I love talking to awesome people.
The more you talk to them, the more you start to think about small changes you can make in your own life to be a little more awesome.
With a little luck, you have read more about why I'm talking to awesome people (other than the fact that they are awesome) and my first post with Scott Wise of Scotty's Brewhouse.
A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to chat with Rik Danburg of the Cleveland Indians.
For this little blogging experiment, most folks have sent me answers to my questions via email, but I had the pleasure of meeting with Rik in person. As a testament to his good nature, we were stopped several times during our interview by people popping by to chat with him, say hi, ask questions, and such. There was a lot of laughing during the interview as well, so I apologize in advance if I missed a word or two with him. I did edit our conversation down a bit because I was laughing too much.
As a side note, I now know I do not have a future as a transcriptionist.
|Rik posing with my hero, Ketchup, in Goodyear.|
Before we go into the questions, I want to make it clear that I absolutely adore Rik. I met him, not in Cleveland, but in Goodyear, Arizona at Indians Spring Training. I immediately liked him and tried to convince him and my dad to become best friends. I'm still working on that.
If you have never met him, give it a few minutes with him and you would think you were old friends. Rik is one of the most positive, friendly people that I have ever come across. When people were complaining about a player not signing autographs at Spring Training, he pointed out which players were. If someone has something bad to say about the team, he would somehow turn that frown upside down.
Rik greets everyone by name and remembers conversations. Fans from other teams knew him by name. He is just an all around great guy.
A big thank you to Rik and the Indians for participating!
5 Questions with Rik Danburg
1. Cleveland Indians fans know you as the guy that gets the home run balls. What is your role with the Indians?
My title is Supervisor of Guest Services. Pretty much they can give me any type of challenge or any type of job, any day, and I will tackle it with enthusiasm and confidence and a positive outlook. Brad Moore calls my position a Recovery Specialist. When people come back to the ballpark after a bad experience, he will send me to them when we bring them back. I try to help them to rejuvenate their enthusiasm and get that loyalty, and that passion, for baseball back.
2. When I was in Goodyear, Arizona for Indians Spring Training, it seemed like fans from all the other ball clubs knew you by name! The Indians practice facility was a great environment for all baseball fans. How did you help build that environment?
First of all, you need to set an attitude and atmosphere that is safe, positive, and one that fans want to come back to. It has to be a safe and comfortable setting. If you set the framework up ahead of time, then they are going to come back. I did hear some negative comments about other complexes and fans would tell me that "it isn’t as friendly as it is here." A simple greeting, "hello, how are you, nice to have you back," is important. Remembering faces and remembering names is also very important. It comes easy for me because I was a teacher and I used to do the same thing with my students. Remembering for example, that a person’s favorite player is Michael Brantley and when Michael Brantley comes out, you can go to that fan and say, "Michael Brantley is now coming out of the batting cage, you might want to get yourself ready and your pen ready for an autograph." Every person that comes through that gate when I open it in the morning is important to me.
(editor's note: I would like to add here that Rik was amazing at this. There were many times during Spring Training he would dutifully hop out of the way without thinking twice when I scrambled to chase down Masterson. Well, not just me, but other fans as well. Rik would always come back to the fence and chat with the fans without missing a beat once the players walked away)
3. You have interacted with thousands of fans over the years. What is your favorite fan story or an interaction that stuck in your mind?
Here is one for you. Ben Broussard hit a home run in the right field stands- in the Mezzanine, in the old stadium. There was a couple that got engaged that night, and they caught the ball. I met them, I got to know them, I felt good about them. At the time, there was a contest here for an engaged couple to get married on the field at Jacobs Field. I told this couple to enter it. I said, "you are a vibrant and enthusiastic couple that are in love with each other and you caught that home run ball. You should enter this contest." They did, and they won! They got married on Jacobs Field, at home plate. We were invited to their reception in the Terrace Club, and I went with Nancy (his wife). From time to time I see them at a game. They always look me up when they come back.
4. One reason I think you are so awesome is your attitude. You go out of your way to greet people by name, and maybe sing them a song if they are lucky. How do you maintain such a positive attitude? I’ve never seen you grumpy. I’ve heard grumpy fans say grumpy things to you and you don’t respond back as a grump.
Growing up, I thought that there has to be a way to find the good out of anything bad. I always try to make lemonade out of lemons and look at the bright side. Taking a negative thought and turning it into a positive. Someone might say, "Oh, its gray today, it might rain." I would say, "However, we can still have a wonderful picnic under the shelter, because the people who are here are going to make the picnic, not the weather." Or someone might say, "Oh, its cold right now at Progressive Field and we have to wear three or four layers" and I would respond, "yes, but the people that are here are passionate about baseball and we need to make them feel comfortable and make sure they enjoy the game, because this may be the only game that they go to this entire year." I’ve always had an optimistic attitude. I love people. I think because I was an only child and I always wanted brothers and sisters, so the more people around me, the happier I am. I jump out of bed, and like this morning, I can not wait to get down here, to do what I do.
5. Last question, who do you think is awesome?
My wife is the one who I think is awesome, because she’s the one that I chose to marry and share my life with. She knows me better than anybody. She encouraged me to do the things that I did and travel the way that I’ve travelled. She’s the number one person that is most awesome in my life because I get to share so much with her, and having our two sons, and raising them the way we did, and she did, it has been awesome. I always wanted to be married and I wanted to find a person to respect me and to appreciate me for my craziness and my talents and my strengths and weaknesses. She is perfect for me.
When you pick the person that you are going to be with the rest of your life, you better think they are awesome. We will be married 42 years in October.