Wednesday, November 18, 2009

A Season With the Braves

On January 26th, I walked into the offices at Turner Field for the first time as marketing trainee and was met by smiling faces and great people eager to see what I could do. 302 days later on November 24th, my tenure as trainee will officially end and I can now say that this has been the most significant learning experience of my life. Just the other day, I was talking with my mom on the phone about the year and the wise woman that she is, she pointed out to me that years like these deserve to be remembered because times will not always be this wonderful so I choose to write.

The 2009 Major League Baseball season saw the Atlanta Braves make a big statement on the field from taking the one of the worst NL pitching staffs from 2008 (4.46) and turning it into the third best in 2009 (3.57 ERA). The trade for Nate McLouth showed early on that the Braves were not content with .500 and moving into 2010, this team looks like it could be a strong contender again behind great pitching. The pulse of the fans in the final week of the fans as the Braves made one final run at the Wild Card absolutely proved that Atlanta still loves baseball. The town was buzzing with "Braves Believers" as the team came to within two games with six to play. Things did not finish as hoped, but there is a great deal of hope for next year.

In the office, the work that was put in was deserving of a World Series trophy. I can remember a day when I thought that working in baseball meant exclusively the baseball operations departments making player decisions. While that theory was dispelled a long time ago, I still couldn't believe how much planning goes into a baseball season outside of what happens on the field. Across the office, I noticed how well Braves employees work together and look for ways to be more successful. I was immediately welcomed into the front office and I hit the ground running. In my capacity, I had the opportunity to focus on fan development marketing which included access to the Braves Facebook and Twitter pages, managing our mobile marketing team and mailing fan packages. Outside of these daily tasks, I did everything from passing out flyers at the gates to being shown on SportsCenter as a character in the popular Home Depot Tool race. As to be expected with any entry-level position, I struck the word "no" from my vocabulary which allowed me to gain these great experiences outside of my day to day tasks. Staying humble was crucial to my development this year and I truly do believe that it allowed me to gain respect of my co-workers. At the conclusion of my 302nd day, I will walk out of Turner Field knowing that nothing was left on the table. Even better, I finish the season with industry connections, experience and a few life-long friends.

For anyone looking to participate in the Trainee program, I am an extremely strong voice of support. Those who are financially capable of spending an eleven month period living near the poverty line, this is the best program in baseball for entry-level work. I feel this because trainees are given great responsibility in implementation of day-to-day work. To me, that opportunity to participate in the daily tasks for the organization was the best learning experience. In my experience, I was asked to hire and manage a staff of twenty-three people. There are not many programs in sports that offer such leadership potential. Another valuable opportunity that a trainee will receive is exposure. Exposure to leaders in the industry and to the sport business in general. At the conclusion of the season there may be a couple of people that earn a full-time offer, but the vast majority are qualified job seekers both inside the sport industry and in other areas because the Atlanta Braves are at the top of our resumes.

It remains to be seen where my next step will take me, but I am proud to announce that working with the Atlanta Braves this season allowed me to grow as a person. I feel as though 2009 was the best year of my life to date largely because of the people. This organization is incredibly well staffed with effective leaders and I feel extremely fortunate to have made so many great connections this season. While I am extremely excited to see what challenges the next chapter of my career will bring, I know that what I have gained from being an Atlanta Braves trainee was more than worth the time, money and energy that I put forth to make it work.

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