After discussing life in the clubhouse with George in Part I, I asked George about his interactions with players, past and present in the Clipper organization.
What is your connection to the players on the team?
I just had a heart attack and triple bypass surgery last year. I had it during the season. When I woke up from my triple bypass, the first day when they took my ventilator out I asked “how are my boys? (the players)”. I didn’t want to go to the hospital that day because we had a game.
The players are my kids. I want to get them to the big leagues and help them in anyway I can. I just do that every year. I don’t look at the organization, I look at the kids I have every year. I want to see them succeed no matter who it is with. They’re reaching their goal and to me that’s my goal to help them get there.
What does the clubhouse mean to the players?
This is their home to a certain aspect.. They’re here eight days, gone eight days, but this their home. All their personals and things like that are here and I have to protect their privacy. When the ballpark opened last year, there was such a large press contingency in our locker room that it was intruding on the players’ privacy. The players didn’t know what to do so I asked the media and asked them to leave the clubhouse for the sake of the players. I gained credibility with many of the players that day.
Are the player’s superstitious?
There is so much superstition. The player’s laundry loops have to be a certain color, you have to lay out their uniforms a certain way, examples like that.
Do you keep in contact with the players that come through here?
Oh yeah. Derek Jeter contacted me when I had my surgery to see how I was doing, him and Mariano Rivera called. I stay in touch with them all of the time. I stay in touch with Kevin Long (the Yankees’ hitting coach). Kevin Long is pretty much my best friend. He comes down and does hitting clinics for us (George is also a co-owner of MVP Baseball, a baseball facility in Reynoldsburg, Ohio). The last 3 hitting coaches that we’ve had here in Columbus are now in the big leagues.
You have been here 20 years. What the most memorable player you’ve met here?
I’d probably have to say Alex Arias. I picked him up at the airport and we just kind of clicked. We’d stop at Starbucks everyday and get the same drinks. When he got called up to the Yankees, he flew me to New York where we went onto the field (at Yankee Stadium) and played Frisbee with players such as Mariano Rivera and David Wells. I traveled with the Yankees for one month all on Alex’s dime and that was just incredible. You can’t explain that sort of experience. Alex probably exposed me to more than anyone. He wasn’t a superstar, he was just a great guy. There was just something about him, we stay in touch to this day.
What are your responsibilities for the visiting team?
I have bus companies pick the visiting team up at the airport and take them to the hotel. I make arrangements for the arena bus to run them back and forth, before, during and after the game. I make all their nametags for the lockers. I want them to feel like they’re in the big leagues. I’ll talk to their athletic trainer to find out what they need, I’ve already called them and asked what time the equipment and players will get here. When they’re here I have to take care of them. I want them to say that they want to come back here, that’s my goal. I set up in the offseason promotion deals also in order that they have fun things to do during their downtime. I set those guys up, just like our local players.
Do you feel lucky to be around baseball as your job?
I’m blessed and lucky to be all around this, I really am. I bless the Lord for letting me be able to do this everyday and come in here. I get paid to come into the ballpark everyday, I love it. I mean, I live here most of the time. Its tough and no doubt about it I have my moments but still. I am very lucky, I will tell you that. Mr. Schnake has been good to me by giving me this position and the large responsibility that comes with it.
Interviewing George provided a tremendous amount of insight into behind the scenes work in a baseball club. As you can tell from the interview, George has a very busy schedule and usually does not have the time to do interviews. Thank you so much to Mr. Robinson as well as the Clipper organization for granting me the opportunity to interview George.
That’s all for now,
Eitan the Intern