,
if something happens within the stadium,
either during a game, or while things are going on,
we’re helping with things. We’re unloading trucks, we’re
unloading food service items, we’re unloading
merchandise items, we’re helping the
stadium op guys get ready with whatever
it is they got to do, or whatever it is
they’re working on. They got one guy that can’t do
everything, so as an intern, even some of the full-time
guys, the general manager would pitch in at times. You know everyone
was kind of doing little things all the time,
that’s the life of minor league baseball. It’s not the Tigers,
or the Lions, where there’s multiple,
multiple people, you know it’s a small
staff, so you really got to fill in as best you can. Ticket operations, this is how
I learned ticket operations, how to deal with
season ticket holders, and sending invoices, and
doing all– we did it to. You know we sent the stuff out,
we sent group packages out. We called people
on the phone, hey, you know I see that you
bought 10 tickets a month ago, you want to buy 10 more? And you’re trying to get
people in the stadium, Sandy talked about it earlier,
attendance is huge. Attendance is how the
sports industry revolves, you gotta get people in
the seats, they count it, they track it. A lot of it’s paid
attendance, so they announce the attendance of 10,872, and
you’re looking out there going, there’s five– there’s 27 people
in the building, you know but it’s all paid. So you’ve got to sell tickets,
you’ve got to get word out, you’ve got to get
people in the seats. So as a media relations intern
that was part of my job, too. To send different things out,
to go to community events, to talk to people
about the Baysox. To get them interested,
to get them in the seats because that’s what
pays the bills. If you don’t get
people in the seats, you’re not selling merchandise,
you’re not selling food. You want people to buy a
ticket, buy beers, buy food, buy merchandise, that’s what
you’re trying to do, you got to make money. If you don’t make money,
they’ll sell the team off, a different general
manager will come in, it’s not about wins and losses
in minor league baseball, it’s about getting people in
the seats, and getting paid. That’s what they
look for, that’s all they care about, that’s
all the owners cared about, hey, how much money
did we make this month? Well, how many people
were in the stadium? Well, that’s not good enough,
I know we’re a 500 team, but it’s not good enough. And ticket operations
is a big part of that because they’re
dealing with all that, there are season ticket holders,
and there are other people. So you’re trying to get the
word out the best you can. Louie the mascot, let
me tell you about Louie the mascot, big head, big
nose, you put this thing on it was like a hoop that
kind of went around, and the feet were this big. I was Louie the mascot many
times, going to school events, you’re looking like, heads this
way, and the eyes are up here, all you can see is your
feet as you’re walking. You can’t– your
eye levels there, even looking straight
ahead you can’t see out, so someone’s got to
kind of help you along. Then there was a time I got the
call on the radio that said, on a Sunday afternoon at 1:00
it’s 95 degrees out, hey, the guy called in sick, can
you be the mascot today? That was my reaction,
I probably said something in there too,
as I was doing that. Now it’s 95 degrees, you’re in
this costume, you can’t see, you’re walking around,
kids are poking at you, they’re grabbing your nose. They wanted me to go
up to the second level to talk to some suite
holders that were up there, a big group that
spent some money. Sure, no problem,
I’ll go up there, you know you don’t
talk in the thing, but they kind of, you
shake their hands, you do some funny stupid things. So they wanted me to
go out of the suite down into where the seats are. So I start walking down,
now these feet are huge, I stumble, hit the railing,
and I’m going over, like I’m falling over. And grabbed myself
and pulled myself up. They all thought it was funny,
like I did it on purpose. Oh, look at Louie he faked like
he almost fell off, no dude, I almost did fall over. And thanks for helping me out
by the way, because no one did anything but laugh. So that’s the whole, that was– I was in that thing
the whole game, and this is how I looked after. That’s not water by the way,
my good Denver Broncos T-shirt was ruined, which I
wasn’t very happy about. So after this day, and you can
see how thick that stupid thing is, I told the general manager
I said, man, no offense, but I can’t do that
again, that’s crazy. That’s heat exhaustion that’s
death waiting to happen, I almost fell over
the railing, you know if I would have fell
over the railing I probably would have bounced a little
bit because the thing was so big you know,
you know something would have broke the fall. But yeah, that was the last
time I was Louie the mascot. Again, life of being
an intern, right? The general manager was
going to get in uniform, so let’s get Justin
the intern to do it because the other
interns were all girls, and they sure weren’t doing it. So I’ll do it, and I
never said no to much. So after that the season ends as
an internship, just one summer, so I got to find a job. So the Delmarva Shorebirds,
or the single-A affiliate of the Orioles,
they had an opening in their public
relations department. I knew the general manager,
I had met him a few times at other games, he
offered me a position to be the director of
media and public relations for the Delmarva Shorebirds
on the eastern shore. So if you were Salisbury,
Maryland is, Ocean City, Perdue stadium was the
name of the stadium because Jim Perdue, the
owner of Perdue chicken, was the owner of the
Delmarva Shorebirds. They had a chicken factory
right across the street from the stadium,
and if the wind blew in the right
direction, those you who have never smelled
chicken poop before, or what chickens smell like
as they’re being processed, it’s not very good. This guy was intense about
baseball, he loved baseball, the owner, the old man who
wasn’t involved in Perdue anymore was at every game,
the guy was, he was great, he was like everyone’s grandpa. So I took the job, and loved
it, moved to the eastern shore by the ocean, I ended
up moving to Ocean City. During that first
summer that I was there, I had a condo on the beach
from me to the press box away. If we weren’t working,
we were at the beach, Ocean City was great. At 24 years old, you know what
more could you ask for really? So as I got that job I realized,
and I was told right away, hey, you’re the youngest PR
and media relations director in the South Atlantic League. Oh, really. At the time the
Shorebirds didn’t really do a lot of PR, or
media relations, the guy that was
there before was doing both radio,
and advertising, he was selling group
tickets, because again, that’s what you do. My other responsibility as
director of media relations was a group sales director. So I was in charge
of the overall sales of the group sales department,
which was two people. To keep track of
their sales, get them to sell tickets, again,
getting people in the seats, right? So I knew right
away I had to change the culture of how they
perform their media and public relations. So the first week I
was there I blasted out seven press releases
about whatever I could, me getting hired, the next
step towards the Shorebirds, the upcoming season. Hey, look, we got this going
on, I set up a couple community things to get the word out. Now this is September, October,
before the season starts in April. I called all the TV stations,
there were two local TV stations on the eastern shore,
ABC affiliate, and an NBC affiliate, and I called
their sports department. And met with their guys, their
head anchors, and their camera guys, and talked to
them about the Shore– Hey, man, you need to be
at every game this year, every home game I want to see
your cameras in the press box. I want you guys on the
field doing interviews, get as much exposure
as you guys can, whatever you need I’ll hook
you up, it doesn’t matter. Change the culture, get
people in the seats. I learned early in
professional sport, it’s about getting people
in the seats, that’s all anyone cares about. So PR and media relations
is a huge avenue for that, and I did that, and we did that,
and I had a couple guys help me with that. Joe Ferguson was
named our manager, Joe Ferguson was
the catcher when Hank Aaron broke the home
record back when the Braves, way back when. Joe Ferguson called the
pitch that Hank Aaron hit out that broke the record. Joe Ferguson never talked about
it, he was a really good guy, if you asked him about it,
he would just shake his head. He got drunk one night, I
kind of helped that situation, and he talked about it. Calling the pitch,
watching Hank Aaron hit it, watching him
run around the bases. You guys ever see the
clip of Hank Aaron hitting 744, and
breaking the record? You know he runs
around the bases, the guy comes out and
shakes his hand, right? That guy was there,
so what did I do? I blast a press
release out, hey, the Delmarva Shorebirds
hire Joe Ferguson as their manager
for the 2000 season. Joe Ferguson, as you
write a press release, it’s a one page
press release always. So you give some facts,
you give some background, you gives some
facts, and that’s it. And you let them read
it, and look at it, get their facts that they
want, come back to you with questions. Hey, well, Joe
did this, you know do you mind if we talk to– sure, yeah come on down
to the stadium I’ll set up an interview for it. Well, you know what, I think
it’s better if you guys just come down here,
write your articles, get the TV cameras out here,
let’s really do this right. So we did a big press conference
of Joe Ferguson being announced to Delmarva Shorebirds manager. Was it a big deal
in the big world? No. Did people outside of
Delmarva or the Baltimore area care about it? No. But what did it do to our fans? It got– now we’re exposing
them to the baseball team five months before
the season starts. You don’t just forget
about it when it’s over, you’ve got to still expose
them, it sells season tickets. Hey, people want to
see Joe Ferguson, he was a big name in Maryland. He has big name in baseball,
everyone knew Joe Ferg– Joe well, that’s the guy
that was catching the– when Hank Aaron hit
his– broke the record. Yeah, well, come see
him, come check him out, come see how he manages,
so that’s what we did. And I wrote press releases every
day for four weeks about Joe Ferguson, I literally pelted
the media with information about him, pelted them. There were articles written
in all kinds of newspapers, TV interviews. When he hired his staff, I did
a press release on his staff, I don’t even know
who these guys were. Bien Figueroa, who’s Bien? Oh, he’s a Dominican, he’s
going to help with the Dominican players. The Orioles had a lot
of Dominican players in their minor league system. Oh, OK, well, let’s
interview Bien, let’s see what he’s about,
he speaks a little English. So we did that, I
constantly was bombarding the press with releases
as much as I could. I became the official
scorer for the team that year about halfway
through the season, which is a complete conflict
of interest by the way. So basically as
the official scorer you’re in the press box on home
games, I had to watch the game, if it’s a wild pitch, if it’s
a passed ball, it’s an error, you’re deciding whether
or not that happens. Now at minor league level
that’s a big, big deal. They don’t want
errors, they don’t want wild pitches, because it
goes against him when they’re been scouting A, for
other teams, and B, to move up in the system. So if I gave a guy
an error that Joe didn’t think should be an error,
he was calling the press box up, and 32 seconds after it
was posted on the scoreboard. And you got to take
that off right now, and it didn’t matter to
me, OK, yeah, that’s fine, I’ll take the error off. Even though Joe, it did go right
through his wickets, you know. Or hit the top of his
glove and he dropped it, you know technically that’s. I don’t care, no,
just take it off. So it was a tough position
for me to be in at that time because it puts you
in a weird spot. And I’m still dealing
with the media, and I still have to be
this official scorer, people are kind of looking
at you a little different. I didn’t like it, but I
did it for about six weeks until they found somebody else. Radio, I traveled with the team
and was the color commentator on the radio for about
1/2 their away games once the season started,
which was a lot of fun. The play-by-play guy,
Shane Griffin his name was, was very good. But I got to be on the radio,
and call baseball games. You know at that time,
now we’re traveling to Georgia, South
Carolina, North Carolina, summers are hot, right? It’s 90 degrees, you’re
in crappy hotels, it’s literally “Bull Durham”
you know you’re riding the bus, there’s no airplanes
in single-A baseball. The buses are hot,
the air conditioner doesn’t work 1/2 the time,
you know you get $20 a day in per diem for food,
you know that’s it. You know your hotel
is paid for, but it’s no bigger than this counter,
small hotels, crappy stadiums, right? But it was– I wouldn’t have traded
it for anything, it was one of the best
experiences I ever did. And I got to be on the
radio, which was cool, too. And call baseball a little
bit, so I really enjoyed that. And when I wasn’t
doing that, of course, you know I’m back in
Salisbury working out what I needed to do there. We were the 2000 South
Atlantic League Champions, had a really good
team that year, really good team that year. We win the game, it
was a two round playoff format that’s how they had it. So we win the
championship at home, so right when it happens
I’ve got all this press. The press box is filled, I
jammed it with as many people as I could. We win, the cameras
go on the field, the guys are celebrating,
I’m writing a press release to get it out. I got reporters,
I got TV cameras in everyone’s face, talking
to guys, talking to coaches, for the next four hours. We had a big party at a hotel,
in a conference room after, it was a spectacular night. I got a ring with
some diamonds in it, which I have lost
somehow down the road. I’m still not sure how or
when, but I did, which really stinks actually. But that atmosphere,
and that night, was the culmination
of all these reporters that were around
that I had bugged all season to do things that
did a great job covering our championship. And it got exposure in
the Baltimore market, so now the Baltimore
TVs and affiliates were picking it up
because they had heard about this team all year. I didn’t let them not know
about us, they knew about us, they knew about this team,
we had good prospects. Josh Hamilton was there a
few times, Josh Hamilton, anyone know who Josh Hamilton
is, Cincinnati Reds, right? Huge prospect, he was a Tampa
Bay draft pick, huge prospect. When Josh Hamilton hit a
baseball in batting practice it was a different
sound, it was like me hitting a golf ball
and Tiger Woods hitting a golf ball the
difference of the sound. You knew this guy’s going to be
good because the sound it made off his bat when he hit it. It was hard, intense,
and crisp every time, he was a great minor league
player, he tore us up. But guys knew about him, why? A lot of times because
of what we did, I media-ed him up the yin-yang. I wanted people to come
see him, come see this kid, come see our prospects,
that’s what it’s all about, then we win the championship. And all these media
and all these press were coming up to
me after saying, you know what Justin,
that was the best season we’ve ever
had here because of the work your department did. How you got us out here every
day, you didn’t let us quit, we were here, you got
information to us. I hope you’re sticking
around next year, man, I hope you’re here
for a long time, that would be great you know
please, please, please. Who did meet? I spoke about some
minor league players, Cal Ripken Jr was a guy
I met several times, he would come down. I gave him a tour of our stadium
a couple of times because he was building a facility
at that time in Aberdeen, which is now all done now
and it’s a big Little League type of facility. He tailored a lot of that
around how our stadium was constructed, and
built. Brady Anderson was a guy that I
met quite a bit, Eddie Murray I met a few times. You know you see all
these guys around, I got to Cal Ripken
autograph on a picture that I got of him in
his 400th home run that the Orioles PR
department gave me. Other than that, I was never
really an autograph hunter, you know Josh Hamilton signed
a ball for me, Jayson Werth, you know that was about it, I
didn’t really go after that. Some guys did, some guys
wanted their autographs, and they would go after it. To me, it was my job was
to report or help them out, not to get their autographs. You know which some people
do, some people don’t, I never thought it was an appropriate
professional thing to do, even though I was right there
around them all the time. The best person I got to
meet doesn’t have anything to do with baseball because I
had a huge crush on Faith Hill back then. But I didn’t really
care about her music, but I just had a
huge crush on her. And the guy that worked in our– was the PR announcer,
CR Hook is his name. I bugged him constantly
for an autographed picture of Faith Hill because he worked
for Warner Brothers Records at the time. And every day I
would ask him, hey, CR did you get that autographed
picture of Faith Hill for me? Here you want me to spell my
name for you right, again? You know here, just and everyday
I’d bug him, and bug him, and bug him. So finally he set this up for
me, I actually got to meet her. That’s you? That’s me, well yeah, I was
better looking back then. [LAUGHTER] Had a
lot more hair too. Yeah, so I got to meet Faith
Hill, I don’t know what I said, apparently I said some things. I gave her a bag of a– she had her– I
think her daughters were young girls at that
time, two or three years old, whatever, maybe four years old. So gave them a couple of mascot
things, I gave her a hat, you know I even gave Tim
something, even though I didn’t really care about him. I think I was trying to
get her to stray away from him at that time. But I threw my business
card in there, too. So what ended up
happening was they wanted to come to a game
the following season, and she had wrote me
a couple of times. She really thought it was neat
that I gave her some things, and you know I made
a good impression. So, yeah, we were like
pen-pals, it was great, pen-pals with Faith Hill. So because of what I decided
to do a few months later, that never did happen. The other guy that I got to
meet was Dale Earnhardt Sr a few months before he died. That summer, that
fall in 2000 he bought a minor league baseball
team in Kannapolis, North Carolina, which is
where he was from. And he designed– redesigned
this whole stadium, he renamed the team the
Kannapolis Intimidators. I’m not a big NASCAR fan,
back then I was even less. But meeting Dale Earnhardt
Sr, and his wife Denise, the guy was the best businessman
I ever met in my life, smart as a tack, knew how
to run his businesses. Racing for him was like
10% of what he did, he had his hands
into everything. And we were scheduled to play
them on their opening night that following April. So we are setting
up this big event, you know opening
day, opening stadium, Dale Earnhardt’s new team. Well, he passes away in,
I’ll get to that one next, he passes away in
February at Daytona. So we do this whole big
thing because I’ve talked to and have met with him probably
five or six times by then. We do this whole big mural
thing at this shopping mall, these eight foot tables,
big piece of paper it must have covered
50 or 60 feet. And all these people came
in and signed their names and wrote notes. Again, I’m not a big NASCAR fan,
but that was like Elvis dying, like these people were
crushed, and hurt. And what we ended up doing
was I mailed it to his wife after everyone signed it off. And she wrote me back a nice
little letter thanking me for it, how nice it was. At that time I was
still thinking, well, of course I’m going to be around
in April for the opening day, so I’ll see her then. But as the world works, I got
a phone call in March of 2001, so kind of right before
the season started, from a friend that I had that
was working with the Detroit Lions. I guy that I went to high
school with co-incidentally. And he said hey, we’re
looking for some people to help us transition from
the Silverdome to Ford Field. Ford Field was just being
constructed at that time. I’ve mentioned your
name a few times, do you mind flying
in for an interview? He knew where I was, so I said,
yeah, you know I’ll do that, why not? At that time I’m thinking
minor league baseball, professional football,
that’s got to be an upgrade a little bit, right? So I fly out, I interview
for the position, fly back to Maryland, two
days later they offer me a job as a ticket operations
supervisor at that time, and sales. So now I got to make a decision,
so I tell the general manager of the team that was at,
the Shorebirds, hey, this is what’s on the table
what do you think? Of course he wasn’t
happy about it. Comcast Spectacor at that
time owned the Shorebirds, they had bought them out
from Maryland Baseball. Comcast Spectacor
owns the 76ers, the Flyers, these
baseball teams, they had their hands on a
lot of stuff, not just TV. Comcast Spectacor on the
east coast it’s huge, huge. The vice president
of the company flies to Maryland to
talk to me, hey, we can’t lose you that’s
the first thing he says, we can’t lose you. What it’s going to
take, well here’s this offer, so you need
to pay me this to stay. Because at some point it’s got
to be about money a little bit, right? [LAUGHTER] He says, well, I don’t
know if we can do that. And I said, you know, his name
was Jimmy, and I said Jimmy, I love you, you guys
have been great to me, it’s been a great experience. But I really think
at this point, it’s time for me to move on. This is a good opportunity, I’m
going to open a new building, not a lot of people get a
chance to open a new building. It’s something I want, it
gets me back to Michigan, not that I miss Michigan,
believe me, because living on the beach was awesome. As I didn’t miss it
at all, sometimes I regret moving back to Michigan. But at the time
I thought this is what I need to do to help
my career a little bit. And to kind of go forward
and to see something else. I’ve done it, right? I did the minor league thing,
I was there, I did a good job, I did everything I could. So I moved on, and when
I decided on my future, and weighed all those
options, the best thing for me at that time was
to take this next step. Was it the right decision? Maybe not, do you want to leave
people hanging like that right before the season? That was tough for
me because I knew they were going to be in
trouble trying to find someone to come in four weeks before
the season started with to step in and take over. So that was a tough
part of it too. And it really did
weigh on me a lot, it’s something I
considered a great deal. At a time, I thought maybe I’ll
get them through four or five weeks and then move. But they didn’t want me to do
that, the Lions wanted me there then. So I decided to work
for the Detroit Lions. So I moved back to Michigan,
got a house in Rochester live with my cousin,
again, the Lions were still at the Silverdome. So I get hired,
a couple of weeks later Matt Millen gets hired, he
hires Marty Mornhinweg, right? So they’re building a future,
we’re moving to a new stadium, it’s the last year at
the Silverdome, which wasn’t a big hoopla like you
saw the other night when they closed Joe Lewis
at that last game, it just kind of
ended there for that. So my big responsibility as a
ticket operations supervisor at that time was the move from
the Silverdome to Ford Field. Basically with the
season ticket holders, there going from an
80,000 seat facility to a 62,000 seat facility. People that have sat in this
seat at the 50 yard line for 50 years aren’t going to
be in this seat at the 50 yard line at Ford Field they’re
going to be at the 30 yard line. So how do you deal with that? Because people weren’t happy. You couldn’t take a carbon
copy of the Silverdome and put it over Ford
Field, and say everyone’s got the same tickets. And the way that we did the
relocation process for seats, it went in order. So people had season
tickets dating back to 1950, it had all the files
from seeing some of those from 1950 to 2000. People bought tickets
last year at Silverdome to get into Ford Field. So we had 50,000 season
ticket holders at that time when we left the Silverdome
and went the Ford Field, which is a huge amount 51,000. So now you got to
re-seat all these people, now you got to
tell them, hey, you know what you’re not going to
be at the 50 yard line anymore. But it’s a better facility,
it’s a better stadium, it’s a little closer, it’s
not like the Silverdome that had the 90
degree angles going up the second and third level. You know who’s
been to Ford Field? You ever been to Ford Field? You know it’s a
great little place, and it’s gotten
better over the years. So people weren’t
happy, what we did was we moved after that
summer was over with, and that season was over
with, we moved downtown to an office in Harmony Park,
while they were finishing Ford Field. We had season ticket holders
come in they got a relocation package, they had to fill out
all this information of where they wanted to sit,
of course where does everyone want to
sit at the 50 yard line. So we brought them
in, I oversaw this, I had to oversee this
whole process of people coming in, and sitting down
in front of a computer screen picking out seats. That’s how we did it from
people from 1950 to 1975. People after that,
you just got sent, here’s your seats, because
we didn’t have time to bring 50,000 people
in, you know, or 30,000 whatever that number was. People weren’t
happy about it there were articles written
in the Free Press and the News about
the Detroit Lions are screwing their season
ticket holders over. People went to the press,
they went to the media. Now me, coming from my
media relations background I immediately went to that
department and said listen, you guys got put this
fire out right now, or it’s going to get ugly. You need to interview
some people that are having a good
experience with their seats, that they understand
the process, that it’s not easy, that
we’re doing the best we can. Get these people on camera, in
the paper, because all you’ve got now is negative press,
and it’s killing you. So that’s what they did,
they went and interviewed people that had a
good experience, as I was talking to people
as they were coming in, that I knew weren’t screaming
and yelling at our ticket reps, because some people did. I would get them
at the door, hey, do you mind if this guy
talks to you for a minute, he just, he wants to get some–
oh, yeah, sure, no problem. And so for a month
and a 1/2 that’s what we did every day, it was
stressful, it was tedious, it sucked, it was horrible,
it was a bad experience. I don’t think they did
it right to start with, I think they kind of crammed
some things in that they should of, they didn’t get information
to people in a timely manner, again, I wasn’t involved in
that part of the process. I kind of wish I was
back at that time because I probably could
help them a little bit. You know as you’re the front
dealing with season ticket holders, when the stadium
opened the first game was against Pittsburgh,
preseason game. People sat in seats
that fell apart, like literally the
bottom fell out because they weren’t
screwed, or they didn’t have cup holders in place yet. So everyone was
guaranteed a cup holder, you know what happen when
they sat in their seats? Everyone from the row down,
and this guy at the end didn’t have a cup holder. But it says in my form I’m
guaranteed a cup holder, he don’t got one. Why? I don’t know, I ask the
question a few times and I never got an answer. But it says in the form I got,
and this what people told me, Justin, it says,
you guys wrote this, it says, I have a cup holder,
I sit in my seat on the aisle, I don’t have a cup holder, what
are you going to do about it? Well, nothing you know
what can I do about it? So I was dealing with
all those calls of people complaining, hey, man, my
seat fell in I had to go this. For a couple games,
it took like, it took a month to get everything
really set in that stadium. And they’re going
to find that out in Little Caesar’s arena too. It doesn’t all just come
together at one time, it’s a huge endeavor
what they’re doing. Ford Field being constructed
down there, in the old Hudson warehouse was a huge deal,
we were in that building all the time walking around. When they put the first set of
seats in, they had suite seats, anyone sit in the suite seats
at Ford Field, the black leather seats, where your knees
are up in your chest, and you’re right next to people? Well, they’ve had
these in the lobby where we were in
the Silverdome, they were selling these
suite seats, they had one suite
seats sitting here. So people would come in,
and sit in this seat. Hey, man, boy, this
is comfortable, yeah, I’ll pay $1,500 a ticket,
for a season, for this thing, yeah, this is great. They put them in the
stadium, we sit in them, the first time we sit in them. We got a guy about your size
on the staff at the time, he sat in it, his
knee was in his chin. He was like, how much? I’m paying $1,500 for this seat? Even a 5′ 11″ guy like
me, it was, it stunk. So, hey, well, that’s
it, that’s the seat. well, it’s not how
you advertised it, what are people going to say
when they sit in this thing, they weren’t happy,
that’s what happened. And the first thing I got was– OK, the first thing
I got was, how are we going to deal with it? And there really wasn’t
nothing we could do, we just had to get through
that part of the process. So in tough times
with the Lions, right? 0 and 16, not
winning many games, I went through all that
stuff, all of those– I think I saw four
wins in Ford Field in eight years I was
there, it wasn’t fun. Super Bowl 40 was something
I worked on a lot, that was a big deal, 2006. So I was involved with
that project quite a bit, that was a lot of fun
being in meetings trying to figure that stuff out. And then I moved on, I left Ford
Field after the 2006 season, and now I work in the
restoration industry, I am the general manager of
mitigation and restoration company, and deal with
marketing, PR, managing jobs. I got out of sports, I got
burnt out, I got burnt out, and it happens, it happens. But that’s OK, for me, now,
I coach, I coach basketball, I’ve been coaching
basketball for 15 years, there’s a picture
of the team that won a championship
a couple of years ago eighth grade which
is really fun to me, I’ve been doing it for 15
years, I’ve won six league championships in 15 years. So I’ve gotten to
be pretty good. I didn’t know what I was
doing at first, I’ll admit it, I knew how to play basketball
I didn’t know how to coach it, it’s a whole different animal. The first game that we
played the ball went out of bounds under the basket and
the kids were looking at me and I didn’t put
an out of bounds play in so now you got to call
a time out but now, you know, obviously, I don’t
do that anymore. We’ve built a good program
from the fourth grade on up, to me it’s
all about the kids. Whoever ever gets in
coaching in this room, don’t deal with parents,
parents are stupid. [LAUGHTER] I don’t
talk, I talk to parents one time, at the parents
meeting and that’s it. And I do not deal with them the
rest of the season because they will run you right out of
the building if they can’t. Alumni come back a
lot, the neat thing for me is I get to see
these kids in high school, playing in high school,
they all come back, that’s the most satisfying
thing to me about coaching. Not to win so much, but seeing
the kids going to high school, go on to college a
few of them have, that’s a big thing for me. So thank you, I probably
talked a little too long. Oh, well. But questions.

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