A behind the scenes look at a Salt Lake Bees gameJun 10, 2019 02:04PM ● By Christy Jepson
Simon Matthews, a Salt Lake Bees pitcher. (Photo credit Brent and Paul Asay)
By Christy Jepson | [email protected]
When fans walk into the Smith’s Ballpark and hear the words “Play ball!” they expect a night full of exciting baseball, tasty food and entertainment. What fans don’t see is the work that goes on behind the scenes that starts weeks, days and hours before the first pitch of each game.
It’s the preparation and planning of the groundskeeping department, food and beverage division, and the marketing and communications departments that work together to make a memorable evening for fans coming to the ballpark at 77 W. 1300 South.
Nikki Sim is the game operations and marketing manager for the Salt Lake Bees. She is responsible for planning all the on-field and video board promotions, the promotional team and staff, theme nights and giveaways. For Sim, her work begins before the fans enter the gates. She is constantly meeting with the video production team, DJs, the PA announcer and promotion team to go over everything to make sure everyone knows their job.
“If everyone is on the same page for videos, promotions, and their responsibilities, things tend to run smoothly. Marketing is very important to a sports team because for the Bees, we want more than the baseball fan to come to a game. We want people who are eager to do something on a warm evening to come to a Bees game and experience more than just baseball,” Sim said.
When you are Matthew Greene, the director of operations for Pro Sports Catering and in charge of all food and beverage at Smith’s Ballpark, your work starts anywhere from two days before a big game or the morning of regular games. Just last year, concessions sold over 25,000 pounds of hot dogs. They also hosted the largest picnic in minor league baseball for a group of 6,000 people.
Greene has over 200 employees who work for him in the food and beverage department. “For many employees, this is their first job and it’s great to see them grow up over the summers and then we get their younger siblings. You get to know the families and it is rewarding when the older ones come back from college and make it a point to come say hi,” Greene said.
In his duties of director of field operations, Brian Soukup and his crew of two full-time assistants and two seasonal assistants, make sure the playing field and outside landscaping is in top notch for every home game. For an evening game, Soukup and his team start working at 9 a.m. to make sure the entire field is mowed, then they pack the bullpens, work the mound and plate, clean and drag the track and spend several hours working the infield dirt. According to Soukup, it is not uncommon for his crew to work 14-15 hour days because after games they stay and repair and prepare the field for the next day. Other jobs they do are water the grass, paint grass lines and set up the field for batting practice.
“We mow the field every day when the team is in town and every other day when they are out of town. That means we mow our lawn about 200 times a year,” Soukup said.
In order to get community members aware of the Salt Lake Bees, Kraig Williams, the communications manager for the Salt Lake Bees, helps with public relations, media relations, community relations and digital media.
“For me and my team it’s informing people of what is happening at the ballpark that they will enjoy, whether that be through social media to promote an upcoming theme night, setting up media interviews with players that fans would like to know or getting the team and our staff out in the community to help,” Williams said.
To these Salt Lake Bees employees, getting fans to games is more than just about baseball. It is trying to make the best experience possible. “We provide more than just baseball,” Sim said. “Children can meet our beloved mascot, Bumble, ride a train, play on a playground, and make memories with their families.”
Both Williams and Soukup agree that the Bees games are an affordable way for families to spend time together. “For example, you can get four tickets and four hot dogs for $24 on Monday nights on our website and it’s a lot of fun for the whole family … For those that aren’t into the game, we have tons of fun promotions and theme nights for all kinds of people,” Williams said.
So whether it’s a major league game or a minor league game, every department contributes in different ways to make each Bees game a grand slam for the fans.
For more information about the Salt Lake Bees or to buy tickets visit their website at https://www.milb.com/salt-lake/tickets/