Recently, I had a conversation about various job roles during a baseball game. I was being asked; what does this person do and what does that person do. From time to time, people reach out to me and ask “behind the scenes questions” because of my experiences in the front office of three minor league baseball teams. For some reason, the one job position that I was asked the most about was the Visitor’s Clubhouse Manager (Visiting Clubby).
I had explained the basic role of the Visiting Clubby, but further questions kept coming because they work with a different team every few games and they have other extended roles because the Visiting Clubby does not work with the home team and sometimes does not get to work with the same amenities as the Home Clubby. As always, conversations that I have lead to a post on 85% Sports for all of you to read.
Looking for more in depth answers I reached out for Emil Coccaro, the Visiting Clubhouse Manager for the Long Island Ducks. Emil has had the role of Visiting Clubby since the 2006 season. I know this because I hired him for the position on a part-time basis that because a full-time role during the baseball season. I asked Emil a few questions that I was asked about the Visiting Clubby because no one that I know could answer these questions better than he could.
Before starting, the Long Island (New York) Ducks are an independent baseball team in the Atlantic League. Other teams in the league include the Bridgeport Bluefish, Lancaster Barnstormers, York Revolution, Camden Riversharks, Somerset Patriots, Southern Maryland Blue Crabs and the Road Warriors (a road team all season long). These franchises come into Long Island for a total of 72 games during a season and for each one of these games, many things are expected. Teams expect food, clean laundry, clean facilities and expect to have a home away from home. It is the Visiting Clubby’s job to make that happen.
I spoke to Emil. My questions are noted as “85%” and his responses are listed as “EC”.
85%: What are your typical hours for a 7pm night game?
EC: For a 7pm game, I usually get to the stadium at about 1pm and depending on the night, I leave between 2:30am and 3:00am.
85%: What are your basic job responsibilities during game days?
EC: To make it easy, I am responsible for the overall operation of the Visitor’s Clubhouse and the Umpires Room (Note: At the home of the Long Island Ducks, the Umpires Room is near the Visitor’s Clubhouse and the Visiting Clubby has the added responsibility of taking care of the umpires as well. The care of the umpires will vary from stadium to stadium, depending on the location of the Umpires Room). I have to get the snacks and supplies together as well as the pre-game and post-game meals together for the team and for the umpires. The rooms need to be stocked with snacks, toiletries, soda, beer, razors for every team. I also try to contact each team manager and umpires before they arrive in town to see if they need anything special for the clubhouse. Players will make special requests that I need to go to a store for and even crazy requests need to be taken care of. I also need to make sure that all uniforms, towels and personals (Note: In baseball language, personals refer to all other clothing that is not the uniform) are laundered, clean and in the lockers, showers and available for use prior to the team’s arrival at the stadium for each game.
85%: Okay, that is what you have to do. Run me through a regular day.
EC: I get to the stadium about 1pm, I check into my clubhouse and make sure there were no overnight emergencies. After I know there were not, I take 6 bullpen baseballs and walk to the home clubhouse and leave bullpen balls for the home team’s starting pitcher. After saying hello, I head to the laundry room and gather any laundry that was left in the laundry room overnight. (Note: When I used to arrive to the stadium between 7:30am and 8:00am, I used to finish the 3am laundry. In the front office of a minor league baseball team, no one is above doing anything for the good of the team.) When I get back to my clubhouse, I would fold about 60 towels, restock the refrigerators in the clubhouse and umpire’s room from the night before and get any pre-game snacks together. I would also make some calls and confirm the post-game meal for the team.
Players start to show about 3pm and I have to be sure the ice supply is full and the coffee is ready. If any players have special needs or requests, I try to do them around this time because the rest of my night is pretty busy. The visiting team heads down to the field for BP about 4pm and I take this time to relax a little bit. I like to grab a soda and watch BP (batting practice) from the stands near my clubhouse door so I am nearby if I am needed. Around 5pm, the bat-boys check in and I am also responsible to make sure the bat-boys have the bullpens ready for the night’s game with water, ice, gum and sunflower seeds, of course.
At 6pm, the players get back from BP, and the hour of craziness starts. I make sure all ticket requests are in to the ticket office, do any pre-game requests, open the umpire’s room and assist in any last minute issues and I have to have the dugout supplied and ready for the 7pm game. Water, towels, gum, seeds, ice or anything else the team has requested needs to be there before the game starts. Just before the game starts, I walk the seven dozen game balls down to the field for the umpires and it is game time.
For the first two innings, I stay close to the dugout as a runner if anything is needed. Watching a game from a dugout is an awesome experience. When the third inning starts, I head to the clubhouse to clean up from pre-game and set up for post-game meals. By the 6th inning, the post-game meal is heated and starting the 8th inning I set up the post-game meal buffet style and I prepare individual meals for the coaches, manager and umpires.
The game ends and about 90 minutes after the game, the visiting team bus leaves and I get to deal with a huge mess. I start cleaning the uniforms, scrubbing dirt and grass stains and start the process of washing all uniforms, personals and towels. While laundry is washing, I take that time to clean the clubhouse, bathrooms and make sure that the entire clubhouse and umpire’s room is as clean as it was before the game started. I usually leave between 2:30 and 3:00am, go home exhausted, get some sleep and start the day over again.
85%: What is your favorite part of the job?
EC: Baseball people, in general, are awesome. The people and the friendships I have made are the best part of this job. But, I think the best part of this job is the ability to sit and watch batting practice up close. This is the time of day that all of the players except the starting pitcher are out on the field. Nothing beats sitting outside on a nice day watching BP and hearing the crack of a wood bat hitting a ball. I watch BP every day it is really my only down time that I have.
85%: What is the worst part of the job?
EC: Waiting for the laundry to finish and getting home after 3am
85%: In the five years, what was your favorite moment?
EC: I met Pete Rose when he came to my clubhouse in 2006 and spent the entire day in there. There was a knock on the outside clubhouse door, and as I opened it and there was Pete Rose standing there in front of me. He had come to visit his son (Pete Rose Jr.) who was playing for the Bridgeport Bluefish. It was one of the only times in life I was actually speechless. (Note – I was there that day. I had the pleasure of meeting Pete Rose and escorting him to a personal suite for the game that night. Pete Rose was humble, gracious and thanked me a dozen times for helping him out. I do remember Emil having a picture in his clubhouse of himself and Pete Rose.)
85%: Who else have you met and who sticks out in your mind, do you have a story about one of these people?
EC: Bob Gibson, Ozzie Smith, Sparky Lyle, Rick Wise, Tommy John and Gary Carter all stick out in my mind. Meeting people that I grew up watching still amazes me. One person that became a great friend is Jeff Scott. (Note: Jeff Scott has been in professional baseball for decades. He was the manager for the Bellingham Mariners of the Northwest League from 1979 to 1983, was involved in scouting for a few teams from 1984 to 2001 and has been a manager in the Atlantic League for three seasons.) My favorite umpire is Dave Perry. My 1st day on the job, he was working home plate (home plate umpire). Not knowing much about baseball at the time, he introduced himself and asked “Can you rub my balls for me?” Well I shot him a look and made some wise ass comment back not knowing that it is the home plate umpire’s responsibility to make sure the baseballs get rubbed up (Note – All professional baseball gets rubbed down before each game with a rubbing mud. This prevents new baseballs from being slippery and gives pitchers a better grip.) I gladly rubbed Dave Perry’s balls for many years and he quickly became one of my best friends in the game.
85%: Do you have any non-game day responsibilities?
EC: During non-home days, I go shopping for supplies for the clubhouse. I meet with local restaurants so I can get post-game meals for the team and keep up relationships I have made with former food providers. I keep in contact with the umpire’s crews and visiting managers to see any special needs that are required for the upcoming home stand. I also keep in contact with the front office to update them on any issues that have arisen in the clubhouse such as leaking showers, light bulbs and ceiling tiles that need to be replaced or anything else that needs to be fixed.
I thanked Emil for his time and since it was baseball season, he had to get going as the Ducks had a game against the Road Warriors that night and he had to get back to work.
During my aforementioned conversation about the Visiting Clubby, I was asked how much a Clubby gets paid. I would not ask Emil that question, as that is not appropriate. However, I do know that Clubbys get a game by game stipend from their organization and that various leagues require each player to give the Clubby “Clubhouse Dues”, a tip that each player must give the clubhouse manager for each game that they are in the clubhouse (home or away). In addition, players and coaches can tip the clubhouse manager above and beyond their required dues.
The baseball season is almost over and the Ducks have guaranteed themselves a playoff appearance by winning the first half of their Atlantic League division. Emil is already preparing for playoff games as his season is also extended. For his sake, let’s hope that no visiting team celebrates in his clubhouse once again. Champagne is hard to get out of ceiling tiles and carpet.