A minor-league video intern’s job is to record footage of minor-league affiliate games from multiple angles, attach time stamps and contextual data (such as pitch speed, type, location, and outcome) to the video through a software program called “BATS!,” then make the video clips available for viewing in-person and remotely by team personnel and players. That’s the boilerplate description that would show up on a job posting, but there’s far more to the position than one might initially think. It’s often the first gig and proverbial foot in the door for a young baseball operations employee, and while the job title doesn’t have quite the same cachet as an in-office position, spending an entire season with a minor-league team, whether out with an affiliate or down at the org’s complex, entails just as many, if not more, educational benefits.
In the words of a former video intern with an NL East club, these internships "are definitely beneficial, and a gateway into the industry. The experience is what each individual makes of it. If you choose to go the extra mile it can be an excellent avenue to learn player development at the grassroots level. You can enhance and sharpen your evaluation skills. In some cases, video interns are watching hundreds of professional games a year. Those who take the job seriously really prosper and develop a stronger baseball acumen. “ One’s primary responsibility is to make sure the video collection and management components of the job are handled flawlessly, but once that’s mastered, there’s so much to learn by simply paying attention to the surroundings, asking thoughtful questions of knowledgeable baseball people, and lending a helping hand wherever one’s needed.
Getting a first-person, up close look at the player development machine is a unique learning opportunity that not every young baseball ops employee gets to experience. In the words of a former video intern with an NL West club, “I think everybody can benefit from getting down there and getting out on the road at some point in their careers, because that’s how you get to know how players and staff think, what they actually do and go through and how they go about their jobs. It’s easy for someone who has only known front office life to set certain expectations for player development, but without having lived that (MiLB) life it can be hard to know exactly how feasible those expectations are.” As a current video intern with an AL East club puts it, “I now have a much greater appreciation for minor-league players and their lives. Before, as an enthusiast and fan of the game, they were merely names on a spreadsheet or on some prospect list. Spending so much time with them over the course of the year allowed me to see that they’re humans who deal with the same human issues you and I do.” One can query minor-league stats or read game reports, but those information sources only convey so much about the players and the various forces that affect their development.
“I’d like to think I was pretty sympathetic to the grind these guys go through even before I got into the industry,” says a current intern with an AL West club, “but seeing the everyday life of a minor leaguer, even in the high minors, is pretty amazing. The difference between making Triple-A money and being on the 40-man is huge, but sometimes being on the 40-man is a gift and a curse, because while you're only one call away from being up in the big leagues, those guys on the fringe are sometimes just DFA magnets who are first on the chopping block when another move needs to be made. The bump in pay is huge for the players, but the uncertainty of not knowing how long you'll be on the team can really affect a guy’s mental state, and in turn his performance on the field. Getting claimed off waivers, traveling to a new city and signing a lease on an apartment only to find out that you’ve been DFA’d again a few days later is an unimaginably difficult thing to go through.” Those are the realities of minor-league life. It’s impossible to fully appreciate the highs and lows of a seemingly endless and impossibly taxing season from afar.
Beyond gaining a feel for the ins and outs of the developmental system, a video intern is in an excellent position to hone his craft as a talent evaluator. “It was an eye-opening experience to see how much the players change from one year to the next,” says a former intern with a Central club. “You may see a drafted player come in and struggle right out of the gate but when the next spring rolls around, he shows up looking like a completely different player.” “I was fortunate enough to learn a great deal from the scouts who would come through each series,” says a former video intern with an AL East club. ” I would try to get to know some of them, and pick their brains, respectfully. It definitely gave me a much better understanding and appreciation for scouting, and it prompted me to start writing up my own reports on all the players I was seeing throughout the year.” A former intern with an NL East club adds, “It’s about reps and constantly adding looks to your mental library. By critically observing every game, BP, infield/outfield, bullpens, etc., then interacting with scouts and coaches, I was able to get a really good sense of why certain players were considered prospects and others were just filler.” If a video intern keeps his eyes and ears open, he’ll come away from the experience with an impressive volume of foundational scouting reps that are an invaluable for the purposes of long-term development.
Minor-league life is undoubtedly a grind, but when a group of people are in close quarters with one another, in less than ideal conditions, for a prolonged period of time, hijinx, pranks, lighthearted banter, and story-worthy occurrences are bound to pop up.
For one intern with an AL West club, one of the more memorable aspects of his experience “was this game—but I'm not sure I’d really call it a game. It was this recurring thing that some of the guys would do in the clubhouse where guys would sneak up on each other and pretend to 'kill' each other with invisible swords and daggers, putting their fists up against an unsuspecting teammate's ribcage and yelling at the top of their lungs. It became extremely elaborate, with guys hiding in each other's lockers or having someone else distract the intended target. But then the 'defense' became more elaborate as well, as guys would claim to have been wearing a shield to block the attack, or they’d try to recruit teammates to double-cross the original attacker, etc. The funniest moment came during a pre-game promotion with local Little Leaguers on the field. A couple of players convinced this 8-year-old to wait until a specific player shook his hand and then 'get him' with his left hand. The kid had no idea why but did it anyway, leaving the stabbed player visibly shaken and stunned that a young fan would 'stab' him on the field when he least expected it. It was kind of awkward explaining to people around me why I was laughing so hard. I don't even think it makes sense even with the full context, but every time this game was being played around the clubhouse it was funny. Not every player participated. It was usually the same half dozen or so guys, but it never got old for me.”
No matter how well one is prepared, mess-ups and occasionally even catastrophic (in minor-league video terms) SNAFUs are unavoidable. Every minor-league video intern has that story—the biggest camera or computer screw-up that’s happened to him while on the job. “Rain is your enemy,” says a former video intern with an AL Central club. “No matter how waterproof the manufacturer says the camera is, there’s still a chance it can get completely messed up by heavy water exposure. I thought I had it all figured out at first. I thought 'MacGyvering' ice bags from the training room into convenient camera ponchos would be more than enough protection, so I left my center-field camera out during the first heavy rain of the season. When I went to pick up the camera after the game, it was unresponsive and its poncho had been blown off. I was able to save the camera by blow-drying the hell out of it, but the video from the game was unrecoverable. The coaches were not particularly pleased.” This sort of thing will happen from time to time but it’s difficult for one’s boss to be too mad, since he too was likely a video intern at one point and inevitably has a catastrophic video story of his own.
One of the more appealing parts of the minor-league experience is the degree to which the community embraces the players, coaches and staff of their home team. Sometimes, that embrace extends to the video intern as well. “My first year,” says a former intern with an NL West club, “our home city treated us like rock stars and all of us would get recognized around town. I even got introduced on the Jumbotron before every game.” One intern with an AL Central club was even able to pad his resume for post-Baseball Ops employment with a live radio appearance. “Toward the end of the season, the radio voice of our team invited me up to the box during the game and I ended up having my professional radio debut. I will never forget charting away, laptop in front of me, clicking away, inputting between three and six things for every pitch while simultaneously trying to put on my best announcer voice. I was later informed that it’s best to use my normal voice. I still disagree.”
Of course it’s impossible to spend a year as a minor-league video intern without getting mistaken for a player at least once. “There were times,” says a former intern with an NL Central club, “when fans would come up to me and ask for my autograph while I was charting during the game. They’d hand me the card of a player who looked nothing like me and insist that I sign it. On a couple of occasions, I told fans that I’d be happy to sign something for them if they could find me in the team picture. This one guy even came back a half inning later thinking he was 100 percent sure he’d found me. I of course wasn’t in the team picture that year.”
Sometimes, the local community can be a bit too “embracing." This was the case for a former intern with an NL East club. “Getting hit on by one of the team’s host moms became a regular occurrence on dollar beer night. It always unfolded in the same way. She’d come over to talk to one of the pitchers I was sitting with and then she’d proceed with a barely decipherable, aggressively flirtatious routine directed at me for the rest of the game. I’m proud to say I never missed a pitch.”
By collecting, tagging and facilitating access to game and practice video, minor-league video interns provide a valuable service to their respective organizations while simultaneously gaining exposure to the player development system, talent evaluation methods and the general grind of minor-league life. It’s difficult and often thankless work, but the overall learning experience, and of course, “the goofy stuff” make all the late nights and early mornings worth fighting through. It’s impossible not to get caught up in the emotional roller coaster that is a minor-league season. “There were such incredible highs,” says a former intern with an NL West club, “like the playoff-clinching celebration and some ridiculously dramatic home runs, to go along with lows like getting walked off on in extra innings in the deciding game of the semifinal series and being the first person back in the clubhouse, having to tear down all the plastic hanging over our lockers.” All of the former video interns quoted in this piece have since moved on to bigger and better things within various branches of baseball ops, and the current interns are poised to follow suit. Each individual had a unique experience as a video intern, but all agree that their time spent lugging cameras and computers around on the farm played an invaluable role in shaping who they’ve become as baseball people.
Many thanks to all of the current and former minor league video interns who were willing to share their unique experiences with me.
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