Why We Do It
The Ripken Experience in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee is a six-field turfed youth baseball complex. It’s located above the main strip in Pigeon Forge looking out at the breathtaking Smoky Mountains. Even though I was on site everyday this summer, the view never got old! Whether it was a sunrise, a thunderstorm coming through the valley, or a water colored sunset, I couldn’t help but stand in amazement every time I got to work.
At the Ripken Experience, we have eight weeklong tournaments throughout the summer. Each tournament brings in forty-eight new teams from all over the country. People from all walks of life found themselves within the gates of Ripken every day. You’d think, being located not far inside the eastern Tennessee border, there would have been quite a few North Carolina teams come through. That wasn’t the case! Being from a very small town in North Carolina myself, where I’ve never been away from for very long, it was amazing to connect with all these people.
One of the most amazing experiences I was able to have while interning was serving as the tournament official for a team from Missouri. They went by the name The Old Ducks. Unlike a few of the teams we saw over the summer, The Old Ducks were extremely polite, and their genuine excitement to play at such a well-kept, pristine complex seemed to roll off of not only the players, but their coaches and fans as well. Every game they played was high energy and the crowd got really into it. Without a doubt, when the Ducks took the field, the rest of the complex knew it.
As a tournament official, it was my job to run the scoreboard, interact with the crowd, and play the music. The Ripken Experience has a music library loaded onto all of the field computers. We select what songs to play throughout the game. Before the teams took the field, the Old Duck’s coach approached my press box with a request. The team had a special playlist they used for their players walk up songs and they wanted to know if I could play it for them when they were batting. There is no Wi-Fi out on the fields, so there was no way I could open Spotify and get their songs. The coach was understanding and a little disappointed.
The Ripken goal is to provide an unforgettable experience for all the players that come through. I didn’t want to disappoint so I jumped into action. I quickly called around to the other interns and located an adapter for my phone and downloaded the playlist. When the Ducks headed into their dugout to bat I switched devices and let their first batter’s song rip. The crowd loved it, the coaches loved it, and the kids lost their minds. It was extra work on me, but it was well worth the reaction. At the end of the game not only did the coach, but each player made a point to thank me for going out of my way. It was experiences like these that really made me love my internship.
A Life Changing Summer – Click here to read more about Claire’s internship at the Ripken Experience