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Sports

Interns Assist Westerners While Gaining Valuable Career Experience And Enjoying Baseball

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Baseball fanatics Jonathon Paes and Travis Huzina of Newtown are applying their knowledge of and passion for the sport and pursuing career aspirations while helping out with the Danbury Westerners of the New England Collegiate Baseball League (NECBL) this summer.

Paes is a first-year intern and is one of four members of the Westerners’ marketing/game day operations team. For a quarter of the home games, held at Rogers Park, he is responsible for the game day script that controls the flow of pregame and between-inning activities. This includes introduction of special guests, National Anthem singers, and those who throw out the ceremonial first pitch, for example. The script is also the document the public address announcer reads from for all pregame announcements, promotions for team and league sponsors, and introducing the on-field activities. For the games he works, Paes is also the on-field host managing the activity and using the remote microphone to make announcements. For all games, the marketing/game day operations team is responsible for setting up all signs, tables, and chairs by an hour before game time, then removing and storing these items at the conclusion of the game.

Paes confirms that all special guests will be in attendance days or weeks before their arrival and makes sure the guests know when to arrive and where to go. Paes will be a junior at the University of Connecticut this fall and is a business major.

“I believe that my experience interning with the Westerners has helped me in a variety of ways. My dream job would be to work in marketing for a professional sports team, so getting some experience working with the Westerners is certainly very helpful,” Paes said. “In a perfect world, I would be working for either a sports television network or a sports franchise in marketing either their shows for the television network or season tickets and experiences for a sports franchise.

While gaining this valuable experience, Paes is having a blast.

“My favorite part of working with the Westerners is interacting with the fans, players, honorees, etcetera. It is all very exciting, and every game is different. This year alone, I’ve been in charge of some very interesting games, including international opera performers, with Perry Price performing the National Anthem for many of our games; horses attending games and being part of pregame ceremonies; as well as groups with dogs,” said Paes, adding that dogs have also participated in contests.

The toughest part of the internship, Paes says, is organizing groups to come out for games, as the Westerners’ staff creates a friendly atmosphere to keep fans coming back.

“I’ve been a fan of baseball for as long as I have remembered. My parents used to take me to Shea Stadium to see the Mets as early as at least four years old. In addition, I played baseball for Newtown and Bethel for over ten years as a pitcher, first baseman, and outfielder,” Paes said.

As a player of the game, Paes appreciates the level of play he has an opportunity to witness when the Westerners take on any of their dozen opponents.

“The level of play in the NECBL in general is very high,” said Paes, adding that league includes players from UConn, and the Westerners have 22 former players, including New York Yankees pitcher Adam Ottavino, in the majors.

“Being around a team like this, in such a competitive league with high-level players from all over the country is really exciting. It is cool to know that a few of these guys may make it to the majors — a goal that both some of the interns and players share. But being up close and interacting with this team day in and day out is a great experience to see some of the guys that we may see on the TV in a couple years, and seeing them progress just as I try to is an eye-opening experience,” said Huzina, in his third season as a Westerner intern, serving as the team’s official scorer.

Huzina is responsible for entering every pitch into the online scoring system. Huzina also makes all official scoring decisions, which includes deciding between a hit or error. Huzina’s duties also include producing preseason scouting reports on each team. Huzina will be a sophomore at Springfield College. He studies sports management and analytics and has aspirations for a career in Major League Baseball.

“I have always had an interest in sports, and knew I wanted a career involving them, particularly baseball. I have been a lifelong fan of the Yankees and found a passion with baseball since a young age,” Huzina said. “This is my third year with the Westerners, and I have loved every summer I’ve spent here. It is a great experience coming to the park each game and seeing the operation of game day setup. I am majoring in sport management at Springfield College, and working with the Westerners gives me a great opportunity to get firsthand experience in the field as well as build my resume for future employers.”

While fans have the option to let their attention stray from the game, Huzina has to stay focused on each pitch.

“As the scorekeeper, my duties are mostly during game time; however, it is a great group of guys to work with, so it’s not all work,” said Huzina, adding that by spending so much of the summer together, the staff and interns grow as a group. “In total, it’s a great experience to be surrounded by people that enjoy the sport and want to work in sports in the future.

“I would love to work in analytics or stats somewhere in sports for my career. I especially enjoy basketball, baseball, and football; however, I feel there is a changing wave of analytics across all platforms of sports that I’d be excited to explore in the future,” Huzina added.

The Westerners have a handful of regular-season contests remaining, including three at home. Mystic visits on Monday, July 29; Vineyard comes to town on Tuesday, July 30; and OceanState visits on Thursday, August 2; all games are at 6:30 pm.

The Westerners are accepting intern applications for 2020. Inquiries and resumes should be e-mailed to bill@danburywesterners.com.

Jonathon Paes is an intern with the Danbury Westerners, gaining experience as part of the marketing/game day operations team. (Bill Guider photo)
Travis Huzina, a third-year intern with the Westerners, is an official scorer. (Bill Guider photo)
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