SRU students volunteer at MLB All-Star Game


all star kids

Hunter Moore and McKenzie Popatak, Slippery Rock University sport management majors, spent the week of July 13 in Cincinnati, Ohio working at the 2015 Major League Baseball All-Star Game.

July 28, 2015

SLIPPERY ROCK, Pa. - A.J. Burnett, Garrett Cole, Andrew McCutchen and Mark Melancon weren't the only Pittsburgh area residents to take a working vacation to the 2015 Major League Baseball (MLB) All-Star Game in Cincinnati. Two students in the Slippery Rock University sport management program also made the trip.

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McKenzie Popatak, a junior from Sharpsville, and Hunter Moore, a sophomore from Butler, spent the week of July 12 in Cincinnati working events that included the minor league Futures All-Star Game, the ESPN Celebrity Softball Game and everything in between leading to the actual MLB All-Star game.

The opportunity presented itself to the two when Dr. Eric Brownlee, a sport management professor at Gannon University and a SRU alumnus, e-mailed everyone in the Slippery Rock sport management major about the available jobs. Following interviews with Brownlee, Moore and Popatak were accepted as volunteers and placed on a team that included 57 other volunteers and six advisors.

Brownlee, who earned his bachelor's and master's degrees from Slippery Rock before completing his doctorate at the University of Louisville, was very impressed with the work the two put in throughout the week.

"McKenzie and Hunter did a great job at the MLB All-Star Game and really made me proud to be a graduate of Slippery Rock and the sport management program," said Brownlee. "McKenzie was especially hard working and I think she made some great contacts with Major League Baseball and the Cincinnati Reds."

Brownlee estimated that Popatak and Moore each worked more than 60 hours at various events associated with all-star extravaganza during their five-day stay. All volunteers were housed at Morgens Hall, a dormitory on the campus of the University of Cincinnati.

"We volunteered with the All-Star 5K, the Home Run Derby, the Celebrity Softball Game, the Futures Game, and of course the All-Star Game," Popatak said. "We also attended an exclusive conference with professionals from the various Major League teams and the MLB office."

The most rewarding part of the week for the group was seeing their hard work pay off in the form of the thousands of spectators that flocked to Great American Ballpark enjoying the events.

"My absolute favorite part of the experience was seeing how happy the fans were," said Popatak. "It was our job to make sure the fans were happy at every event they attended. With this career the goal is to fill the stands and express the love and passion for the sport. Nothing made me feel better than seeing fans enjoy themselves. To me, that felt like a direct reflection on how we did as a team in the planning process."

The duo came away with three key professional values from their time in Cincinnati that they think will help them greatly in their careers moving forward: patience, the value of teamwork and attention to detail.

"I learned that patience is a virtue when it comes to interacting with fans and coworkers," said Popatak. "The second key was the old saying teamwork makes the dream work. Without the help of my fellow teammates and advisors we wouldn't have been able to successfully reach our goals at the All-Star Game. Finally, I learned that follow-ups are key in the sporting industry. Something as simple as a follow-up e-mail can go a very long way."

Popatak said her prior experience working with the Mahoning Valley Scrappers, the Cleveland Indians' single-A minor league affiliate, helped prepare her for the opportunity to do so many different jobs at an event the magnitude of the MLB All-Star Game.

"This job related very much to my time with the Mahoning Valley Scrappers," said Popatak. "I was a marketing intern and interacted frequently with the fans. At the All-Star Game I was constantly promoting and helping with fan entertainment."

It was an experience that is sure to open doors for the volunteers in the future.

"It was incredible," said Popatak. "Being offered this opportunity to not only see and experience what All-Star week is like, but to make the amazing connections with the professionals I met really put me at an advantage when it comes to getting my foot in the door as my career progresses."

Popatak plans to continue to develop her skills over the next two years as a student-worker in the SRU athletic communication department.

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