If there was a list of the most stressful jobs at Fifth Third Field, closer probably would be near the top of that list, along with team manager, home plate umpire, and maybe even guest services coordinator.
Guest services coordinator?
Yes, the person who mans the booth behind home plate, dealing with the needs — and the problems — of Mud Hens fans before, during and after the contest.
“I don’t think it’s stressful,” said Rudy Strom, the Mud Hens’ guest services coordinator. “Trust me, we are under no stress — it’s a fun job, it really is.”
Greg Setola, the Mud Hens’ manager of game-day operations and Strom’s boss, knows guest services can be a high-pressure position. That’s why he appreciates the work Strom does.
“His ability to deal with fans is superior,” Setola said. “He’s very good at problem-solving, and he is willing to do what it takes to help our fans.
“Since he has been in that post, I spend less time [worrying about that area] because it is in just great hands.”
Strom worked for UPS for 36 years, serving in management for all but two of those years, before retiring in 2006.
“After I retired, there were a few things I wanted to do that I had to put off,” he said. “For example, I loved to paint, so I did that for a couple of years to get that out of my system.”
But soon after that, Strom got the itch to work for the Mud Hens.
“I saw it as a great way to work with people, because I do enjoy people,” he said. “I enjoy baseball, and I enjoy being out and about in summer weather.”
So Strom started working for the Mud Hens as a ticket-taker and also served as an usher for a few games. He admits he quickly grew to enjoy spending time at the ballpark.
“I know a lot of Swamp Squad members and ticket-takers and ushers,” Strom said. “I know the folks in the Swamp Shop, the first-aid people, and the sheriff’s deputies.
“I’m never alone. It’s so much fun to be [at the ballpark].”
But after two seasons, Setola asked Strom to move to guest services.
“He was always the person who was looking to assist people while he worked in different places,” Setola said. “Without question we have a lot of great staff, but he was a standout.
“He was the person who deserved the opportunity to take our guest services to the next level.”
That was an opportunity that Strom craved.
“I jumped at the chance [to work in guest services] because I could work with more people,” he said. “As a ticket-taker, I would see people come through the games and then leave.
“In guest services you have many more opportunities to help people.”
Now Strom, who also works with the Walleye on game days in customer service, does much more than just answer fans questions and hand out pocket schedules. When children want to become members of Muddy’s Buddies, the team’s youth club, he gets them involved. Fans attending their first game at Fifth Third Field get a first-game certificate from him.
And if someone has lost something at the ballpark, guest services serves as a “lost and found” area.
But Strom sees his job as more than just reuniting a boy with a missing glove or handing out a certificate.
“When I can get a little kid to stop crying and can put a smile on a mom and dad’s face, that’s the neat stuff,” he said. “When you are able to make someone’s day, that’s when you feel good about what you are doing.
“Whatever we can do to make a person’s or family’s time at the ballpark better, that’s what makes us happy. Putting smiles on people’s faces is what it’s all about.”
AT THE PLATE with Rudy Strom
■ Position: Guest services coordinator.
■ Hometown: I grew up in North Royalton, Ohio, and now live in Toledo.
■ Age: 63.
■ Family: Wife, Michelle; adult children Christina and Rudy, Jr.
■ Favorite way to spend time away from the field: Spending time with my wife.
■ Baseball player you admired growing up: I followed the Indians in the 1960s, and I liked Jimmy Piersall.
■ Favorite sport other than baseball: Skiing.
■ Favorite music: Rock and roll. My favorites are The Who, Chicago and Billy Joel.
■ Favorite meal: My wife is a great cook, so anything she prepares is fantastic.
■ Favorite beverage: I enjoy Leinenkugel’s Summer Shandy.
■ Favorite movie: RED.
■ Favorite TV show: NCIS.
■ Do you have a Twitter account? No.
■ Person you most admire: My father, Ted, because of the way he handled anything and everything.
■ If you could meet any person, who would it be? John F. Kennedy. I admired him because he led the country during a rough time, and I think he was a very unique man.
■ Top sports moment: I won a silver medal in a NASTAR (skiing) event in Killington, Vermont.
■ Something nobody knows about you: I was just 4-foot-11 when I graduated from high school.