Chris Wormley, a defensive end on the Michigan football team and a Whitmer graduate, gets first-pitch participants lined up on Friday night as part of his work as a Mud Hens intern. BLADE/ANDY MORRISON
Some days, Chris Wormley gets to escort a pair of feathered friends around Fifth Third Field. Other days, he lines up Little League baseball players inside the ballpark and makes sure they’re in an orderly fashion.
One of his first days on the job, Wormley ran around the inside of the ballpark in a tall, narrow costume and took on the alter ego of a Toledo-born film star. But when it came time to lift the guise of “Jamie Farmadillo” off of Wormley, it took three interns and about ten minutes to wiggle the 6-foot-5, 290-pound defensive lineman out of the cylindrical costume.
That’s a day Wormley decided not to repeat. But he appreciates the fact that in working in minor-league baseball, each day is different.
Wormley is a redshirt sophomore on the University of Michigan football team, and is one of 30 summer interns in the Toledo Mud Hens’ marketing and promotions department. He splits his summer between training for the upcoming football season, taking a summer class at Michigan and devoting two to three days a week toward his internship with the Detroit Tigers’ Triple-A team.
“Its never too early to do something and get your foot in the door,” Wormley said of his first internship. “Seeing what you like, seeing what you don’t like. In talking about it to people in the sport management program at Michigan, they pushed me really hard to start now, to get a foot in the door, and put your name out there.”
Wormley, 20, may stand a little taller than his fellow interns. He may be a little more recognizable because of his local ties, as he’s a 2012 Whitmer graduate and a former All-Ohio football selection who plays for a high-profile college football program.
“But he doesn’t make that the only part of his job,” said Emily Croll, the Mud Hens’ special events coordinator who is Wormley’s supervisor. “He realizes there is life outside of football.”
The NFL Players Association estimates on its Web site that of the 100,000 high school seniors who annually play football, only 215 will make an NFL roster, and that the average length of an NFL career is about 3½ years.
When Wormley met with Croll for his initial internship interview in February — a day that Wormley considers to be his first step into the professional world — something he said struck her.
“Chris told us, ‘I hang out with football players and football guys, and I love football, but I’m not going to play football forever,’ ” Croll recalled.
Wormley began taking courses in sports management this past school year, and he started to take his long-term prospects of having a career in sports seriously, whether it was working in player personnel or as a general manager or an athletic director.
He explained that he’s one of several Wolverines to hold internships this summer; wide receiver Jehu Chesson, defensive lineman Ryan Glasgow, and fullback Bobby Henderson, he said, are working in the financial field, while quarterback Devin Gardner is working with elementary school children as part of his summer requirements for graduate school.
Wormley, however, isn’t confined to a desk or to a computer this summer. On a Mud Hens game day, Wormley commutes from Ann Arbor for lunch at his home in Toledo, then arrives at Fifth Third Field at least two hours before the first pitch to help the staff set up for a game. By 6 p.m., he’s one of 15 to 20 interns who walk the stadium and talk to fans, answering questions, offering directions or getting feedback on the game-day experience.
Each day, Wormley is given a different in-game responsibility: he might be in charge of organizing youth teams who stand on the field during the “Star-Spangled Banner,” or delivering game balls to the umpires. Or he might supervise Muddy and Muddonna, the Mud Hens’ beaked mascots, as they meander through the stadium.
“On a game day, it’s never the same experience from one day to the next,” Croll said. “And there are days when fans can react positively or negatively. But the interns have to handle those situations and learn how to do it professionally. Whether it’s doing a contest or helping people who are doing a check presentation or even just talking to clients in guest boxes, those are important situations for them to learn.”
Wormley will finish his internship at the end of July, and will join the Wolverines for preseason practices, which begin Aug. 4. But this summer has helped Wormley strengthen a perspective about his career path.
“This internship helps me understand better what I want to do with life after football,” Wormley said. “Football isn’t forever. It could be over tomorrow, it could be over in 20 years if I play in the NFL for that long, or it could be over in five years. It’s not going to last forever, and I’m going to figure out what I’m going to do after that.”