Play Ball!

That “around” in “Around Campus” is elastic. In this story, it stretches some 60 miles south, to Philadelphia, where Michael Gilmartin ’03 spent the fall semester as an intern in the backshop of the Philadelphia Phillies.
Mike, 27, is one of those non-traditional students who returned to finish college after working in the outside world. A resident of Catasauqua, he graduated from high school in 1993 (the last time the Phillies went to the World Series) and went directly to a local community college. There he did “very poorly,” as he admits, and after three semesters as a business administration major, dropped out.

Until 1998 he worked as an auto appraiser for his stepfather, who runs an insurance agency. He also worked as a counselor for KidsPeace at its Orefield campus. During that time, he tried community college again, this time majoring in psychology. But working more than 50 hours a week plus taking courses was “extremely stressful,” and he also was beginning to realize that there was little he could do in psychology without a master’s degree.

“I started looking into colleges, and I was accepted at Lehigh,” he said. By then he was married and had a 2-year-old son, also named Michael, and “I couldn’t afford it.” But he was able to obtain a Phi Theta Kappa scholarship at Moravian. “I’d always been pretty good at math,” he said, so his advisor suggested accounting. Time had made a difference in his perspective and his performance; he will finish his undergraduate degree in business at the end of this academic year.

A gentle irony in Mike’s internship is that he played baseball in high school and was recruited by a couple of colleges to play for them. With work and family, he had to let go of that idea. Yet here he was in Philadelphia, working for a professional major-league ball club.

He was an intern in the office of the controller, John Fusco, who is responsible for the Phillies’ day-to-day financial affairs, from payroll to concessions, equipment to merchandise. Among its many duties, the controller’s office channels revenues from ticket sales to Major League Baseball, which in turn pays the umpires.

“Until you work here, you don’t really know what goes on,” Mike says. He learned, for example, that for a night game that begins at 7:00 p.m., the players get to the stadium no later than 3:00 p.m. to work out, warm up, and practice, while the coaches get there even earlier.

His internship came about because of the professional friendship between Fusco and John Rossi III ’97 (M.B.A.), assistant professor of accounting. “Rossi and I go back a ways,” said Fusco, who is as Philadelphia Italian as they come: short, tough, friendly, voluble. They met as members of the Institute of Management Accountants, and Rossi “twisted my arm,” Fusco said, “to speak to PICPA [Pennsylvania Institute of Certified Public Accountants] two years in a row.”

“I’ve always been interested in athletics,” Mike said, “and when I was talking with Professor Rossi about doing an internship, I asked if he had any connections in the sports field. And he did.”

In addition to learning the ins and outs of baseball finance, Mike spent his internship working on a database for the accounting department.

He commuted to the offices in Veterans Stadium two days a week for most of the fall semester. Because of the timing, he got to participate in a bit of history: Vets, which the Phillies shared with the Philadelphia Eagles, will be torn down at the end of the 2003 baseball season. Mike is among the last who will look down every day on the 31-year-old field.

Days in the finance office took their toll—he was too tired, most of the time, to come back down after work and go to night games.

“I don’t even have any Phillies paraphernalia,” he lamented. Then he cheered up. “But my son has some!”

Michael Gilmartin ’03 at his Phillies internship.

Photo: Michael P. Wilson