These days, there aren't too many people left on this planet who can claim that they got to see Ty Cobb play. But Lexington Legends fans still get to see him work on a daily basis.
Ty Cobb, now in his sixth season as a Legends front-office employee, serves as the team's creative marketing director as well its PA announcer. Yes, his name really is Ty Cobb. No, he (probably) isn't related to that Ty Cobb, the famously cantankerous Detroit Tigers legend and the first player inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame.
At least he doesn't think he is.
"We might be [related], but I haven't delved into that," said Cobb, speaking in his office following the conclusion of July 23's ballgame between the Legends and the visiting Charleston RiverDogs. "But my parents knew of Ty Cobb and the legacy that he had in baseball. My mom was a huge baseball fan and my dad really loved the name Tyler. But it's just a coincidence that I was born on his birthday; my parents had no idea until my aunt called after I was born and told them."
It seems too good a story to be true, but it is. Tyrus Cobb was born in Narrows, Georgia, on Dec. 18, 1886. 98 years later, to the day, Tyler Cobb was born in Humboldt, Illinois. Growing up, he was known as "Tyler" rather than "Ty," but nonetheless Cobb was aware from an early age that he shared a name with one of the greatest baseball players of all time.
"There were some learning stages to it," he said. "Having that name, I always used to get gifts that were baseball related. As I got older, I learned more about him. … When I had to write a report in school it was an easy go-to topic: Ty Cobb."
Cobb played baseball, soccer and tennis as a child but focused on the latter two while attending Central College in Pella, Iowa.
"It was a Division III school, and I played three years of tennis and one year of soccer," he said. "I learned that I wasn't ever going to play sports professionally, but I wanted to work in professional sports. I was getting ready to graduate with an arts degree, and wanted to combine that with professional sports."
Not knowing what else to do, Cobb went ahead and sent his resume to every Minor League Baseball team. He soon heard back from the Augusta GreenJackets, who couldn't resist the opportunity to offer him an internship. After all, Ty Cobb played for the 1904 Augusta Tourists -- the team that sold him to the Detroit Tigers -- and the city was his offseason home throughout the bulk of his playing career.
"The GreenJackets wanted to do a Ty Cobb Night, and hire me and revolve the night around me," said Cobb. "I had been getting ready to go down there and do an unpaid internship, but then I heard from the Omaha Royals. [General manager] Martie Cordaro and [assistant general manager] Rob Crain looked at my resume and said I had the qualifications, but they wanted to know if I was pulling their leg. On my resume I put 'Ty Cobb.' Was that my real name or just a ploy to get people to look at it? I told them that I was the real deal; I was born on his birthday. That kind of blew them away, because I didn't have that [fact] on my resume."
The O-Royals hired Cobb as a marketing intern for the 2008 season, a campaign which culminated with Omaha's nationally-recognized "Ty Cobb Night" promotion. Fans received vintage-style baseball cards featuring Ty Cobb, the intern, in a Royals uniform, and Cobb spent the evening signing autographs and posing for pictures. He then landed a job with the Legends the following offseason, which inspired the O-Royals to send out a press release announcing that Cobb had been "traded" in exchange for a bottle of Maker's Mark bourbon, a box of cigars and a DVD copy of the film Anger Management (a nod to Cobb the ballplayer's temperamental disposition).
"I'm fortunate to work for the Legends. I'm involved with graphic design and the marketing of the team, and I also do in-game stuff as the PA announcer," said Cobb. "So you'll hear me at the ballpark, and you'll also see the things that I do. An added benefit is that I met my fiancée [Christine Murray] here at the ballpark, and we're getting married in December. It's pretty cool to work in baseball, and pretty cool to have this name."
Benjamin Hill is a reporter for MiLB.com and writes Ben's Biz Blog. Follow Ben on Twitter @bensbiz.