Theresa Viets has worked for the Jacksonville Suns since 2007, moving from front-office receptionist to box office manager to, just recently, director of community affairs. But no matter what her official title might be, she has another job with the Suns that, as she puts it, "I just can't shake."
Viets is the team seamstress. When a player rips his pants, or when a new arrival needs a nameplate for his home jersey, it's Theresa's job to take care of it. Not that she necessarily wants to.
"[Sewing] was something that I learned in high school," said Viets. "My mom sewed my whole life; I was one of those kids who wore clothes that my mom made. ... It was something she wanted me to learn, but it relaxes her. It stresses me out. I'm not gonna lie. I don't particularly enjoy it -- I just happen to do it."
So, given her ambivalence toward the task, how did Viets come to be the seamstress for the Suns? Like a lot of things in life, it's kind of a funny story. It all started with a bounce-house injury, sustained several months after she was hired as the Suns' receptionist.
"I was at a friend's house, there wasn't even any alcohol involved," said Viets. "We were [inside an inflatable bounce house], doing a human bowling alley. There was an unfortunate turn of events, and I fell over the wall. It was really weird, kind of a freak accident and nobody at the party even realized I'd gotten hurt. I had to make my way out to the street to call an ambulance."
Viets suffered a broken back as a result of this human bowling alley mishap.
"I was on painkillers during the day, and as a means to keep myself awake and focus on my work I started cross stitching at the front desk," she said. [Suns president] Pedro [Bragan] saw that and said 'Oh, she knows how to sew.'"
"We have the inflatable amusements here for children," she continued. "One ripped, and Pedro sent me out there with an upholstery needle and wax thread. It was horrible, because I had just broken my back on an inflatable. When I was out there sewing it, I just wanted to set the thing on fire. So, yeah, it started with inflatable amusements and went from there."
The Suns had been using a local craftswoman as the team seamstress, but she was often busy with other work and the turnaround time wasn't as fast as Bragan would have liked. So he hired Viets to do it, paying her via an end-of-season bonus based on the number of items she has worked on.
"There was a time when I was repairing pants on a daily basis," said Theresa. "I'd be sewing at the front desk all day long. People would come in and say 'Wow, there's a sewing machine on the front desk.' Well, yes, there is. How can I help you?"
"We had people like Logan Morrison [now with the Seattle Mariners] on the team then," she continued. "Could you seriously learn to run faster, Logan? His pants were the worst to repair. Now I attribute the sturdiness of my patches to having had to fix Logan's pants all the time. Please, stop sliding."
In 2011 Viets transitioned from the front desk to a new role as box office manager, which happened in conjunction with Bragan deciding that he wanted to add nameplates to the Suns' home jerseys. Since Minor League rosters are in a state of constant flux, there are plenty of names to contend with.
"The clubhouse manager brings me the new jersey," said Viets. "I have a stack of nameplates of past players, in case they come back or if another player has the same name. But if we ever get another 'Andrelczyk' in Jacksonville, I'll be really surprised."
"If I don't have the nameplate, then the merchandise director [Trevor Johnson] will make it," she continued. "We have a hot press in the team store, for people who want personalized jerseys. I don't think I could handle sewing all of the letters on individually. Keep in mind that when I'm doing this, we have a lot of individual ticket calls coming in to the box office."
Viets often fields sewing-related requests from players and front-office members regarding personal items of clothing in need of repair, and every so often ventures into the field of mascot uniform maintenance.
"Southpaw is our main mascot, and I've gotten a few requests about his outfit that I've craftily ignored. They wanted me to rebuild his hat, but, no, I'm not that talented. Not gonna happen," said Viets. "But when we transitioned from Dodgers [affiliate] to the Marlins, I had to make [secondary mascot] Sunny the Bunny a new vest. I took the Dodger vest apart and used that as the pattern for a new one. So, that happened."
All of these National Pastime-related sewing endeavors have caused Viets to adopt a different perspective while watching the Suns.
"I want to see home runs all the way, because otherwise they could rip their pants while running the bases. I don't even want to see them crouch down, because that could cause a rip," she said. "But it's a conversation starter, that's for sure. And if it weren't for sewing, then what would I do while watching the game of baseball?"
Benjamin Hill is a reporter for MiLB.com and writes Ben's Biz Blog. Follow Ben on Twitter @bensbiz.