I think fans of minor league baseball enjoy watching future MLB stars play..... It’s definitely sad to see players like Gabriel Moreno go, but we share how recently called-up players do in the Majors, and fans get to share their memories of how they saw a great player early in their career.
Game Day Entertainment Coordinator
The interview with Amanda Ballestero was conducted via a typed conversation. Editing changes were made to make it easier to read while maintaining the voice of the interview.
1Tell us about your role as Game Day Entertainment Coordinator for the Buffalo Bisons.
As the Game Day Entertainment Coordinator for the Buffalo Bisons, I plan and execute all promotional aspects of Bisons home games.
I direct video, sound, PA, Videoboard, mascots, and promotions interns during Bisons home games.
I work with the marketing and sales teams to ensure we meet sponsorship requirements and fulfill any fan entertainment requests (birthdays, special welcomes, first pitches, national anthem singers, etc.)
What does a typical day look like for you?
When there are home games, I typically come into the office about 3 hours before game time to print out the “script” for the day which is essentially the schedule of what promotions will run throughout the game.
I also write PA reads for our PA announcer for that day. I am in charge of turning on the sound system for the stadium and I put on music for the players to listen to during batting practice.
I meet with the video department to make sure everyone is on the same page with fan cams and any video components of the game script. I meet with my promotions interns to go over what their duties are for the day, and make sure mascots are ready to go for the game.
Gates open an hour before first pitch, and the PA announcer goes through welcome PAs, first pitches, National Anthems, and any pregame ceremonies. During games, I make sure everything runs smoothly on the video board, sound system, and PA.
When the Bisons hit a home run at night, we have special lights that flash, and I have the controls for that. When games are over, and there is not a post game performance or fireworks show, I make sure the sound system and video board are turned off. If there is a post game performance, I direct that as needed.
For fireworks shows, I am in contact with the fireworks company to cue them for fireworks.
When the Bisons are away, I work regular 9 to 5 hours and plan the entertainment for the next homestand.
The marketing department has weekly meetings to discuss different marketing objectives for the organization.
3The baseball season is a grind. What are the challenges in trying to consistently create a fulfilling and unique experience when games are played every day? Does your team try to take it day by day or do you plan for the weeks ahead?
With the way minor league baseball schedules having home games every other week, I tend to plan ahead during weeks the Bisons are away. There are bigger events like Star Wars Night, July 4th, Marvel Night, etc.
That needs more planning than just one week, but smaller theme nights and different promotional events are prepared for in weeks the Bisons are on the road.
I started working for the Bisons less than a month before Opening Day, so I had to begin planning for an entire season, especially opening day, in about two and a half weeks.
Luckily, it paid off, but I will have the off-season to be able to plan for the entire promotional schedule for the 2023 season.
4How often does the results/outcomes of Bisons games affect the way your team presents the game day experience? Are there ever instances where you need to change your gameplan because the game is progressing in a totally unexpected way?
Results/outcomes of Bisons games don’t greatly impact the way we present the game day experience, however, there are some instances where I might have to come up with something on the fly if the Bisons are losing, and we have to play the bottom on the 9th inning because I typically do not put anything important for the middle of the 9th inning in case the Bisons win and we do not play the bottom of the 9th inning.
There have also been times when, a game starts at 6:05 pm, and there are fireworks scheduled for after the game and the game goes by quickly with the new MLB pace of play rules.
With summer days being longer, it has been too light outside for fireworks to happen, so we fill in time post-game to keep fans in their seats until it is dark enough to have a firework show. I coordinate with the video director to play videos, and I have PA reads and fan cams ready to fill in time.
We have fun animations that play when the Bisons hit a home run, and we have sponsors who sponsor the first run of the game and stolen bases and we put graphics up on the video board. We also flash the lights for homeruns and wins.
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5What does fan engagement look like on a minor league team, where a lot of the best players are often only there for a short time? A guy like Gabriel Moreno for example, must have been a treat for fans to come see every day, until he got called up to the big leagues. Do these sorts of things affect how you plan on showcasing the team to fans on a game-by-game basis?
I think fans of minor league baseball enjoy watching future MLB stars play. Bison's players are fairly interactive with fans. They sign autographs after big wins, give kids balls, and participate in social media content.
It’s definitely sad to see players like Gabriel Moreno go, but we share how recently called-up players do in the Majors, and fans get to share their memories of how they saw a great player early in their career.
(I love telling people how Vladimir Guerrero Jr. said Hi to me once when I was an intern in 2019)
6How much does technology affect the modern day gameday experience? Do you try to get fans engaged through their phones/apps, or is there an emphasis on physical attention required to create the optimal sports event?
I want to balance out the technology aspect and the physical attention aspect to entertain new fans and old fans.
Some of our scoreboard graphics have QR codes with links to our different sponsors, or our mobile ordering app for concessions. We have flashing lights that we utilize when the Bisons get a home run or when the Bisons win.
We are trying to add more technology to enhance the fan experience.
For physical attention, we have a tradition of the “Wing Race” where we have a chicken wing, a hot wing, a blue cheese, a carrot, a beef on weck, and a fish fry run in a race and the fans get into it.
We have trivia, lucky seats, and other in-park entertainment to get fans involved.
7What level of engagement do you have with players/team personnel when coordinating events and entertainment? Does the transactional nature of baseball force your team to create a more neutral team experience, rather than emphasizing players/people?
I do not have a lot of direct connections with the players, but I have a lot of connections with the entire front office staff when it comes to coordinating events and entertainment.
I participate in weekly marketing meetings with the GM, Assistant GM, Director of Sales, Merchandise Manager, Graphic Designer, and Social Media Coordinator to talk about different marketing initiatives and to share ideas for theme nights, and other entertainment related activities for games.
We try to add some personal elements with the players by creating different videos asking them questions about different topics that relate to a theme night, but it is difficult sometimes because when the team is not playing at home, they are playing on the road so there is not a lot of access to the team.
We like to highlight players with “plays of the game” and naming a “player of the game” every home game, but other than that, we do tend to create a more neutral team experience.
Bilal's Final Thoughts
Amanda Ballestero, Entertainment Coordinator for the Buffalo Bisons, does a great job taking us through the thought process and preperation required to create high quality, family friendly amusement that keeps fans in their seats in between balls and strikes. Sports are more than just stats and competition - it's an entertainment product, and operations staff and coordinators need to constantly think about how to create engaging and memorable experiences for the fans in the stands. She combines thorough pre game planning with on-the-fly tactics to keep Bisons games organized, well run, and electrifying for Bisons fans. The use of technology to enhance the fan experience combined with traditional ball park events like first pitches, and the 'Wing Race' shows how the job of an Entertainment Coordinator is constantly fast paced and evolving. Amanda's technical knowledge and deep understanding of the Bisons fan base is no doubt integral and what gives her the edge to succeed in this role and future roles on professional operation staffs.