My first senior year started in September of 1991, three months after I returned from my Junior year in Coventry, England.
Based on how my credits were going, I knew I’d need to attend one more semester after my senior year, so I wanted to get a great internship in the summer of 1992. In the winter of ’91/’92, I wrote letters to every Major League Baseball team (except the Chicago Cubs, because I can’t stand the Cubs, and I would never work for them) inquiring about marketing or public relations positions and making the case for hiring me.
Before long, I started receiving rejection letters from the bulk of the teams – which I considered to be a good sign because that meant my letters were at least being received and acknowledged (you have to start somewhere, right)?
After awhile, there were three teams left who hadn’t said no – the St. Louis Cardinals, the San Francisco Giants and the Baltimore Orioles. When I mailed the letters, I called each team to let them know it was coming and to maybe build a little name recognition for myself. When it got down to these three teams, I called them again.
Finally, as we were getting close to summer, I decided to use my ’92 spring break to drive down to St. Louis and ask for an interview. With my friend Jeff in tow, we drove the five hours down and right to Busch Stadium. I went to the front desk and asked to see Jeff Wehling, the then-Public Relations Director.
They called him up to ask if he was expecting me (which he wasn’t). While they were on the phone with him, I explained that I drove down from Madison specifically to talk with him about a summer internship in his department. After a bit of waiting, the woman at the desk told me to be back here at 9am tomorrow morning and that he would see me.
The next morning, I showed up 15 minutes early and made my case to Jeff and Brian Bartow – who’s still there and now running their marketing efforts. After a successful 45 minute meeting, he told me that I should plan on arriving right after my semester was over, and that I would be working in the Public Relations Department.
It was one of the greatest lessons of my very young career and reinforced one of my stronger and more distinct personality traits – never give up until I’m satisfied with the outcome (which is first, only ahead of never be satisfied with the outcome).
I reported to St. Louis in May, having no idea just how humid St. Louis is in the summer. I brought my bike with me thinking I could ride to the stadium, but there was no way with the amount of sweat one generated just stepping outside in that weather.
The job was a fantastic experience coming out of college. Essentially, I was the voice of the St. Louis Cardinals to the fan base. We used to get phone calls from fans making all sorts of strange and challenging requests, and it was my goal to satisfy them all.
It ranged from people trying to accommodate their visiting friends who are big Cardinals fans to guys just wanting to settle an argument with their friends regarding one of many famous Cardinals, past and present.
That part of the job was the most fun for me, because I loved interacting with the fan base and working hard to find out the answers to their strange questions. When I look back on it, I was basically doing the job of what we’d now call in 2012 a Community Manager.
This was 1992 – pre-Internet – so everything happened in person or over the phone, and the research took me back into physical files and archives of old Cardinals programs, photos and merchandise. It was like working in a museum, and at the time, I was a huge baseball fan. It was odd to even think of it as a job, but depressing to know I may never have as cool of a job ever again… with my entire career ahead of me.
Aside from public interface, I also was asked to write articles about the players for the program and fan magazine. This gave me a chance to get to know some of the players, and exercise my writing skills. It was also the first time I would have my work published. Kind of nice for someone who hadn’t yet graduated, I thought.
But the most fortuitous thing about my timing was that it was the summer of the Cardinals 100th anniversary, and I was able to help work on the event planning – including guest relations, setting up press conferences and organizing the event. It was great exposure and the first time I was ever able to work on an event of this significance.
The event itself was a great chance to meet Stan Musial, Bob Gibson and dozens of other famous Cardinals. Of course, with my Milwaukee roots, there was no meeting more exciting than with Bob Uecker and Bob McClure. I definitely had to get my picture taken with those two.
Aside from the work portion of the job, it was also great to have such access to the Busch Stadium facilities. At lunch every day, we’d go out with the fungo bats and shag fly balls and try and make brilliant catches at the wall. It was also a dream to see all of the underground facilities and locker rooms.
When games ended each night, I had to leave through the players exit, so it was not uncommon for me to get autograph requests from the fans. I have to admit that there are several people walking around St. Louis with a rare, signed Jon Friesch major league baseball. (Look for them on eBay.)
It was a dream summer, and I made it happen. My experiences from that summer are irreplaceable, and it was because I created my own opportunity and then willed it to be. As people who know me can attest, I’m nothing if not tenacious, and when I want something, more often than not, it happens.
I hope this gives someone the will or confidence to have a similar experience.
– My name is Jon Friesch, and I don’t give up easily.