Minor League Baseball’s (MiLB) decision Tuesday afternoon to cancel the season due to COVID-19 was certainty disappointing for many, including us and previous interviewees Reno Aces GM Emily Jaenson and Marketing and Fan Engagement Coordinator with the Durham Bulls, Emily Almond. We were looking forward to seeing the incredible work of Promotions & Fan Entertainment Manager Ben Love with the West Michigan Whitecaps, the Class A affiliate of the Detroit Tigers. But there’s a silver lining. There’s plenty of reason to be excited about the 2021 season, especially with Ben Love’s assurance:
“I don’t think there’s anything to worry about with the season being cancelled. We just look forward to finding new ways to entertain fans this summer and Opening Day 2021 will be the party you don’t want to miss!”
Promotions & Fan Entertainment Manager
West Michigan Whitecaps
Class A Affiliate of the Detroit Tigers
×This interview was completed before the World Health Organization (WHO) declared COVID-19 a global pandemic.
The interview with Ben Love was conducted via a typed conversation. Editing changes were made to make it easier to read while maintaining the voice of the interview.
Tell us about your role as the Promotions and Fan Entertainment Manager of the West Michigan Whitecaps.
As the Promotions and Fan Entertainment Manager, I’m responsible for making Whitecaps games fun for everyone. Whether you are a young fan, old fan, baseball fan or not, our goal is to make the experience of coming to a Whitecaps game fun, no matter what the outcome of the game is. Whether it is through the creation of our promotion schedule and new theme night or offer that may provide a fun experience, through the entertainment pre, in, and post-game, game presentation, or the ballpark environment.
What does a typical day look like for you?
I think one of the best parts of my job is that there isn’t a typical day. Every day is something different. I think the closest thing to a typical day for me can be categorized into 3 different categories: Gameday, non-game day, off-season.
For a typical 7pm game, I will arrive at the stadium around 9am and prep and review my notes of what is going on that night. Around 10am, we will have an all-staff game day meeting. There we will cover everything going on that night as a staff. We make sure to hit every layer and department; from which promotions we are running to which concession stands will be open and everything in between.
Following the game day meeting, I will work on finishing the game script and our “cheat sheet”. The “cheat sheet” is the top page of our script and contains everything we covered in the game day meeting so someone can quickly reference it if they have a question on what’s going on.
After I wrap that up, I’ll meet with our promotions intern and cover everything we need to get ready for the night and what we can work ahead on.
Then I’ll grab lunch (and usually nap).
Following lunch, I’ll triple check the scripts and when they are good to go I will send them out to the staff and print them off for the promo team and various other departments.
After that, until about 4pm I could be doing anything. Finishing last-minute details for the game that night, prepping for upcoming games, repairing on-field games, making or uploading video board graphics, etc.
Then, about 4pm, I’ll turn my attention back to the game that night and make sure I have everything taken care of. Then our promo team and video crew arrive so I will meet with each of them and cover all the elements for that game and then it usually about time for gates to open and kick off the show.
After the game, I will meet with the promo team and have a quick recap meeting where we cover anything we need to improve on, but also praise good work and cover anything we may need for the next night. Then I’ll do some wrap-up stuff with tracking sponsor elements and tracking other elements, some game prep for the next day and try to leave the ballpark by midnight.
Non-game days are spent prepping for upcoming games and homestand. We have a core group that will meet for a homestand meeting a couple of days out and then right before the homestand starts we will meet as a whole front office.
Off-season days could be anything.
One day I could be booking an entertainment act, calling Santa, and running around the stadium coming up with new promo games and trying to figure out how to turn it into a water park for the upcoming season and then the next day can be filled with meetings and office work.
When was the point you realized that you were meant to do this career? Take us through that realization.
My dad is a huge Michigan football fan so as a little kid he would play Bob Ufer tapes the whole drive to Ann Arbor and the whole tailgate before the games. During these drives and games, I fell in love with 2 things, the environment of being at a sporting event in-person and sports broadcasting.
From then on, I knew I wanted a career in sports. I would run around the backyard with my fisher price tape player recorder and microphone doing my own broadcast and reacting the calls from Ufer’s greatest calls.
Fast forward to high school, I was getting into video editing and got involved with our TV production class producing the morning announcements. There I found out I really didn’t like to be in front of the cameras but I love to be behind one. That lead me to go to college and enrol in a broadcasting program.
While at college, I was involved in broadcasting games for our local student-run channel. Towards the end of my time at college, I was able to get a video internship with the Great Lakes Loons helping with their MiLB.tv broadcast and other various control room elements. This was my first glimpse into minor league baseball and game presentation.
After my internship with the Loons, I joined the State College Spikes as the Producer of In-Game Entertainment for the 2013 season. At first, it was a way for me to broadcast sports and make sports videos full-time, but at the end of the summer that all changed.
It was the 9th inning of Game 3 of the New York-Penn League championships. Winner takes all! It’s was a nail-biting game all game long but Tri-City blew it open late and we needed to rally 7 or 8 runs for a walk-off victory. We started a rally and were able to make the stadium the loudest it has ever been. We didn’t win but our operations staff had stopped setting up the visitors’ locker room for a celebration because they thought we had come back from how much the stadium was shaking.
After the game fans, staff, and players all came up to me and told me how much fun the environment was that night and how great of a time it was. Seeing the effect I could have on the game and people’s experiences, seeing all smiles I was able to put on people’s faces, I then realized game entertainment was for me.
It wasn’t about the score of a baseball game, it was about everything us going on at the game, the environment of being at a live sporting event that I fell in love with as a kid. I wasn’t always the biggest baseball fan, I grew up wrestling and playing lacrosse. The game of baseball can be very boring to me, but my job is to make it fun for everyone and it all clicked with me that night that I was meant for this.
Would you say your path to your current position was quite easy or rather challenging, and can you discuss why?
I definitely wouldn’t say it was easy, but I have had great mentors along the way that have helped me face and tackle challenges presented. Chris Lones, Jason Dambach, Scott Walker, Dan Petrazollo, Matt Neri, Jim Jarecki, the list can go on and on.
I’ve been lucky to be surrounded with great mentors that have found ways to make me not only a better Game Entertainment and Promotions manager but a better person at different stages of my career and life. Without these people, I don’t think my path would have been possible.
What would you say is the best part about your position?
The best part about my position is getting to put smiles on people faces. There is nothing more rewarding then putting that little kid on the video board for their very first time and him showing all his friends or going down to gates at the end of a blow out loss and people talking about what a great time they had and how they have no idea we lost since they were having such a great time.
If you could have a superpower to help you in your career, what would it be and why would you choose to have it?
The ability to pause time! Sometimes it would be really nice to have a pause button to give you some more time to complete a task or just give you a second to think in-game when everything hits the fan and your scrambling.
What would you say are the top 5 biggest moments or accomplishments in your sport management career?
The State College Spikes “Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” jerseys – This will always be one of my favorite memories because it was my first big promotion. We were looking for a way to take our 90’s night to the next level. We already had Alfonso Ribiero (Carlton Banks) coming but what was that next level going to be. I kept pitching this crazy “Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” jersey and to my demise, they were shut down repeatedly. Finally, we got the green light to do them and when we announced them the internet took off like a wildfire. It was the first time I had created something they went viral and that will always live with me. It ended up being a MiLB Golden Bobblehead finalist, I just wish I knew then what I know now about merchandise and capitalizing on theme night and viral moments.
Setting up interns for the future – With my role, I have 20+ college kids working for me every summer trying to make the next step. There is no better feeling when you get that call or text from a former employee thanking you for helping them get that first job. You look at the list of some of the places these young adults have ended up and have accomplishment and it makes you very proud of them.
500 shirt t-shirt toss during a half-inning – I had this crazy idea to celebrate the State College Spikes 500th home game by tossing out 500 t-shirts during the half-inning that the game became official. When I first said it, people thought I was crazy to toss 500 t-shirts during a 90-second break but to see the promotion come to life was awesome. The coordination of having almost every member of our game day staff tossing t-shirt during a half-inning mixed with the fact that when a baseball game become official may vary depending on the score of the game. I look back it and I’m still not sure how we pulled it off but it was awesome when we did and just the excitement people have.
2018 NYPL All-Star Game – Just everything that went into those 2 days and the things we were able to pull off with our small staff and limited resources in State College. To top it off, we battled the weather and put on 2 days of great events. Hosting All-Star games isn’t something you always look forward in sports (I’m sure most of us prefer the normal few days off we get) but the sense of accomplishment after you pull everything off is unmatched.
The 2019 Season – The 2019 season will always one that I feel accomplished about. I moved back to West Michigan and started with ‘Caps exactly 1 month before the season started. To look back at last year and see everything we were able to accomplish with only 1 month to prepare and how we were able to grow the ballpark entertainment throughout the course of the summer, it has me chomping at the bit to get back at it.
Hayley's Final Thoughts
Ben Love is excited for the 2021 season, despite the recent cancellation of the season due to COVID-19. Promotion and fan experience planning takes time! Time that Ben Love and his Promotions and Fan Entertainment department with the West Michigan Whitecaps will have a lot of until 2021. Throughout his career, Ben has imaged and executed some spectacular promotions, so there’s plenty of reason to look forward to the upcoming season. The main goal Ben looks to achieve is making the fans happy during their time at the ballpark, and safety is of utmost importance to this. When I visit Grand Rapids, Michigan post-pandemic next year, I will be attending a West Michigan Whitecaps game to get a taste of all Ben and his Promo team are cooking up in lieu of the cancelled Minor League Baseball season.