While his buddies were toiling away in their first jobs busing tables, bagging groceries and flipping burgers, Noah Barton was talking about how to hit a curveball with a local professional baseball player. And he was getting paid to do it.
“I couldn’t believe it when I found out I had gotten the job as bat boy for the AirHogs,” says the 15-year-old freshman. “For a first job, I couldn’t have found a better one. And the experience really taught me a lot about how to put in a hard day at work and enjoy it at the same time. It was very fulfilling.”
Like a select group of youngsters in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, Noah found his peek into the professional sports world to be eye-opening—and definitely never boring.
Noah’s day at the park usually started two hours before first pitch and included filling water jugs, getting the umpires’ room squared away, making sure there were enough baseballs for the umps and organizing bats and helmets in the dugout. Then he could have some fun.
“Probably my best lesson was never putting things off until later,” he says. “When I had something to do, I did it quickly so then later I could better enjoy the experience of the game and mix in with the players. That was the best.”
Not surprisingly, breaking into the sports world is super competitive. After all, anyone who’s ever attended a ball game has dreamed of how cool it would be to work for a sports team.
Fortunately for kiddos in our area, the opportunities to work in sports are numerous thanks to our abundance of professional sports teams (more than a dozen). Still, landing one of these gigs can be as challenging as defending Luka Doncic on the fast break.
“Being a ball kid is an excellent way to become part of the Texas Legends game operation at a young age,” explains Brock Berenato, who heads up basketball operations for the Frisco-based Legends.
“Ball kids rebound before the games for our players and opposing players, move the ball racks on and off the court, mop the floors for slick spots, move towels and other gear to and from the locker rooms, and make sure players have water or Gatorade when they need it.
“Of course they also get to see how our operations staff do their jobs and enjoy [watching] NBA-caliber players perform,” he adds. “The kids are a vital part of our game day operation.”
What It Takes To Be a Ball Boy or Girl
The minimum age for kids to get involved varies from team to team. With the Legends, it’s 10. For the AirHogs, it’s 15. For the Mavericks, who choose their Mavs Ballkids from among participants in their skills camps, it’s 13. It’s smart to check out your favorite team’s official website for age requirements.
“We want kids who are responsible, and we interview them to talk about that beforehand,” says Kelsey Armand, community relations specialist for the AirHogs. “We prefer bat boys/girls to continue in the job even when school begins but understand that they will have to miss from time to time since school always should come first.”
Travis Charles, director of basketball operations for the WNBA’s Dallas Wings, loves his team’s ball kid program—but he emphasizes that the kids are there to work!
“We treat them like employees because they have some very important jobs to do at every game,” says Charles, whose team plays home games at the University of Texas at Arlington.
“You’ve got to take care of the officials before the game, run errands for players in both locker rooms, rebound during the pregame shoot-arounds, work with the game crew, handle halftime duties for the refs and more rebounding during shoot-arounds after halftime.”
Charles says while rebounding sounds fun to any basketball-playing kid—and it is very fun—the pros can be demanding. “We’ve actually had some complaints from visiting players when they didn’t love how our kids were rebounding and feeding them the ball,” he reveals. “So, yes, it’s important to be good at the game to be a ball kid.”
For really good ball kids, an internship with the team could be in the cards. “We’ve definitely hired interns from our ball kid program,” Charles says. “It’s awesome watching them mature over the course of the season and blossom into great members of our game day staff.”
Your Best Shot
It may be the coolest first job ever, but being a ball or ball girl is exactly that—a job. Here are some ways to put your kiddo in the best spot to land the gig:
- Make sure your child is in it for the long haul. There are 81 home games in the Rangers’ season, 41 for the Mavericks and 10 home dates (mostly on the weekend) for the Cowboys. And the job starts well before the game begins—usually two to three hours prior—and ends long after the parking lot clears of fans. That’s a huge time commitment away from friends and family, so make sure they’re fully on board.
- Professionally pursue the job. Just like in the adult world of job seeking, it may take a little extra to get the attention of the team. After submitting your email to the team’s website, follow it up with a handwritten note from your kid. That definitely cuts through the clutter.
- Focus on job duties vs. how cool it will be to hang with Joey Gallo or Dak Prescott. Have your kiddo communicate that they understand the hard work and are ready to earn their stripes. Operations people work super hard to put on a great show every game, and they appreciate someone who understands that the job is not all glitz.
- Put up a lot of shots. Have your kiddo apply to numerous opportunities in the area. If one team doesn’t work out, try another. Lots of kids want to be part of the action, so it’s important to shoot early and shoot often.
Looking for: Bat boys and ball shaggers
Must be: At least 16 years old and capable with the leather—in other words, able to catch a fly ball hit by a professional baseball player
How to apply: Visit teamworkonline.com
Looking for: Ball boys and girls
Must be: 16 or older
How to apply: Contact the Dallas Wings office at 817/469-9464
Looking for: 90 Ballkids (per season) to help out on game night
Must be: Age 13–18 and a Dallas Mavericks Hoop Camp or Elite Camp attendee
How to apply: Attend camp to receive an application; mavs.com/hoopcamp
Looking for: Help for the equipment manager, game day promotions and media relations
Must be: At least 10 years old, but the age requirement varies based on job responsibilities
How to apply: For equipment management, email Tim Abbott (email@example.com); for game day promotions, email Corey Essman (firstname.lastname@example.org); for media relations, email Tommy Daniels (email@example.com)
Looking for: Interns, as well as kids to help with the in-game charity ball toss
Must be: In high school (for internship)
How to apply: Email Paul Donaghy (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Photo courtesy of Kelly Erwin/Texas AirHogs Baseball.