Rather than have a fan throw out a ceremonial first pitch, the Tourists threw a marketing change-up to open the game. They installed a zip line that ran from left field to home plate, allowing a fan to deliver the ball in unique style.
The promotion, which ran throughout the entirety of the 2014 Tourists’ season and was the first of its kind in all of professional baseball, was the brainchild of Jon Clemmons, a 2008 NC State graduate and the assistant general manager of the team.
It’s not surprising that Clemmons is making noise for his promotional work — it is after all how he got his start in baseball. Clemmons started his career in the minor leagues as a promotions intern the summer of his junior year for the Carolina Mudcats in Zebulon, N.C.
Clemmons, who majored in business from NC State, had opportunities to go to work in the business world following graduation. But after interning with the Mudcats, Clemmons found that he loved working at the ballpark and that baseball was his true calling.
While many minor league baseball executives dream of landing a similar role in the majors, Clemmons says has no such desire. He enjoys being a jack-of-all trades, a trait that serves him well working in the minor leagues.
“The majors is more job specific,” he says. “I like being able to manage and operate a whole ballpark.”
The job is not always easy, says Clemmons. The hours can be long and the people can be difficult to deal with. But in the end, he says, the good always outweighs the bad.
“The biggest reward is after putting in six months in the off-season and then to open the gates and sees your fans and your sponsors come to the game excited and high-fiving,” Clemmons says. “To be able to get outside and see those folks is really awesome.”
And it’s not just the fans and sponsors that make this job appealing to Clemmons. He also enjoys getting to know the players. Being in the Colorado Rockies farm system, the Tourists have hosted several big time prospects and names over the years, including Craig Biggio, Todd Helton and Matt Holliday.
However the player that made the most impact on Clemmons is a familiar one to Wolfpack fans — former NC State quarterback Russell Wilson.
Wilson played 61 games for the Tourists in 2011, hitting three home runs while compiling a .228 batting average before embarking on his football career. While his statistics weren’t gaudy, his work ethic and attitude stood out to Clemmons.
“He was very humble, positive, always the first guy to the ballpark every day,” Clemmons says. “He was just a class act all-around. Everything you hear about him is true.”