Every summer, local baseball fans flock to Russell Diethrick Park to get their baseball fix watching the New York Penn League's Jamestown Jammers take the field.
For a few of the Jammers' players, the short-season 'A' league is the first step in their journey towards a Major League career.
The players aren't the only ones trying to work their way up the professional baseball ladder.
Photo submitted to the Times Observer
Warren’s Eric Buck, middle, poses for a photo with Pittsburgh Pirates’ pitchers A.J. Burnett and Jeff Locke during a tour of PNC Park. Buck is one of five full-time interns with the Jamestown Jammers, a minor league affiliate of the Pirates.
Those looking to get into the field of sports management - like Warren Area High School graduate Eric Buck - often participate in summer internships with Minor League clubs to gain experience working on the business side of professional athletics.
The internship with the Jammers was a perfect fit for Buck, heading into his junior year at Robert Morris University in Pittsburgh. Eric is working towards earning a bachelors degree as a double major in Sports Management and Accounting.
Dressing up as Bubba Grape the Baseball Ape is just a fun sidebar to his ultimate goal.
"I've always wanted to be in the sports field, and this was a good place to start because I wouldn't have to live too far from home," said Buck. "I figured I had nothing to lose. I didn't really want to go back to McDonald's, so I might as well give it a shot."
Buck is one of the team's five full-time summer interns, and his responsibilities range from ticket sales and promotions to occasionally donning the suit of Jamestown's official mascot, Bubba Grape the Baseball Ape. Learning to take on a number of different tasks is, for the most part, a quality unique to the Minor Leagues.
"In the lower levels, you have some flexibility with what you do, day-to-day," said Buck. "Before the season I did a lot of group ticket sales and advertising, and once games started I got more into facility operations and game-day prep. With the bigger teams, you can get stuck doing the same things over and over because they have more people on the staff."
If you want to know what Buck does, go to the ticket window before the game, and that's a start.
Working with the Jammers isn't without its perks; last week Buck and his fellow employees were treated to a full tour of PNC Park, home of the first-place Pittsburgh Pirates. The Jamestown club is in its first year of affiliation with the Pirates after previously serving as a Minor League organization of the Miami Marlins, Atlanta Braves, and Detroit Tigers.
The experience was a behind-the-scenes look at a major sports franchise, where most of the crew hopes to one day end up. You can't fault Buck for all his Pirates clothing he's accumulated over the summer, even if grew up a Yankees fan.
He's caught Pirates Fever.
"I am going to want to move up. The Pirates, SeaWolves, and Bisons are all bigger franchises that aren't too far away," said Buck. "I just love the game of baseball, love being around sports in general. When your job is sports it never feels like work. It doesn't get much better than that."
Even in areas dense with professional and college teams, competition can be fierce among those looking for a career in the sports industry.
Internships with small market teams like the Jammers give prospective employees a distinct advantage when it comes to valuable on-the-job experience.
"I'd love to be with an NFL team, but those jobs are a lot tighter to get into because so many people want to work in football," said Buck. "Now that I've been in baseball, I really enjoy it. I'd love to be in any sport, really."