by Todd Traub
Posted 9/30/2013 12:00 am
Whether he was cutting grass, picking up trash, or pulling dead possums from under the bleachers, Paul Allen kept telling himself: “I work in baseball. I work in baseball.”
It was 2005 and Allen had left his native Las Vegas to take his first job in professional baseball, as an intern with the Arkansas Travelers. Of all the leads he had gathered at the previous year’s Winter Meetings, it was the only solid job offer he had gotten.
“I put my blinders on and said, ‘Yeah, pick up trash, work in baseball,’” Allen said.
Fast-forward from the power washing and dead varmints, and Allen, 32, has completed his first year as the Travelers’ general manager, directing the day-to-day operations of modern Dickey-Stephens Park and all that entails.
“This place, you don’t want to say it makes you forget, but it eases the pain,” Allen said.
Allen had to declare his first rainout on opening night, but is happy to have the chance to put in play the lessons he has learned at Ray Winder, in one year with the Birmingham (Ala.) Barons, and as an assistant general manager upon his return to Arkansas in 2007.
He recalls three pieces of advice from another minor league executive: You have to be willing to move around, you have to be willing to work for peanuts at times, and you have to be able to sell.
Allen, who worked through high school and college at Sears, recalled that when he realized selling — from hot dogs to tickets — was the backbone of the baseball business, he was hooked.
Once the youngest GM in the Texas League until Northwest Arkansas hired his buddy Justin Cole, 31, this season, Allen nevertheless has a lifetime of lessons to pull from.
Lesson No. 1? Cleanliness is next to profitability.
“I learned the most basic element of what it takes — ballpark cleanliness. If Mom’s happy, the family is coming back,” Allen said.