7th of Jul | Story

Can I have your job?


WINSTON-SALEM, North Carolina | On a cold, wet Monday night five Aprils ago, Trey Kalny sat with friends at Ernie Shore Field and drank a beer. In just a few weeks, the Wake Forest University senior would graduate and he wanted to enjoy one last baseball game in Winston-Salem.

The on-field host spotted Kalny's group in the meager crowd and asked if they wanted to play the Dizzy Bat Race between innings.

“‘I’ll do it, as long as it's not against a kid,’” Kalny remembers saying. “‘I don't want to embarrass myself.’ She said, ‘Oh no, it's only for adults.’”

Then he walked onto the field and met his 12-year-old opponent. “‘Oh, great.’” Then he saw the prize, a Mini Cooper remote control car. “‘Oh, great!’”

“We start racing, we're spinning,” Kalny says. “Once we stop spinning, I run down to Wally and I basically could have smoked the kid. Because the prize was so cool, I didn’t want to take it from him.”

"We had a board, but it was more of a Lite-Brite and we didn't have any video capabilities on it. All of the pictures had a yellow tint to them, so it looked like everyone had hepatitis."  Winston-Salem Dash director of entertainment Trey Kalny

Well in the lead, Kalny purposely tripped, fell and lost.

As he walked off the field empty-handed, the host noticed his gesture and asked if she could give him a prize, maybe an autographed ball.

Kalny looked at her and said, “I'd be more interested in seeing how I could get your job.”

Turned out, she was leaving in two weeks. Kalny was hired three days later.

Five years later, Kalny still remembers that night. He has risen from intern to director of community relations with the old Winston-Salem Warthogs to director of entertainment when the team rebranded itself as the Dash back in 2009. Now he's tasked his staff with providing fans individualized experiences that stick long after the last out. He calls it making moments. Personal touches.

“It's as simple as sitting down and talking with fans for a few minutes before hopping on the dugout or giving kids high fives,” he says. “Giving them that extra experience that the fan will remember long after they leave the park — and, hopefully, my staff will remember long after they leave this job.”

The Dash entertains more than most teams thanks its skit group, the Dash Pack, on-field hosts and comedians Sarah Barnhardt and JJ Johnson, a new video board and a pair of outfield wall ribbon boards. Mandalay Baseball Properties, known for its on-field presentation, is a Dash consultant that helps provide and execute a list of more than 100 skits and games. Kalny says he thinks the Dash stand out because they're more interactive with fans.

The Dash used a ticker on the video board, for example, to update fans on news that might be important to them, like the Major League Baseball draft, Stanley Cup Finals and Kentucky Derby. They also started using action shots instead of just head shots when players come to bat. The video board has changed the Dash’s presentation drastically.

“At the old stadium we didn't really have a video board,” Kalny says. “We had a board, but it was more of a Lite-Brite and we didn't have any video capabilities on it. All of the pictures had a yellow tint to them, so it looked like everyone had hepatitis. We didn't have skilled camera operators, it was part-time staff. Now we have cameras, we can do a lot more with animation and headshots and in-game, up-to-the-minute stats. With the video board itself, we have a completely new product.”

Of course, Kalny is in charge of all of this — video production, skits and game scripts, the Dash Pack, mascots. He sees the ballpark as a $48.7-million, 5,550-seat playground that he tries to make more entertaining each season.

Naturally, though, what he cherishes the most about his job is formulating new ways to make those personal touches.

“My favorite part of the season is when the new people finally grasp that aspect of it and realize why that's important and want to tell me about the moments they've had,” Kalny says. “Seeing my staff smile and their eyes widen when they make those moments and they start getting recognized as ballpark celebrities and start signing autographs. That's the most rewarding part of my job.”


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Time for minor league trivia. The Dash topped all 120 full-season minor league baseball teams in wins this season, even though they only played 138 games. What was their record? (Keep reading for the answer.)

Lynchburg Hillcats righty Cody Martin combined with his bullpen to limit the Dash to three hits and handed Winston-Salem a 14-1 loss. The Dash scored their only run in the second inning after Martin hit third baseman Juan Silverio, second baseman David Herbek singled and leftfielder Ross Wilson hit a sac fly to center to drive in Silverio. Over seven innings, Martin struck out eight and walked none.

Winston-Salem expected the 2009 baseball season to open with a rebranded team playing in a new stadium. The Warthogs were renamed the Dash, but lack of funding halted stadium construction, forcing the team to lease its old stadium — the aforementioned Ernie Shore Field, now referred to as Gene Hooks Field at Wake Forest Baseball Park — from Wake Forest University. (They had just sold the park to WFU.) The Dash finally opened BB&T Ballpark for the 2010 season and saw a surge in attendance. The team drew 169,963 fans in 2008, then just 57,665 in 2009. In 2010? Try more than 312,000 — the only Carolina League to top 300,000 that season — and have maintained that figure every year since.

Want the answer? The Dash finished the regular season 87-51, good for a .630 winning percentage. In the Carolina League playoffs, they defeated the Myrtle Beach Pelicans, then lost to the Hillcats in the championship series in four games.

And in random statistical news, the first pitch was a strike and the first batter flied out to right. Benita Finney, who wore sunglasses but no shoes, sang the national anthem in an AMLS-record 2 minutes and 9.3 seconds. We munched on chicken fingers and fries for dinner, then ate Ben & Jerry’s Sweet Cream & Cookies out of a helmet for dessert. (Our thanks to Dash broadcaster Brain Boesch for making sure we got our daily dose of calcium.)

Carolyn@AMinorLeagueSeason.com ♦ @CarolynLaWell ♦ @AMinorLgSeason 

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