Results tagged ‘ Willie Jenks ’

Inside Working in Sports: Omar Jufko (Part 2)

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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: What’s the biggest challenge facing Sports Management majors today?

OJ: Too many people romanticize the idea of working in sports and think they’ll graduate and work for someone like Scott Boras or work shoulder to shoulder with Alex Rodriguez. That will most likely not happen. If that’s their goal they should keep their eye on the prize, but focus on their specialty whether it’s PR, marketing or finance and go after it. From the outside looking it, this looks like the greatest job on the planet – not to say that it isn’t but, there’s always this misconception that all we do is hang out with athletes. People should really realize the hard work you need to put in to be successful in this industry.

TV: So why did you leave the Home Clubhouse to manage the Executive Office Front Desk?

OJ: I wanted to learn more and expand what I do here [at the organization]. I needed security and to evolve. It’s such a short ceiling down there [in the clubhouse]. For as much as I loved it, I knew I had advance myself as a professional and diversify myself and my resume. I saw the Front Desk opportunity to prove myself to the organization that [I] was willing to wear multiple hats. The Front Desk role is unique and it doesn’t get the credit that it deserves. The person in that job is the first and last impression to everyone who enters our building. It’s very much a help desk; you can get out of towners asking where they can get a good meal all the way to the Fortune 500 Execs coming to meet with Mark Shapiro or Mr. Dolan. It’s sort of like the Clubhouse where no two days are exactly the same. You’re always on your toes.

TV: Since you were the front lines of the office, what’s your perspective on our fans?

OJ: They’re hungry. This city is just hungry for sustained success from our teams. At the same time they’re a little impatient, understandably so because they have been waiting so long. I believe in the guys we have here on the field. Baseball is one of those games where you get five or six pieces to gel and grow together and you build around that. Anything is possible.  I tried to project to the fans that would walk into the Front Office. I wanted people to recognize that good things were happening around here.

TV: That’s going above and beyond your job description. What made you go the extra mile to connect with the fans?

OJ: Is it too corny to say that I felt like it was my duty? Particularly in that role, I don’t think many people in the organization – outside of game day staff – get a chance to interact with fans so intimately as the person that sits at the Front Desk. I felt like I needed to make a good impression. Unfortunately, we’re in a situation where we need to win over as many hearts and minds as possible. Most of the staff in the organization cannot control what goes on on-the-field, but we can control our personal interactions and business relationships. So that was the attitude I took that job with. Look the part, speak the part and project a positive image because there has been negative energy around the club for some years now – from a general public standpoint.


-Erin Parker, TribeVibe Contributor


Inside Working in Sports: Omar Jufko (Part 1)


photo (28)So, you want to be a Sports Management major? Are you in a quest to snag a job with a sports franchise? Well, 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.

TribeVibe: What made you want to be a Sports Management Major?

Omar Jufko: Growing up I was always really active. I never excelled at any one sport but, I played everything. I played football, baseball, soccer, track, basketball. I was always actively involved in athletics. My Father was a Browns Season Ticket Holder for 30+ years and he was a Season Ticket Holder with [the Indians] from 1989 through 1999. [Sports] were always in my life growing up. There was never one point where I said “I’m going to do this as a career,” but I always knew I was going to be involved in athletics.

In school, I studied Public Relations and Sports Management while at Cleveland State. While I was at Cleveland State, I worked for the basketball team; first, as a student manager – where I was nothing more than a towel boy my freshman year.  I made enough of an impression that by the time my sophomore year rolled around, [Cleveland State] said to me ‘Here’s X amount of dollars, hire a staff and we’ll pay you through work study.’ So I became the head manager. I handled all my staff, all the player course scheduling, connected them with tutors and any additional academic help they needed. Mostly, I handled all of the road trip logistics – all the busing, food, workout plans and itineraries for road trips. I t takes so much effort and man power to move a team from city to city. So, it got my gears going and made me think that this could be a legitimate career choice.

TV: What initially kept you motivated to take on that job while still going to school?

OJ: [Motivation] is something that had been instilled in me by – as cheesy as it sounds – by my parents. When I was 14 or 15, I played soccer the summer before I started High School and Reebok had come out with this cleat called the Sidewinder. I just wanted a pair of Sidewinders really bad. I think these Sidewinders were $100. Back then in 1997, that price was just insane for a pair of cleats. I remember approaching my parents about it and they said, ‘Ok, walk down the street to the supermarket, fill out an application, get a job, and once you get your first paycheck you’ll have enough to buy your own cleats.’ That was always the mindset of my household – if you want something, you work hard, you’ll be able to get it. And that’s probably the greatest lesson I’ve ever gotten from my parents. Humility and work ethic.

[My family], we’re working class. A lot of people in [Cleveland] are. I grew up 15 minutes from [Progressive Field]. I grew up in the concrete jungle and that’s always grounded me. I’ve always had the mindset that no one is going to give me anything. I’m not the world’s smartest man, but I know I can always rely on my work ethic, accountability, and quality of work.

TV: How did you start with the Indians?

OJ: Well, I spent a year and a half after I graduated college in Brazil working for a basketball team and expected that it would be easy for me to land a job in Professional Sports and it didn’t happen that way. So, I started working for the Gap as a merchandiser basically dressing mannequins overnight and doing new floor sets for the store. After a year, I decided I was either going to work in Public Relations or I was going to try one more time to get into sports.

I saw a Visiting Clubhouse Intern posted on It was an unpaid internship under Willie Jenks the current Visiting Clubhouse Manager. I had some exposure to this world because I had a friend in high school that worked in the Indians Clubhouse. So, I already knew the basics of the job – you show up, load the equipment and do whatever is necessary for the team. So I thought ‘What the hell I’ll apply for it.’ Willie had over 300 applicants for the job and only brought in three people for interviews and I was one of the lucky few and got the job, thankfully.  I was the first intern in Cleveland Indians Clubhouse history.

TV: So was it just dumb luck and timing?

OJ: It’s really a little bit of everything. I like to believe that my experiences at Cleveland State and in Brazil played a role in getting me the job. I definitely felt that Willie and I always had a level of comfort with one another, and we still are very close. It’s special to have someone in your professional life that you can sit down with and be very candid with, vent when you need to vent but, also work through the issues of the daily grind.

TV: Do you find that relationships (like yours with Willie) are essential to your longevity with the organization?

OJ: Absolutely and it’s probably the same across all industries, but especially here. You give up so much of your time and your personal life for this industry. [People who work in baseball] give up sort of the prime time of the year. When the sun is out and people are having fun, you’re at work grinding away. It’s a lot of time commitment, a lot of stress, but then again, we wouldn’t be here if we didn’t enjoy doing it.

Willie Jenks (left) and Omar Jufko (right).

Willie Jenks (left) and Omar Jufko (right).

TV: Tell us about your experience working in the Visiting Clubhouse.

OJ: I worked with Willie and felt that the season went really well. I learned how to run off 4-5 hours of sleep in a 48 hour window. Just the inner workings of baseball. Many people think that we lay dormant 4-5 months out of the year in the off-season, but business continues 12 months out of the year – we never stop. After the 2009 season had ended, I saw an opening for a Clubhouse Manager for Lake County so, I spoke to Willie about it, got his recommendation, got the Home Clubhouse Manager’s recommendation. Then about a few days later, the Indians came to me and asked me to stay and I said ‘I’m in,’ and I became part of the Home Clubhouse staff for the 2010 season.

TV: What’s the most memorable moment from working in the clubhouse?

OJ: I always joke with people when I get that question. There are probably two answers to that question. One answer I probably will never be able to tell you (Sorry, TribeVibe Fans) because it’s one of those guarded secrets that could probably be exposed in a book one day. To nail down one experience or one memory might be too hard because you find yourself in so many different situations – one day it could be picking up a top player from the airport, another day it could be helping a player purchase a car. I truly think the camaraderie is what stands out to me most. You’re in the eye of the storm, if you will, you see the good, the bad and the ugly. [Guys in the Clubhouse] have more exposure to [the players] than [the players’] families do and you see that human side to professional athletes that a lot of people will never get the chance to see. I know how hard those [players] work and anytime something great happens to [the team] they deserve it. Just the Cleveland kid in me wants the team to do well. The friend and Indians personnel side of me wants them to do well because I truly think they deserve it.

-Erin Parker, TribeVibe Contributor

Inside the Visitors’ Clubhouse: Willie Jenks (Part Two)

Cleveland Indians Visiting Clubhouse Manager Willie Jenks chatted with TribeVibe about his experience with other Major League teams at Progressive Field. Jenks was recently selected to join Kansas City’s Clubhouse Staff for the 2012 All-Star Game.

TribeVibe: Are you married? Do you have kids?
Willie Jenks: I’m married. I found out that I got this job a week before I got married. It was incredible. I’ve been married five years now, and I have a [two-year-old] daughter. It’s a dream come true and a blessing because I was able to stay in Cleveland, go to school here, and get a Major League job here. In baseball, it’s rare to even get the chance to work at the Major League level, but to do it in your hometown is a dream come true. If there’s a home stand, I see my wife when I go to bed — she’s usually sleeping. I always make it a point to wake up early with my daughter, even if I get home at two or three in the morning. I try to get up with my daughter, have breakfast, hang out at least a little bit before I come in to work. Some nights it makes no sense to go home because you have to be here at 6:00 in the morning for breakfast, so those nights I’ll sleep here. If there’s a lot of stuff going on, [my wife and I exchange] a lot of phone calls and text messages. During Spring Training, I may come [to Cleveland] for a weekend. I worked in baseball when we started dating, so she knew that this is what it is. I made it very clear that it’s a different lifestyle. She respected it and understood it, and — don’t get me wrong — it’s hard, but five years later, it’s great. That’s the beauty of being on the visiting side is that I don’t have to travel with the team constantly.

TV: Are you an Indians fan?
WJ: Of course. Fortunately, I was born and raised in Brecksville and have been a huge Tribe fan my whole life. I’m a huge Indians fan. Working here for 15-16 years, you learn to kind of temper it working on the visiting side. All these teams that come here know that I was born in Cleveland and that I’m here to do a job and to help them out and make it as comfortable as possible for them while they’re here. Am I rooting for the Indians? Yes. Every single day. Do I outwardly root for the Indians? Of course not. I’ve got to be professional. I root quietly inside.

TV: Do you have a favorite opposing team?
WJ: Everyone always asks me that question. I would tell them, I love my Central Division teams. We see them three times a year [in Cleveland], so you really get to know the guys, really get to know the teams, and you get to have a better sample of how these guys really are. Three days is really short. If you have a National League team come in or a team from the west coast, you may only get to see them those three days or a day and a half because we may play a day game on Sunday. You can’t really gauge that. The ebb and flow of baseball is so up and down that you can have a guy come in and be the nicest guy in the world, and [he comes in] again the second time and [is] 0-for-40 and [is] the hardest guy in the world to deal with. You know that when you work this job, you’ve got to take guys with a grain of salt.

TV: Is there a certain player that you look forward to seeing when they come in?
WJ: I’ve developed a really good relationship with [Seattle Mariners pitcher] Felix Hernandez over the years. Working in 2009 in the World Baseball Classic, I worked with him in that. I have a great relationship with Felix. There are a lot of great guys in this game. You can look through the roster and I can go, ‘That’s a great guy,’ or ‘I really like working with that guy.’ Every roster usually brings one or two guys that I really enjoy talking to.

TV: Has there been a memorable errand that you have run for a player?
WJ: There have been a lot of interesting ones. The most memorable would be when a former Indian came back into town. He still had a house and a car here. His car was a yellow Hummer. He came back with another team the next year on a Friday. He said, ‘Willie, I want to trade my Hummer in for a red Lincoln Navigator with similar miles. See what you can do.’ Like I said, if it falls in the realm of things that we can do for you, we’re going to try and do it. I made a whole bunch of phone calls and was able to find a red Lincoln Navigator [from] the year he wanted, similar miles, that a dealer was willing to trade straight up for his Hummer. The dealer came out here on a Sunday morning. The dealer drove off with a Hummer, and [the player] stuck around with his red Navigator.

TV: You have a wall of autographs behind your desk and several autographed items on your desk. (See photo above.) Where did that idea originate?
WJ: The wall started when I got the head job in 2007. It was just a blank wall in my office, and I had [former Minnesota Twins] Johan Santana and Carlos Silva in here. Both of them are huge jokers — huge, huge jokers — great guys, huge jokers. It was probably a month after the All-Star game. Johan had played in the All-Star game, and Major League Baseball had sent baseballs here for guys to finish signing. They were team balls that were going to go to the players, but not all guys had a chance to finish signing. MLB sent me the balls and asked me to have him sign them. I put the balls on the couch. I said, ‘Hey, Johan, Major League Baseball sent these in. I know it’s kind of a pain. Would you mind signing them?’ He said, ‘No, no problem. Willie, I love signing. I would sign anything in the world because you never know when someone’s not going to want your autograph.’ He signs the balls. I leave my office. I come back maybe 25 minutes later, the balls were done, but that wasn’t the only thing that was signed in my office. He also put his signature on one of the cinderblocks on my wall. He said, ‘I told you. I love signing. I’ll sign just about anything.’ Him and Silva started laughing. They walked out of the room, and I was like, ‘Great, what am I going to do with this signature on the wall?’ I went to my cabinet to try and find something to wipe it off. It’s a blank wall with Johan’s signature. I was going to have to explain how it got up there. I opened up my cabinet, and I looked in it. I had a ream of paper in it, and there were like 42 sheets of paper signed, ‘Johan Santana.’ For the rest of the year, I was finding things that were autographed by Johan Santana all over my office.

I talked to my staff, and I said this might be the opportunity to start a Visiting Clubhouse Wall of Fame. We established the ground rules for the wall. It’s not necessarily that you have to be a future Hall of Famer or a Hall of Famer to get up on that wall. You have to be unanimously voted by my staff; if one person has a problem with you, you’re not going to get up on the wall. If you’re just a great guy, maybe you only have one year in the big leagues but my staff loves you and you’re respectful, they may end up on the wall. If you look up there, you’re probably going to see a couple guys like that. Every time a team comes in, we sit down, you can nominate a player to be up there, we vote, and if they fall one vote short, they don’t get up there.

TV: Have you ever had the chance to celebrate with the opposing team?
WJ: Yes, but I wouldn’t phrase it as celebrating with the team; I’d say it was watching the team celebrate. We’ve had some teams clinch here. The Minnesota Twins was probably the most memorable celebration. The Twins celebration was crazy because they turned the floor of the main clubhouse into a giant slip-and-slide. We had tarps down, and with all of the champagne, it got pretty crazy in here. Needless to say, we were here until 5:00 or 6:00 in the morning, trying to clean and scrub things and replace ceiling tiles. Those guys knew how to party and have a good time.

-Megan Golden, TribeVibe contributor

Inside the Visitors’ Clubhouse: Willie Jenks

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Cleveland Indians Visiting Clubhouse Manager Willie Jenks, a graduate of Holy Name High School and Akron University, began working as a bat boy with the visiting clubhouse 16 years ago. In 2007, Jenks was promoted to Head Visiting Clubhouse Manager. Jenks caught up with TribeVibe on Saturday, discussing his typical duties during a series. Be sure to check out Part Two of TribeVibe’s interview with Jenks tomorrow.

Willie Jenks: Most of our series start in the middle of the night. We have to look and see where a team’s coming from, and then figure out how long it might take them to pack up after a game and fly here. The traveling secretaries will give us an itinerary, but that’s usually within an hour, two-hour window, barring any plane problems, customs problems, trucking problems. As soon as that plane lands, an equipment truck will be out at the airport, pull up to the plane and grab all the players’ baseball stuff first and put that in the front of the truck. Then it will grab all the players’ personal stuff, and they’ll go in the back of the truck. The truck will then go to the hotel, drop off their personal bags, so those guys can get a good night’s rest. Then the truck will come to us with all the equipment. We load up our Cushman’s, and they’ll come up here. The first thing we grab is all the wet [laundry]. It takes more time to get that washed and dried than it does to unpack the bags. One person will be scrubbing uniforms, washing and drying the clothes. This is usually about two or three in the morning or nine or ten at night on a Sunday. The rest of the staff is unpacking all the bags, taking all the trunks around. These teams travel really, really, really heavy now. You’ve got six to eight trunks for the equipment manager, the trainer’s got 10 trunks. Each player has their personal bag, and you’ve got the catchers’ bags. You get everything set up so that when these guys walk in the next day, everything’s already done for them. They come in the next day like they’ve been here for a week.

For a 7:05 game, [we] usually start at 9:30 in the morning shopping, get here around 10:30, get coffee on. Coaches and trainers start rolling through the door relatively early, 11:00-11:30. Around noon, the food room guy starts setting up the kitchen and getting ready for the first meal. The first meal we feed these guys can be burgers, turkey burgers, chicken breast sandwiches. We bring Qdoba in every three days, make wraps. We offer these guys a lot of food. We have a full deli case.

Guys come in and get changed. They’ll usually go eat. Some will watch video, some will go down to the cage, some will go outside. Some will play video games. We offer these guys a ton of options as far as video games go. We’ve got an X-Box 360, we’ve got every old-school Nintendo game ever made. A lot of guys grew up in my age range, so we brought the old-school Nintendo in. They come in and have a little bit of nostalgia. These guys spend a lot of time here, so you have to have lots of different things for them to do. Some guys will play cards, some will play cribbage, some will do crosswords. Everyone’s got their own little routine that they always have.

Around 5:10, those guys go out to stretch. When they go out to stretch, we’ll be collecting all the towels, all the dirty clothes from early batting practice. Pretty much every team takes early batting practice now around 2:00. We’ll get all that stuff washed and dried. We’ll clean everything in the clubhouse, sanitize everything down, and then my food guy will get things ready for the post-batting practice meal. These guys will come in, change out of their batting practice clothes, and go right into that food room. That’s always smoothies, ready-made salads, wraps, hot sandwiches, and when it’s cold, we’ll do soups. It kind of depends on the weather. It’s usually something light. After they eat, they’ll put on a new set of clothes for the game, they’ll go out there, and it’s more of the same for us.

Once we get to about the fifth inning, [clothes] are usually washed, dried, and we’ve got everything ready to go for after the game and the post-game meal. If any of my staff has any running around to do for these guys, they’ll take care of that then. Whether it’s Mom’s birthday and someone needs flowers, or whether it’s little Tommy’s birthday and he wants his little G.I. Joe, at that point we send someone out to get those guys what they need. My staff will make phone calls to get those guys anything they need. When you’re on the road so much, there are things that they ask for, and anything that falls into our realm of things that we can do, we try to provide for them.

Once the game’s over, guys will come in, and it’s more of the same. Washing and drying, cleaning clothes. Guys will stick around for usually an hour, hour and a half after the game. Then after that, it’s usually another two or three hours for us cleaning. Then we’re out of here. That usually ends somewhere between 1:00 and 3:00 in the morning, depending on what’s going on.

-Megan Golden, TribeVibe contributor