Those who work in Minor League Baseball can often be heard to say "I spend all my time at the ballpark." And though this is an accurate summation of the grueling hours the job entails, it can't quite be taken literally. Unless you're an intern for the Arkansas Travelers, that is.
It may sound like a failed reality show premise, but six Travelers interns really do live on-site at Dickey-Stephens Park. They are housed within an unassuming brick structure located down the right-field line, around the corner from the picnic area and across from a storage shed. This no-frills yet fully-furnished abode consists of a living room, kitchen, bathroom, and three bedrooms, and while the cinder block walls and complete lack of carpeting give it a utilitarian feel ... well, it sure is convenient.
"I can roll out of bed five minutes before work and still make it in on time," said Steven Kettler, a West Virginia native who graduated from Fairmont State in 2011. "This is my first job in Minor League Baseball, and it's definitely one of the nicer gigs."
While hailing from diverse parts of the country (Arkansas, California, Michigan, Virginia, West Virginia and Texas) the interns are united in that they are all males in their early 20s. It's not surprising, then, that the apartment is a bit of a mess. A large blue plastic garbage bin placed at the entry to the hallway is full to overflowing, and the living room/kitchen area is strewn with small piles of laundry, empty Gatorade bottles and all manner of random detritus. But it's a communal mess, and Kettler says that he and his fellow interns co-exist remarkably well considering how much time they spend with one another.
"We're always willing to help one another out," he said. "Everyone butts heads at least once, but gets over it real quick."
And they better, because an acrimonious environment would make life truly miserable. When the Travelers are home, 15-hour days are the norm for this intern crew. They begin the work day at 8 a.m., cleaning up the trash left in the stands the night before, and from there tasks include parking lot clean-up as well as setting up and taking down batting practice for the players. There is truly no escape from the baseball grind, to the extent that one of the televisions in the apartment carries nothing but a live shot of the baseball field.
But Kettler has no complaints.
"This is one of the better paying internships out there," he said. "And, sometimes, we get to bring home leftover food from the game, hot dogs and stuff like that."
What more could you ask for?
Little Rock roller
Minor League Baseball stadiums nationwide are filled with all sorts of eccentric characters -- both employees and fans -- but even within this context Reggie Temple stands out.
Reggie has spent nearly three decades as a member of the Travelers grounds crew, going back to their days at old Ray Winder Stadium. But that's not all he does. Temple also runs an informal car-washing and detailing service out of the parking lot (sometimes referred to as "Reasonable Reggie's Car Wash"), and his clientele includes players, front office members and fans alike. As Reggie puts it: "Whoever wants their car done, I'll do it."
But Reggie has another unique way in which he also makes his ballpark presence known. He brings his roller skates to every home game and can often be seen skating through the concourse or performing atop the dugout. He was wearing skates when I spoke with him in the concourse last Friday evening, and whenever a snippet of music would play over the PA he'd pause our conversation in order to dance.
This is just what Reggie does. He's been a roller rink regular for decades -- first in Memphis and now in Little Rock -- and is a proud member of a skating group called "the Rough Rollers." He performs to all kinds of music, but says his favorite song is Roger Trautman's electro-funk classic "I Can Make You Dance."
And if there's anyone who can make you dance at Dickey-Stephens Park, it's going to be Reggie.
"I just like to entertain the people," he said.