Interview: How To Become A Baseball Equipment Manager
Tim Meckener is the Minor League Equipment Manager for the Tampa Bay Devil Rays. We are riding on a shuttle between hotels at Major League Baseball’s Winter Meetings in Las Vegas.
What does a Minor League Equipment Manager do?
Basically all our affiliates, top to bottom, short season to Triple A and all the American countries I order the equipment for all of them. That, and anything that needs to go to the minor league complex, to spring training, the Gulf Coast league. I oversee all of that.
Then I oversee the minor league club house manager and any of the club house guys in our affiliates, I oversee them and their duties. And then there’s guys in spring training that go out and work off of me and my inventories. They report back to me on anything they need, or anything they have a problem with. If I need to I’ll go out there and help those guys out. Pretty much that’s it in a nutshell.
I got hired in Winter of ’01 and started in the Spring of ’02 as the assistant manager to who is now the major league equipment manager for the Rays. Before that I bat boyed in the big leagues in 98, 99. And before that I bat boyed in the minor leagues from 93 to 97.
You were a bat boy?
Yeah. I was 13 when I started in ’93. I was born in ’80. I went up and bat boyed for the Rays in their first year in ’98, their second year in ’99, and the beginning of the season in 2000. And then I got hired at the complex to be an assistant equipment manager.
Do equipment managers normally start as bat boys?
Yeah, a lot of equipment managers start as bat boys. I’ve seen more bat boys in my position than ex-players or anything like that. The only thing different with me is that I didn’t go to college. Everything that I do I kinda just learned on the job. Most of the other guys were bat boying as a kid through high school maybe, and then go to college and do something there, and then come later and have a job in the clubhouse. Eventually they get hired as the major league guy or minor league guy or something like that.
At 22, I was pretty young as the head minor league guy.
The ultimate goal is to be a head major league equipment manager or to be a clubhouse manager in the major leagues. The traveling and all that stuff in the major leagues is unbelievable. This gig is pretty good. I’ve got a family now. I just had a son with my high school sweetheart. All that kinda stuff would make it tough to travel, but as you get older, that job becomes much more appealing to you. You get to see all the other ballparks and stuff like that.
So that’s something I want to do eventually and this job is pretty good. I’m not complaining.
Do you ever travel international?
I was supposed to be going to the Dominican, but my son was born in September. So I’ll go next spring. We have academies down there, like the academy of Brazil. Soon I’ll go to Brazil. Never been out of the country, so I had to get my passport this year. But that’s part of the deal now that we’re opening up all these academies. When I go down to Brazil I just have to make sure the academy is running good equipment wise.
What’s that entail?
Well were shipping equipment out of the country. It’s different than shipping to Durham, Montgomery or something like that. Sometimes stuff doesn’t make it. Sometimes you ship these big pallets by an ocean liner and they might not end up making it. Sometimes things are missing.
My goal going down to the Latin countries is to set up. They already do a pretty good job, but we try to help them set up a pretty good inventory control where they can report to us back in Tampa, St. Pete.
We just try to take care of them however we can. The better the inventory control, the better we can serve them. We give them bats, balls, equipment. You just have to be careful with what you send, how you send it, with customs and stuff. It can get tricky.
What’s your relationship like with the players?
I’m with the big league players in camp. I work major league spring training so I’m with the major league guys then. During the season anyone who is hurt comes down to the minor league complex to do rehab. So my exposure to major league guys is pretty limited.
But when I was a batboy, I was in the visiting clubhouse for two years. I got to spend a lot of time with the visiting guys when they came in. I wore the visiting team uniform.
The best part of this job is like when Evan Longaria gets drafted, he comes right to me. He plays in the minor leagues for two years and then he goes to the big leagues. So I get to know him really well. I’ve known Rocco Baldelli since he was a 17 year old kid. So you get to build pretty good relationships with those guys in spring training, extended spring in instructional league. It’s like 5 months out of the year that you spend with someone and then two years later they’re in the big leagues.
Most guys are really good. They don’t forget. They don’t just go to the big leagues and act like you don’t exist anymore. So you get to build pretty good relationships. You’ll be out and guys will recognize you and come up to you and your family. It feels pretty good.
This year I got to be in the locker room in the playoffs against Boston in Game 7. That celebration was unbelievable. And then I got to go to Philly for the World Series. That was a trip there.
I’ve got a couple rings. I got a couple Double AA rings, a Triple A ring, and a ring in ’97. I’ve got four rings, and hope to get that American League Champion one next spring. That will be a big one.
This year we’re all getting rings. It’s a pretty thing because it’s the first time the organization has won or done anything like we did last season. That deserves a ring. When a minor league club or affiliate wins a championship, since I order stuff for them, they’ll give me a ring. It’s neat because when the different teams win, you get these rings with different colors and stuff. That’s neat.
How’d you get a batboy job at 13?
I was 12, and you’ll probably never believe this, but I had never been to a minor league game. I’d been to major league games, but not minor league. So I go to the game with my buddy and his grandparents in fifth grade. He fills my name out on this promotion thing, where all you need is a name and number. My buddy knows my number so he fills this card out with my number.
So they call my name at the game and he’s laughing because I didn’t even know he filled this card out. So I go on the field. There’s this board with a hole in the middle and they give me three balls. And it’s “kids night” so there’s about 3,000 people at the game. I get the first two balls, and then I start showboatin’ a little bit and I miss the third one.
So I get taken off the field, and I almost cried. This is a big deal for a fifth grader. The promotions guy starting calling me “choke.” That was his nickname for me. So I went to every game for the rest of that season so I could try and win that promotion again so I could show him up. Never did. But over the off season, we lived close to the stadium and we’d ride our bikes down there. They had this kids club thing, and I was told that if I got thirty kids to sign up, that I could batboy a game the next year.
That was awesome. I just wanted to be on the field. So I got 50 kids from my Little League to sign up. Then I was able to batboy for a night.
So next April I come down when spring training ends and the team starts, and I show up. He gives me a t-shirt and tells me that he had to fire another kid, and that I can do it the whole year if I wanted.
So from there out I started learning. And instead of talking to the minor league promotions guy, I was talking to the St. Louis Cardinals assistant trainer. Dmitri Young was one of my first players in ’93. I started talking to him about how the big leagues worked, what to do, and this and that.
Next thing you know, the Cardinals leave and the Rays got the franchise. In ’97 the Rays didn’t have a team but they had a team in that Florida state league. And that’s when they won the championship. In ’98 the major league team started, and I got hired to be the batboy in the big leagues. It was pretty good.
But if that kid never filled my name out, it’d be a different thing. I wouldn’t be here today. Pretty weird. I stuck with it though. They never had to fire me, and I never gave them a reason. Now I’m running the show. It’s pretty crazy.
We got a salary as a batboy in the big leagues. I got my first check when I was 13 in ’93. I was getting $8.98 a game. I still have the pay stub. It went up a couple bucks after that, so in ’97 I was making $20 a game.
As a batboy, you do a lot of stuff that no one knows about. Everyone just sees you picking up the bat. But we get there just as early as the equipment guy, and leave just as late as them too. We hang up laundry, move all the equipment on the field, bats, balls, all that stuff.
I come to the Winter Meetings every year to see the newest equipment, touch base with all my vendors, Rawlings, Wilson, all those kind of guys. I order what I need, and get it shipped out to us for spring. Hopefully we get it on time.