Like almost everyone who works for the St. Paul Saints, Derek Sharrer has one job title -- and countless jobs. The ticket-takers for the independent baseball team also work the phones for group sales and outfield advertising. The box office workers use the Yellow Pages for cold calls.
All employees are in on offseason meetings to develop the headline-grabbing promotions -- the next of which is Saturday's "Tweeting Wiener Boxer Shorts" giveaway.
Sharrer is officially the general manager. Unofficially he is a tarp puller, trash picker-upper, money counter and whatever else comes up in the course of a day that often starts at 9 a.m. and doesn't end until well past midnight.
The Saints have roughly 20 full-time employees or interns and an additional 60 to 80 part-time staffers on game nights. The organizational structure looks like that of a major league team -- with the body count divided by 10, Sharrer estimates.
"We couldn't be corporate if we wanted to," he said.
Last week, the Star Tribune spent a full 15-hour day with Sharrer and the Saints to get a true sense of what it's like to run the team. Here are some key words: potatoes, ceramic pigs, rabid fans and an antiquated adding machine.
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Sharrer, 41 and in his eighth season as Saints GM, is also a part-time meteorologist. His midmorning attention is usually focused on online radar.
A green blip is moving east from South Dakota. No rain is predicted, but Sharrer knows better. The website will stay up all day, just in case. Only when the tiny system pushes south into Iowa six hours later does he offer a slight, "Oh, yeah" and declare the first pitch safe.
Sharrer's obsession with the weather is warranted. The Saints are up 10 percent from a year ago in tickets sold, but the number of fans at a game per night is slightly behind. The reason? Fourteen of the Saints' first 16 home games were impacted by weather and two games were canceled.
Obsessing about the weather is Sharrer's vice, along with cans of Coca-Cola. And this: By shortly after noon, he had already checked the Saints' ticketing website four times. He was hoping for 1,000 day-of-game tickets sold.
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The Saints have made a name for themselves by sticking true to their "Fun is Good" motto. Sharrer will listen to every idea proposed. Though the promotional schedule has been out for months, the wheels keep turning daily. His literal open-door policy is put to use often by employees.
The Saints recently obtained a pro-quality monkey mascot suit for a good price. Sharrer mulls over a suggestion that a part-time employee dress as the monkey and work the parking lot, reveling with tailgaters. This includes drinking. But is there a way to make a hole big enough for the monkey to consume beverages? And is this whole idea legal?
Later in the day, someone rushes into Sharrer's office wondering if the team can do a potato drive in honor of that evening's theme: Irish Night.
Two problems arise. Would an homage to the Irish Potato Famine upset the shamrock-logoed game sponsor? And isn't six hours before game time a little too late to promote a food drive?
Even in this 24-hour world of Facebook and Twitter -- Saints accounts have been liked or followed by more than 6,000 fans -- it's decided this idea is a little too rushed. A potato home run derby is also shot down (too messy), but an on-field postgame game of catch for any fan who shows up with a glove and a potato (a suggestion, ahem, from a certain writer) is approved.
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Saints manager George Tsamis is a daily visitor to Sharrer's tiny workspace, which is equal parts GM office and cash-counting office. The Saints run all operations -- tickets, concessions and marketing -- in-house. Much of the finances are done on Sharrer's time-warped, paper-spitting adding machine.
While finances are a vital part of keeping a franchise afloat, so is happy personnel.
Sharrer lets Tsamis vent about being ejected from Game 1 of the previous night's doubleheader. Tsamis, a former Twins pitcher, displays a big-league touch -- and salty tongue -- in defending his side of things.
It makes for fun banter. It is also one of the countless events that will keep Sharrer from touching a "must-do" stack of paperwork the entire day.
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Sharrer gets out of the office more as the day stretches on, pausing to pick up two pieces of trash left over from the previous day's tailgaters. He has also been spotted pruning plants and pulling a tarp during rain delays.
Later, Sharrer spends time with tailgating regulars. One family proudly displays a pair of trophies (ceramic pigs) won for the season's best tailgate food and atmosphere.
The Saints are honoring two groups before the game with a cookout: a women's night out and charter season ticket holders. Sharrer attends both events, and introduces himself to one elderly couple shortly before pushing the man's wheelchair up a small ramp.
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Sharrer doesn't see a pitch until the bottom of the second inning. He opens a third entrance gate and takes tickets from late-arriving fans before checking in on the day's walk-up sales in the ticket office and retreating to his office. There, he listens to an Internet stream of the game.
Later, a season ticket holder upsets some fans with his choice of language, and Sharrer addresses both parties personally. The vulgar fan leaves the section without incident.
The postgame mood is subdued after another loss, but there is one bright side: Sharrer learns of an unpaid intern who urged another to return to the concourse and sell more numbered tennis balls. Leadership at its finest -- something Sharrer can appreciate.
His tag-along visitor is exhausted, but Sharrer has no time for that. Instead, he has to count money from the concession stands. Oh, and give instructions to other staffers. Tomorrow is a day game. Those with one job title and countless jobs will be back at Midway Stadium before they know it.