They'll never see their name in lights or receive an ovation from the fans, but clubhouse managers are nonetheless a vital part of every Minor League franchise.
Without the steadying presence of these unsung individuals, there is a strong likelihood that clubhouses would devolve into terrifying scenes of "Lord of the Flies"-style chaos. After all, no one wants to imagine a world in which players are responsible for procuring their own food and doing their own laundry.
Yes, it is the "clubby" who prepares the postgame spread, operates industrial-sized washers and dryers and engages in a wide variety of other tasks that are integral to a smoothly functioning clubhouse. In order to shine some light on this overlooked occupation, I spoke to four clubhouse managers in four different leagues. While there were many similarities between this quartet of clubbies, there were major differences as well.
Daniel Rose (Fresno Grizzlies, Pacific Coast League)
Just like a player, Daniel Rose is journeying up the Minor League ladder with the ultimate hope of practicing his trade in "The Show." The new husband and father, who recently relocated with his family to Fresno in order to take a job with the Triple-A Grizzlies, got his start in 2004 with the Carolina League's Winston-Salem Warthogs.
"I was living in Winston-Salem and just barely getting by," said Rose. "I kept contacting the Warthogs and bugged the crap out of them until they finally gave me a job. Visiting clubhouse manager was all they had, so I took it. I fell flat on my face those first couple of weeks, but luckily teams were understanding. The first team I ever worked with was the Myrtle Beach Pelicans, with guys like Kyle Davies, Brian McCann and Jeff Francoeur. They went out of their way to point me in the right direction."
Rose spent the following three seasons with the Eastern League's Trenton Thunder before taking the 2008 season off in order to be with his family. Now, thanks to connections he had made during his time in Trenton, he is back in action with the Grizzlies.
In Fresno, Rose is going to have more money to work with than ever before. A clubhouse manager's budget comes from player dues, which vary widely by league and level of play. In the Carolina League, he received $5 from each player per day, $9 in the Eastern League and now $11 in the Pacific Coast League. And like any service industry, he receives tips as well.
"My job is to provide for the players. The more I can provide, the more they tip," he explained. "You have to treat this like a business. You've got to control your expenses and cut every corner you possibly can."
The dues go almost entirely toward food, as the clubhouse manager is responsible for providing a pre- and postgame spread.
"When you're working on the visiting side, you can do the same spread over and over," he said. "But on the home side, you've got to mix it up every game."
Rose is also responsible for doing all of the players' laundry. Since Fresno has three sets of washers and dryers (two of which are industrial-sized), he is finding that this is an easier task than it has been in the past. Still, there are challenges.
"The higher the level, the bigger the locker room," he said. "Now I stand in the middle of the locker room and throw the laundry in the general area that it needs to go. I then go and hang it up, as opposed to walking back and forth and back and forth. With this job, at night you conserve time, and during the day you conserve money."
There is also a level of unpredictability to the job, in that players often recruit clubbies to run a wide variety of errands.
"I've mailed out taxes, washed cars, taken care of personal laundry, picked up a player's wife at the airport, things like that," said Rose. "After you do this for a couple years, you've seen and heard it all."
With an intricate understanding of the ins and outs of the job as well as a strong work ethic, Rose hopes to one day be working in the Majors.
"I'm always trying to get my name out there, make sure that people have my number and can put a face to the name," he said. "I tell the players I work with that if they need anything, I'll do my best to get it for them. I'll go out of my way for them in the hopes that, one day, they'll go out of their way for me."
Justin and Jarod Ott (Reading Phillies, Eastern League)
Although currently sidelined by a hand injury, Justin Ott has served as Reading's Clubhouse Manager for the past 11 years. His younger brother, Jarod (commonly known as J-Train), has served as an assistant for the past 10. The Ott brothers, who inherited the job from their mother's cousin, are often assisted in their tasks by friends and family members.
"When it comes to me and my family, they're going to have to throw us out the door," said Justin. "Especially because we're big Phillies fans. If the Yankees came in [as Reading's new affiliate], then maybe it would be time to go."
Eastern League player dues were raised (from $9) to $11 this season, but getting the most for the money remains a priority.
"We're dealing with 29 guys times $11 times however many days we're home," Justin said. "The question is always 'What can I spend this on to make these guys happy?' That's the hardest part and also the most important. ... I cut every corner I can. If I need milk, I go straight to the dairy. And I'll buy generic brands, but it has to taste good."
The Eastern League stipulates that teams must provide certain items -- such as fruit and cold cuts after batting practice -- but a lot of the decisions are still up to the clubbies.
"You can't please 29 people every day, because everybody has a taste for something different," said Justin. "I try to touch all the bases. Sometimes we might have Spanish food, and if the American guys don't like it, too bad. We've got to keep everyone happy."
Matt Pruzinsky (Lake County Captains, South Atlantic League)
In 2003, during his senior year of high school, Matt Pruzinsky was hired as the Lake County Captains' batboy. He was promoted to the position of clubhouse manager in '06.
"I'm with these guys for six months out of the year, so sometimes it can be tough to draw the line," said Pruzinsky. "When are they your friend and when are they someone who you are working with?"
Even in the relatively short amount of time he's done the job, Pruzinsky has seen an increase in the amount of restrictions placed on the food that the players are allowed to eat.
"There can't be anything fattening, and no candy or chocolate. We used to have the team grandma bring in cake, and even that's been nixed. It's all about what's healthy," he said.
Still, there are might be an exception when a rehabbing Major Leaguer rolls into town.
"Last year [Joe Borowski and Jake Westbrook] came through," recalled Pruzinsky. "They would buy the spread for the whole team, so in that case I'd order from Outback [Steakhouse]."
Pruzinsky has enjoyed his experience with the Captains, but says remaining a clubhouse manager is not a long-term career goal.
"I think law school is in my future, and I'd like to be a sports agent, ultimately," he said. "But I love what I'm doing here. Even if it doesn't pay the bills in the offseason, I'm having a lot of fun."
Bob "Pops" Estes (Wisconsin Timber Rattlers, Midwest League)
Bob Estes worked 30 years as a railroad engineer, but after retiring from that job he decided to remain in the workforce.
"I'd always been a Timber Rattlers fan, and I saw on their Web page that they needed a clubhouse manager," said Estes. "I had no clue what it was all about, but I got the job."
He also got a nickname.
"When I first got hired, the director of stadium operations called me 'Pops'," recalled Estes. "I had white hair, and he thought I looked like the manager from "The Natural." Now everybody calls me Pops. My wife, kids, everybody."
"Pops" is in his third season now, and he spends an extraordinary amount of time at the ballpark.
"I'm a one-man staff, as is the case with most Class A ballclubs," said Estes. "I take care of the home team, the visiting team and the umps. Things get pretty hectic."
Dues are $8 in the Midwest League, and Estes' food budget is supplemented by $40 of daily "fruit money" provided by new affiliate Milwaukee. Estes is able to make his money go farther than other clubbies due to the fact that the Timber Rattlers' corporate sponsors provide the postgame spread four nights a week.
Estes handles all the travel arrangements for the Timber Rattlers and also serves as a liaison between the club and the Brewers.
"I spend the offseason in the front office, making next year's hotel arrangements and taking inventory of the equipment. ... Then in February, I head to Arizona for Spring Training," he said.
Spring Training provides Estes with the chance to meet the players, many of whom are entering their first full professional season.
"I can explain everything right then and there -- how our dues structure works and what I will provide and won't provide," he said. "By the time they get here, they know what to expect."
Unlike the players, however, "Pops" is content to be a Timber Rattler for many years to come.
"I'm very happy here in Wisconsin," he said.
Benjamin Hill is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.