Several Southeast Missouri State University students have cast their hopes on the new Cape Catfish baseball team, intent on reeling in a treasure-trove of learning opportunities with the organization this summer.
Four Southeast seniors and five recent graduates are interning and working with the team, learning how to build an athletic organization from the ground up — an undeniable experience in the sports industry. The organization debuted in Cape Girardeau with its home opener June 4at Capaha Field.
The Cape Catfish are members of the Prospect League, a collegiate summer baseball league comprising college players from across the country.
Assistant General Manager Cindy Gannon said she knew she wanted to have Southeast students contribute to the organization when she joined the Cape Catfish in August 2018. Gannon hired five Southeast students in January 2019 to serve as interns and has added several more for the summer.
“This group of interns has done an amazing job, and I can honestly say we would never have been able to get this done without this group,” she said. “We now have several more interns joining us for the summer, as well as the spring group, all choosing to stay with us for the summer to see all of their hard work come to life. It’s been amazing watching these students grow and embrace this opportunity. They all have very bright futures, and we will forever consider them part of the Catfish family.”
As a production intern, Jackson Winters of Manchester, Missouri, will film the Cape Catfish’s games at Capaha Field to be streamed online. He will also be responsible for adding graphics for each game’s live stream, including posting information about the teams and athletes’ names to the scoreboard.
“This internship is a perfect opportunity for the job field I plan on pursuing right out of school in sports broadcasting” video production, said Winters, a senior mass communication major, TV and film option. “Also, I grew up playing baseball and just love the game.”
With the first pitch just around the corner, Winters is focused on making sure he and his team are prepared.
“I’ve already gained a lot of experience even though the team hasn’t even started playing, including finding the right equipment, looking for crew members to help assist me, covering all the bases with the league and making sure the stream will work,” he said. “From this experience I hope to run a well put together product for the team along with the rest of the league.”
Hunter Hayes and Allie Conder say their summer internship with the Cape Catfish is an opportunity to get real-world experiences in the sports industry before launching their careers.
“My internship with the Catfish has allowed me to gain experience in almost every area of an organization,” said Conder, of Freeburg, Illinois, who has been focusing her time and skills in the Cape Catfish’s team store. “I have learned that there are many, many things that go into running a sport organization — tickets and merchandise need to be sold, the team needs to be advertised, you need to have sponsors and sponsorships, you have to work with so many different people and businesses. All of this information is so valuable for my future in this industry.”
Conder, who graduated from Southeast in May with a Bachelor of Science in sport management with minors in business administration and coaching, says she wanted to intern for the Cape Catfish to help build her professional skills.
“I hope to one day be a director of operations for either a professional or collegiate soccer team or coach a soccer or basketball team,” she said. “With the Cape Catfish I can gain experience in the sports industry while also learning about many different areas of the industry and make connections and expand my network of professionals.”
For Braiden Jones, working for the Cape Catfish is a unique opportunity to work with a first-year organization, helping to build it piece by piece, and gaining real-world experiences in the professional sports industry.
Jones began his internship with the Cape Catfish in January, and currently serves as the game day operations assistant and Catfish store retail specialist. He is a senior sports management major with a minor in business administration from St. Louis, Missouri.
“I have learned many things that are applicable to my degree, ranging from learning about game day operations, tickets and merchandise sales and marketing to how to conduct yourself in a professional manner whether you are communicating with co-workers, employers, customers or business associates,” Jones said. “It is important to realize that in everything I do, I am representing the Catfish.”
A typical day for Jones includes researching equipment; corresponding with people, businesses, and organizations by email; being present on the sales floor to greet customers and answer questions they might have; and selling tickets, merchandise and apparel.
Jones is among five Southeast students who joined the Cape Catfish staff as interns in January to help launch the new franchise and who now work as full-time staff members after graduating from the University in May. Blake Henson of O’Fallon, Missouri, serves as Assistant Marketing Director, assisting in acquiring sponsorships and developing a brand identity to make the Catfish name known in southeast Missouri. Grant Strieker serves as the Catfish Ticket Manager, handling corporate, group and individual ticket sales, and organizing game day ticket sales, VIP passes, and media and pass lists. Brandon Polvcsik serves as the Catfish Media Director, coordinating game day press box activities and preparing game day music entertainment for the inaugural season, including walk-up songs for players, pre-game music, ballgame sounds, and other game day operations. Madison Muschinske serves as the entertainment host, developing, organizing and implementing game day entertainment; and Kyle Kasten has recently joined the organization and is assisting with office operations and merchandise.
Jones, who will graduate from Southeast in December, has found his time with the Cape Catfish to be professionally and personally rewarding. He says he’s enjoyed working with a great team of co-workers on and off the field.
“What I have most enjoyed about the internship is the camaraderie I have built with my co-workers and my employers,” Jones said. “We have worked hard together for the past five months, and we are excited about the Catfish playing their first home game. We are excited to see all of our work come to fruition when the season starts.”
The experience has proven to be a great source of education and hands-on learning for each of the Southeast students and recent graduates, confirming to them they have chosen the right career path. They say they hope to build networking relationships and gain knowledge from the experience that can be used in their future careers.
“My favorite moment so far with the Cape Catfish was the day we had our ribbon cutting ceremony in late February. That day, it felt like we were official, and we have such wonderful support from everybody in the community that it just affirmed our belief that the Catfish are going to be so good for Cape Girardeau and the community,” Jones said. “I hope to continue to gain more in-depth knowledge of what it takes to be successful, work effectively and as efficiently as possible, and learn how to create new opportunities for my career.”
**Photo Caption: From left are Brandon Palovcsik, Braiden Jones, Blake Henson, Grant Strieker and Hunter Hayes. Not pictured are Jackson Winters, Allie Conder, Madison Muschiniski and Kyle Kasten.