By Jack Margaros
On Tuesday July 14, the Springfield College Office of Alumni Relations hosted a Zoom event called “SC Boys of Baseball,” featuring four prominent Springfield alumni who have led successful careers in the baseball industry.
Panelists included Rob Crain ’04, Matt Ferry ’11, Mike Cometa ’11 and Rob Bradford `92. About 75 people in attendance listened to the stories, advice and memories of how these four have navigated within their profession through the COVID-19 pandemic and social unrest across the country.
As Major League Baseball bids to be the first major sport to resume on July 23, it will continue in a social climate that is drastically different. Health and safety protocols are as strict as ever in order to prevent the spread of the coronavirus (players cannot so much as spit or high five while on the field).
In the wake of the deaths of several Black people at the hands of the police, the fight for social justice cannot help but immerse itself into Major League clubhouses.
“Players are hurting. Staff are hurting,” Ferry said.
With that, Crain, Ferry, Bradford and Cometa have been forced to adapt to a “new normal.”
Naturally, it’s been a struggle for Bradford, who is the site editor and Red Sox columnist for WEEI.com, to produce baseball-related content in a world with no sports. His staff has had to think of creative ways to keep their audience engaged.
Though there were many failed experiments, Bradford ultimately believes the website is in a better place because “we’re going to come out of this with new and exciting ideas that would not have been possible when you’re caught up (in the season).”
For Crain, who is the Senior Vice President of Sales and Marketing for the Pawtucket Red Sox and founding partner of Front Office Features, his life completely changed when the minor league season was cancelled.
To make matters worse, the Pawtucket Red Sox are moving to Worcester, Massachusetts next summer, so the team is forced to give season ticket holders their money back rather than retain it as a credit for next season.
With no streams of revenue, Crain and his team drafted several ideas.
They landed on a restaurant.
Dining on the Diamond became a huge success at McCoy Stadium, where 33 tables were spread across the field to serve fans.
“My day to day went from selling tickets to being a waiter,” Crain said, whose performed tasks that he would have never thought of when he entered the industry over 10 years ago.
Cometa, who is the Manager of Season Ticket and Ticket Services for the Boston Red Sox, detailed Boston’s adaptations to make sure their players are as safe as possible. This has included converting stadium suites into extra lockers for the players. Also, concourses at Fenway Park are now extended workout areas.
Ferry, who is the Director of Baseball Operations for the New York Yankees, has realized the importance of communication. Especially when it comes to having tough conversations about police brutality and systemic racism.
“Personally, I want to pull up a chair and have a conversation (with players),” he said.
Bradford has long stated that baseball is the least political sport. Other sports like the NBA are at the forefront of social justice conversations.
“(Baseball players) are around each other so much more than their families, and that’s a difficult conversation,” he said.
Team chemistry could be dissolved if there’s any sort of divide within the clubhouse, so it’s best to stay away from topics that could affect that.
However, as the nation has united for justice over the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmed Arbery and several more, silence cannot be an option anymore. Organizations are beginning to listen and engage in conversation internally to make sure they can be of service to the cause rather than a hindrance.
As Opening Day is just nine days away, the panelists have been eager to get back to some degree of normalcy, and that is live baseball. Through the sports three-month pause, they’ve been forced into some tough situations, and they’ll continue to adjust to a truncated season.
Graphic Courtesy of SC Alumni Pride Instagram