EVERETT – The Everett AquaSox have passed through the looking glass.
A season ago, the AquaSox found themselves mired toward the basement in most Northwest League hitting categories, and the offense generated about as much power as it takes to light up a sparkler.
But it looks like this season the Everett bats are loaded with TNT.
Everett pounded out 11 hits, and the AquaSox won their second straight game to open the season, beating the Vancouver Canadians 9-5 Saturday night before a crowd of 3,584 at Everett Memorial Stadium.
“Right now we’re swinging the bat pretty good,” Everett manager Pedro Grifol said. “Guys are taking pitches, they’re being aggressive when they have to be and they’re getting in good hitters’ counts. We preach quality at bats and that’s what we’re getting now.
“So far we’re hitting better (than last season), but it’s still very early.”
Asdrubal Cabrera went 3-for-4, Yung Chi Chen slugged the AquaSox’s first home run of the season and Elvis Cruz smacked a pair of RBI doubles to pace Everett’s offense.
And after a campaign a year ago in which Everett batted .260 with 35 home runs in 76 games, the AquaSox thus far have turned things around, amassing 26 hits and 20 runs in their first two games of the 2004 season.
Everett jumped out to a 6-0 lead thanks to a combination of the offense and starting pitcher Kendall Bergdall’s impressive performance. The hard-throwing left-hander pitched five scoreless innings, giving up four hits, walking two and striking out five. Bergdall’s pitching allowed Everett to build a lead and hold off Vancouver’s late charge.
“I thought Bergdall threw the ball extremely well,” Grifol said. “He worked both sides of the plate and he changed speeds well. It was good to see because it was his first start in front of fans and we were looking to see what kind of outing we’d get. We were really pleased with his outing.”
Everett wasted little time carrying over the offensive momentum built opening night, scoring in the bottom of the first. With two outs, Chen pulled a double past Vancouver third baseman Myron Leslie and Bryan LaHair followed with a sharp single to center, Chen scoring standing up from second to give the AquaSox a 1-0 lead against Canadians starter Leonardo Espinal.
The AquaSox put two more on the board in the second. Back-to-back hit batters by Espinal with one out were followed by Cruz’s drive to the left-field wall, which scored one run. Cabrera then hit a fly to center which was caught by Vancouver center fielder Javier Herrera. Herrera’s throw home beat runner Omar Falcon to the plate, but Falcon slid under the tag of Canadians catcher Juan Ramirez, making it 3-0.
Everett flexed its muscle in the fifth. With one out, Cabrera ripped a triple into the right-field corner. Oswaldo Navarro singled home Cabrera to make it 4-0 and Chen blasted a moonshot homer to left field – his first professional homer – to increase the lead to 6-0 and chase Espinal.
It seemed Everett was headed to a rout similar to the 11-1 drubbing the AquaSox handed the Canadians the previous night. However, Vancouver abruptly cut the lead in half in the seventh. A throwing error by Navaro at shortstop and a single past Navarro by Leslie set up cleanup hitter Thomas Everidge’s line-drive three-run homer to left-center off reliever Brandon Perry, making it 6-3.
Vancouver pulled another run back in the eighth off Mumbo Rivera. Ramirez walked, stole second and came around to score on Ben Winslow’s long single off the left-center wall, cutting the lead to 6-4.
Everett added some insurance in the bottom of the eighth. Falcon led off by being hit by a pitch by Stephen Schillsky, and Cruz doubled down the left-field line, driving in Falcon. Falcon took third on a wild pitch, then Cabrera singled to right through a drawn-in infield. Mike Wilson later added an RBI single to stretch the lead to 9-4.
Herrera hit a solo home run to right-center in the ninth off Aaron Trolia to complete the scoring.
There were an unusual number of non-traditional plate appearances Saturday. There were seven hit batters, five by Vancouver pitchers and two by Everett pitchers, though there was no apparent malice in any of the pitches. Falcon was victimized twice. Also, Ramirez was called out for batter’s interference in the third, impeding Everett catcher Omar Falcon’s throw to second while following through with his swing during a hit-and-run play.
“It’s a scary time right now,” said Johns, a 22-year-old intern with the Everett AquaSox. “I just have to feel it out. I have noticed that a lot of people in (the AquaSox’s) office have been hired after internships, but it’s a matter of being in the right place at the right time.”
Even people who aren’t star athletes dream of a career in sports, but very few see their objective fulfilled. Working in public relations, marketing, scouting, sales, accounting or any number of other professions within the world of sports can often be just as competitive as earning a starting spot on the field.
It takes good fortune, networking and knowledge of all facets of athletics. But most of all, getting a job in sports is about patience.
Because so many people want to work in sports, finding the right job often takes longer than one might expect.
“I probably get 250 unsolicited resumes a month,” said Marianne Short, vice president of human resources for the Seattle Mariners. “But we have such little turnover here. We’ve had 10 new hires the past two years.”
Johns is still in the early stages of realizing how competitive the business is. A 22-year-old recent college grad, she finds herself interning with the AquaSox and waiting for the right break. Many of her college friends already have broken into the professional world and are getting new cars and apartments. Johns had to move back in with her parents in Everett just to be able to make ends meet while she fulfills a three-month internship that pays a modest salary.
“I’m kind of chasing my dream,” she said, “and hopefully something will come around.”
Johns’ biggest hurdle is that there are so many people just like her.
“Everybody wants to do it,” said Jo Washburn, director of WSU’s sport management program. “It sounds glamorous. You get to rub elbows with athletes and all your sports heroes.”
The business is so competitive because of the dearth of jobs standing before a deep pool of candidates. Buffy Filippell, who is president for an Ohio-based sports job consulting company called teamworkonline.com, estimates that there are only about 60,000 jobs available in the four major professional sports (NBA, NFL, NHL and Major League Baseball).
“You’re talking about a team that sells for, say, $400 million,” Filippell said. “If that were a general business, they would probably employ 10,000 people. But sports teams will employ about 200.
“This industry has its own section in the newspaper and on the newscasts, so it’s an industry that looks bigger than it really is.”
Just getting a full-time job is hard enough, but there are even fewer who are able to work their way up the corporate ladder.
Randy Mueller joined the Seattle Seahawks as a 17-year-old training camp ball boy in 1979 and slowly got promoted all the way up to vice president of football operations before leaving the organization to become the New Orleans Saints general manager in 2000. He knows as well as anyone how difficult it is to survive in sports.
“The hardest thing to do is get in the door,” Mueller said. “Don’t worry about job specifics or job titles, just get in the door. Do whatever you can to find something that you can do well, something that makes them depend on you so much that they can’t let you go.”
Jim Daves also knows how important it is to pay your dues in the business, having worked his way up the ladder before becoming sports information director at the University of Washington.
When he graduated from the University of North Carolina-Charlotte, Daves sent out 170 resumes before getting a $700-a-month internship with the Notre Dame sports information department.
“A lot of the jobs involve long hours and low pay,” said Daves, who eventually got a full-time job at Notre Dame before joining UW. “We’ve all had our share of hot dogs, too.
“But I’ve loved every minute of it,” he added. “There’s nothing I’d rather be doing.”
Those in the know offer a few words of wisdom for prospective hirees, the most notable of which is to be patient.
“No one steps in and has any job of significance,” said Bob Bavasi, the former AquaSox owner and now part of Bavasi Sports Partners. “You just have to get in the game and go from there.”
Bavasi pointed out that there are several ways to get into baseball, the most notable of which is an annual seminar at the baseball winter meetings.
The Mariners offer entry-level jobs in a communications center, where new employees bide their time fielding phone calls until a rare opening in the front office.
“If we’re not doing so hot, and the fans aren’t so nice, it can be tedious,” said customer service representative Nicholette Larson. “But when we’re doing well, it’s a lot of fun.”
Larson already has put in her time with the Mariners. The Lynnwood native worked in the Diamond Club at Safeco Field after her junior year at Meadowdale High School, then helped hand out promotional items and worked as a ball girl before finally getting a job in the communications center.
Now 22, with two years of community college under her belt, Larson is waiting patiently for a rare opening within the Mariners organization.
“There are a lot of people who want to do it,” Larson said of working in sports.
The AquaSox also like to promote from within, with an annual internship available to five people. Intern duties include processing ticket requests, filling out souvenir orders and answering phones. The interns also rotate their time between promotions, public relations and the ticket stands.
“They could also slice tomatoes for the pre-game picnic or pick up garbage after the game,” said Dan Lewis, director of operations for the AquaSox. “We try to give them a full experience of how everything operates.”
Johns, the WSU grad, has enjoyed her experience thus far.
“I’ve always wanted to work in baseball, and now is an opportunity for me to try it out,” she said. “Better to try this out when I’m young than to find out later. So far I have absolutely no regrets.”
Johns found out about the internship through college. She minored in sports management at WSU, giving her some connections into the world of athletics.
While UW doesn’t offer an undergraduate degree in sports management, the school does offer a certificate program for college graduates. The eight-week, evening class is part of a program that has an impressive board of directors, including Mariners president Chuck Armstrong and Seahawks CEO Tod Leiweke. Last year’s class had 17 graduates, four of which landed jobs with the Seahawks.
Not all candidates have to have degrees in sports management. Or degrees in any kind of sports field, for that matter.
Will Lewis, director of pro personnel for the Seahawks, said he recently interviewed a computer engineer with a degree from a prestigious East Coast school who wanted to get into football scouting.
“As long as you’re a fan of the sport and have a passion for it,” Lewis said, “I don’t think it matters what your degree was in.”
The Seattle Sonics’ director of college scouting, Steve Rosenberry, got into scouting via his other job: as director of team basketball for And One sports gear. Rosenberry’s main clients were college coaches, so the Sonics hired him to use his connections while scouting potential draft candidates.
But his path to a scouting job was different than most.
“If you want to work for a professional team, and your goal is to be a scout or (general manager), you need to start at the bottom of the ladder,” Rosenberry said. “You need to say: ‘I’ll work for the Sonics and do anything. I’ll get (GM Rick Sund’s) coffee. I’ll drive players around.’ Anything.”
There is really no perfect way to get into sports. Unless, of course, you happen to have a 100-mile-per-hour fastball or an unstoppable move in the post.
“There are so few jobs for so many people who want to go into it,” said Filippell, teamworkonline.com president. “That’s what makes it so hard. If we were all great athletes, we wouldn’t be complaining.”
But she added one bit of hope to anyone who has more ordinary athleticism.
“If you really, really want a job in sports,” she said, “you can get a job in sports.”