Inside Working in Sports: Omar Jufko (Part 3)
TribeVibe chatted with Cleveland Indians Dockmaster Omar Jufko, a graduate of Cleveland State University with degrees in Sports Management and Public Relations, to get the inside track on how to break into the highly coveted sports industry. Jufko began working as a Visiting Clubhouse Intern under fellow TribeVibe star and Head Visiting Clubhouse Manager, Willie Jenks. Since 2009, Omar has worked in the Visiting and Home Clubhouses and the Indians Executive Office Front Desk. In 2012, Jufko was promoted to Dockmaster within the Ballpark Operations department. Jufko was kind enough to meet with TribeVibe to discuss his journey through the Indians Organization.
TV: How did you transition to being the Dockmaster?
OJ: The job was open and I saw it as an opportunity to take another step. I went from being unpaid, to being paid but still part-time/seasonal, to having a full-time position in the face of the general public. I looked forward to having another full-time position that dealt more with the infrastructure of the organization. It was another chance to challenge myself. I’ve never dealt with shipping and receiving from a big scope before so, I knew I was going to have to learn on the fly. It was just another challenge. The day you stop challenging yourself and become complacent is the day you should just hang it up.
TV: For those who are not familiar with what a “Dockmaster” is, can you tell us what the job entails?
OJ: 75% to 80% is basic shipping and receiving, but not like a mom and pop corner shop – it’s a huge organization with huge needs. I’m talking player personnel and equipment, 53-foot TV trucks for broadcasts, all the freight for merchandising all of the goods that come in for Corporate Partnerships, print materials for Communications, electronics and tech gear for Information Systems and I touch every part of this business on a daily basis. In-season, I have a staff of about 20 security guys in fixed points throughout the ballpark. I have my own assistant that helps with the shipping and receiving. My personal mission with him is to help him grow and evolve professionally and in his personal life as well. When I started I was about his age – early 20’s – and Willie was a mentor to me so, I’d like to pay that guidance forward to someone else. My mentors definitely helped me find myself.
TV: That’s an interesting point, what advice would you give to young people trying to find themselves professionally? Especially people in their 20’s who are working but, would like to on a path toward upward mobility?
OJ: You really need to take a long hard look at the opportunities that you may or may not have in front of you. It’s a lot of soul searching. Sometimes you have to veer off the road that you want, to do something else but, always know in the back of your mind where you ultimately want to be [in your career]. Rome wasn’t built in a day. Sometimes the decision isn’t so easy. Keep your goals in focus and make sure your [career choices] keep in line with that.
Just think about what you and I are doing right now, we’re sitting in an empty ballpark. Sometimes you get these surreal moments [working here]. I’ve hung out with the Yankees in the Visiting Clubhouse or have taken someone’s Mercedes to the airport but, it’s the little things like this that matter most to me – sitting here in a quiet ballpark. It’s almost like my home; I spend the better part of my year here.
TV: We do spend a lot of time here. Tell us about the time commitments of working in this industry for those who may not know.
OJ: It’s intense! It’s unlike most professions – outside of an ER doctor or someone in medicine. You’re looking at 15-20 hour workdays depending on your assignment. Fans see the show when it’s on TV but really have no idea all the work it takes to pull the ballpark experience off.
TV: How do you balance your personal life?
OJ: I see my work life as a parallel to the game of baseball. It’s all a process, a grind and a routine. I arrive here early, around 5 or 5:30AM, get a work out in, get to my desk by 6AM, answer all my e-mails and get ready for the first shipments at 7AM. I try to stay focused and on task so I don’t get stressed.
TV: What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?
OJ: Hunger and humility. Never be complacent and always look for the next step. At the same time, understand that you’re not above anyone or any task.
-Erin Parker, TribeVibe Contributor