Labor of love for interns at JetBlue Park
FORT MYERS, Fla. -- A-Gon is long gone, so too is the Carl Crawford Experience. These are not your fathers' Red Sox, folks, or even last year's. Papi, Pedroia and Ellsbury remain, and Napoli and Gomes have brought their right-handed bats to the happiest place on earth for batters of that persuasion. The objective of the Sox's offense no longer is to bludgeon an opponent into submission. Consistent offense is the idea, so these Sox are likely to make more contact and hang substantial runs on the board anyway.
Such old-school phrasing -- "hang runs in the board" has a particularly appropriate place in the world of Sox because, as every card-carrying member of their Nation knows, the left-field scoreboard of Fenway Park remains manually operated and therefore requires numbers to be hung or slid into place. Quaint and wonderful! Take that, New England Electric and Gas.
What the Nation may not know is that same procedure is necessary here at JetBlue Park, the Spring Training home of the Sox. JBP is a dazzling place, so bright, modern, neat and clean. (Folks here must think twice before discarding their chewing gum; the sidewalks are spotless.) The park does have a touch of quaintness, though -- a Green Monster all its own that includes the scoreboard that was part of the wall at Fenway until 1934. It then was dismantled, moved and stored in South Dakota, where any self-respecting baseball artifact would be stored. Certainly not North Dakota.
That needless, curious, priceless and startling minutiae comes from one Gordon Lessersohn, a native of Oradell, N.J., and an alumnus of Colby College in Maine, where he did his thesis on the decision to preserve the now 101-year-old home of the Sox. Lessersohn is one of three 20-somethings, all May college graduates, who are Red Sox interns and therefore handle jobs at JBP as diverse as spreading mulch, auditioning national anthem singers, maintaining the hypro-therapy room, readying the premises for Christmas and updating the scoreboard that is part of the Green Monster's older little brother.
His colleagues are Chris Sintetos of Bethesda, Md., and Holy Cross, and Quentin Ybarra of Altamont, Kan., and Duke. They make a pleasant trio of genuine baseball fans -- Sintetos roots for the Orioles -- who have little in common other than their "pretty cool" jobs, the year of their graduating classes and an abiding and across-the-board loathing for the Yankees and anything in pinstripes.
Understand please, that their scoreboard work at JBP is altogether different from that of the fella who operates the board in the Boston. He remains hidden inside the wall, visited during games only by small creatures, curious journalists, insects and Manny "Being Manny" Ramirez. Lessersohn, Sintetos and Ybarra operate in full view of public. If and when the Sox score, one of them exits from a cubbyhole in the wall, runs to the board, adjusts the number of runs scored in the bottom of the inning and disappears.
When the half-inning is complete, he updates the totals for runs, hits and errors. It was demanding work earlier this week when the Sox scored eight times in an inning against Boston College. "Kinda hectic," Sintetos said.
When the visiting team produces a 1 or -- worse -- a crooked number in the top of an inning, one of the guys must carry a ladder -- we'll identify it as Jacoby's Ladder for folks who enjoy manipulating the truth for the sake of a sound-alike -- climb it, change the number and retreat into privacy. The totals are adjusted after the half-inning, with ladder and haste.
The numbers are made of tin and absorb substantial heat from the Florida sun. And they're sharp. Clearly, this is not a job without peril. Speed is of the essence. No one wants to see Dustin Pedroia's first triple reduced to a two-base hit because of inadvertent interference by one of the ladder brigade.
Truth be known, they compete against the clock but also the legacy of the man who preceded them in the scoreboard duty. They don't know the name but they are uncomfortably aware of the precedents he established. The man they identify only as "Super Intern" could adjust the run total of the inning as well as the game in runs, hits and errors -- all in mid-inning. They speak of him with reverence as your father spoke of Cronin, Doerr, Pesky, Yaz and Mr. Theodore Ballgame. "I can't believe anyone could do that," Sintetos says.
He and Lessersohn defer to Ybarra at times. The latter does have them in ladder experience. While at Duke and when the Blue Devils played a home game off campus at the Durham stadium, he did his first scoreboard updating. He had the technique before they all arrived here in November. Now it's in his blood.
The three discuss their jobs like a pitcher and catcher discuss theirs. The greatest challenge is to know when change is needed after a ball has been hit into the left-field corner or to right or center, for that matter. Their only view of the field is through a small window in the wall, their field of vision doesn't approach 180 degrees. And what if they don't know the official scorer's call? They must contact the pressbox at once. Responsibility, responsibility, responsibility.
The need for quickness is paramount. They may never match the work of Super Intern, but they want to do the job as well as it can be done, even though room for advancement in their specialized area doesn't exist. There is no senior scoreboard operator position at JBP. Not yet, anyway. It's a pity.
They may have to look elsewhere for employment someday. Lessersohn says his "dream job" is to work in baseball operations for a big league franchise. The Sox would be his preference. Sintetos would prefer to play for a big league team, but he can't keep a straight face as he delivers those words of wonder and wish. Big-time baseball seemingly is beyond his skills. Georgetown Law School may be his next stop. And Ybarra hopes to work in sports, perhaps in one of those positions that few people recognize or understand -- event coordinator, business development, senior vice-president of OPS calculations and WAR.
Imagine the interview process when they seek their first real jobs.
"Well, what did you do in the first academic year following your graduation?"
"Well, sir, I changed the runs by inning for Red Sox games at JetBlue Park in Fort Myers. And I spread mulch and listened to people who wanted to sing 'The Star-Spangled Banner.'
"That's a lot of good experience. You're hired."
Marty Noble is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.