On the Road: Lake Elsinore's dynamic clubbie

Multi-tasking Tucker began in MLB and aspires to make it back

Over 15 seasons, multi-tasking Lake Elsinore Storm clubhouse manager Terrance Tucker has compiled a unique baseball resume.

By Benjamin Hill / MiLB.com | June 9, 2017 10:00 AM ET

Terrance Tucker, now in his seventh season working for the Lake Elsinore Storm, has one of the most unique job titles in Minor League Baseball: Director of community and player relations/clubhouse manager. 

Tucker's hybrid position, combining duties that rarely overlap in a professional baseball front-office context, is the result of a professional journey that began in 2003. It's been a winding road thus far, but Tucker's ultimate goal is to make it back to where he began -- in the Major Leagues, working for his hometown San Diego Padres.

"This all started in 2003. I was 17 years old, a senior in high school," said Tucker, a relentlessly upbeat individual often referred to simply as 'T.' "My Spanish teacher and basketball coach, Mike Tompkins, he's now the video coordinator for the Padres. He asked me if I had any interest in being a batboy. I looked at him like, 'Batboy, sure! I'll do it for fun.' Just because I was a huge Padre fan growing up."

While Tucker initially looked at this opportunity as a random, fun part-time job, he quickly found that a professional baseball clubhouse was an environment that suited him well.

"My favorite player [in 2003] was Phil Nevin," said Tucker. "And I remember that first day when I walked into the locker room for an interview. [Nevin] has no idea who I am, and the first thing he says is 'Who's this crazy kid in the locker room?' Because I had a 'fro, a big old 'fro. So, everyone's like, "Who is this kid, this crazy black kid?' And from there on in I was accepted into their family. Year after year it got better, as far as getting to know the guys and them getting to know me."

Working as a Major League batboy turned out to be a surprisingly lucrative job as well.

2017 Road Trip

"Players have been known to take care of the batboys and the clubhouse guys as far as tipping, and in my time there I saw tips come through the locker room as low as $1,000 and as high as $20,000," said Tucker. "I was fortunate enough to be around a couple of playoff shares, in '05 and '06."

In both those seasons, San Diego lost in the NL Division Series to the St. Louis Cardinals. Tucker credits Padres veterans such as Greg Maddux and Trevor Hoffman for making sure that the behind-the-scenes club personnel were amply compensated.

"[The veterans] rally the troops, because they're the ones who understand," he said. "They understand that an extra five or ten thousand can go a long way for a younger kid who's going to college. And, essentially, that's what paid for my college. I graduated from San Diego State in 2008 with a degree in communications and outdoor hospitality, hospitality management. And I didn't have to pay out any loans or take out any financial aid because [Padres players] single-handedly paid for my college."

***

Upon graduating, the Padres organization continued to take a personal interest in Tucker's career path.

"Fred Uhlman, the Padres' assistant general manager, was like, 'What do you want to do? You have your degree,'" said Tucker. "Because typically people who are batboys tend to branch off into bigger things within the organization. Whether it's a trainer or a scout or a ticket salesman. And at that time, being in that atmosphere, I knew I wanted to be the clubhouse manager for the Padres. [Uhlman] looked at me kind of funny. Like, 'Really?' Because that job is not really looked at as a prestigious job, but in my eyes, it's the most prestigious job.

He continued, "In 2010, my first year away from the Padres, they told me that there was an opening with [San Diego Class A affiliate] the Fort Wayne TinCaps to be their clubhouse manager. I wanted to try it, to take the conventional Minor League route to move up."

While Tucker enjoyed working in Fort Wayne, he realized that this "conventional" baseball career path wasn't feasible. He was making $600 a month, plus dues and tips; clearly, this was not a sufficient income with which to support a family. 

"In 2011, my daughter, Aubrey, was born," he said, adding that a son, Xavier, was born two years later. "So, I decided to leave the clubhouse industry and pursue a real-life job. I became an admissions counselor for a college. Kicked butt at it. Loved it. And I was doing great, making big-boy money."

But Tucker was soon drawn back into the world of professional baseball. Will Simon, then the Storm's trainer, offered him a job as the team's clubhouse manager.

"I pulled my hair out, literally pulled my hair out," said Tucker, lifting his cap and pointing toward his completely bald head. "Because the Storm are close to home and, in my eyes, they're the Yankees of Minor League Baseball. So, I called my Dad, and he said, 'Follow your dream. Keep it alive. Have faith in it. It'll work out.'"

***

After the 2011 season ended, the Double-A San Antonio Missions were interested in hiring Tucker as their clubhouse manager. This represented a step up from the Class A Advanced Storm, but it was not to be. Dave Oster, then the Storm's president, asked Tucker a simple question: "What will it take for you to stay?"  

Tucker requested that Oster put him on the Storm's sales staff, in addition to retaining his clubhouse manager duties.

"[Oster] looked at me and scratched his head," said Tucker. "Like, 'Are you serious? You can do both?' I was like, 'Sure, I can try. And, hey, I need health benefits for my kids!'"

Thus began Tucker's new role as Storm salesman, clubhouse manager and all-around club ambassador.

"So here I am, six years later, a full-time employee with benefits, with over $100,000 in sales," he said. "I'm, like, the partnerships guy now. I don't know how it happened. I think it has a lot to do with me leveraging the locker room and what I do behind the scenes. Because every [client] meeting I have, we talk about doing laundry and scrubbing jock straps and the decision makers are more interested in that. And then they say, 'Alright, let's talk about this partnership. Where do we sign?'"

Tucker balances his ballpark responsibilities with the help of his clubhouse staff, of whom he speaks effusively.

"My assistants, these are the guys who are helping me to do what I need to do," he said. "And that's allowed me to continue this dream and at the same time let them find their dream. So, right now, as we're talking and I'm doing fulfillment and sponsorship sales stuff, the locker room's being ran. We've won [California League] Clubhouse Manager of the Year three of the last four years, and when I say 'we,' I mean we as an organization."

As for his current situation, Tucker said, "I'm still waking up every day thinking I have the coolest job ever." Nonetheless, an even cooler job is still in his sights.

"If you had to ask me where I want to be in five years, it'd be the clubhouse manager for the San Diego Padres," he said. "But at the same time, the Storm have made me a bigger man and a much more complete person. I'm very fortunate to do what I do, to get better at it and learn and help others at the same time. So, my dream job, I guess I'm living it. Man, I got chills right now, just saying that." 

Benjamin Hill is a reporter for MiLB.com and writes Ben's Biz Blog. Follow Ben on Twitter @bensbiz. This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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