The student interns for the Winter Garden Squeeze and other Florida Collegiate Summer League franchises work behind the scenes to help make the magic happen each summer.
Every summer, more than 200 student-athletes from college baseball programs near and far converge on Central Florida to play in the Florida Collegiate Summer League.
The ballplayers of the Florida League arrive with myriad goals — performing in front of pro scouts; improving their skills for when they return to their program in the fall; and auditioning for a chance to transfer to a different program.
In short, each player arrives with the hopes of working hard for a brighter future. And in that, they are not alone.
Joining the more than 200 baseball players each summer are about 30 student interns. Those students perform roles such as broadcast, journalism, game operations and social media — and flock to the Florida League’s internship program for real-world experience in the sports business industry.
For someone such as Squeeze General Manager Adam Bates, who works with a new batch of interns each summer, it is one of the most rewarding parts of the job.
“You get a brand-new set of kids every year, and you mold them and want them to be better by the end,” Bates said. “We’ve had interns go on to careers in college sports and professional sports — it’s always neat.”
Indeed, Stefano Foggi — a paid staffer and current president of the Florida League — started as an intern.
The interns for the Squeeze this summer include Sam Milliren, Sara Ramick, Erik Rivera, Connor Scheitzach and Casey Wright. Wright, the team’s broadcast intern, is in his second go-round with the Winter Garden franchise and his third, overall, with the Florida League.
An aspiring play-by-play broadcaster who will be a senior at Rollins College in the fall, Wright said the league has been valuable because of the hands-on experience it offers.
“It’s tough to find a broadcasting position for a current college student that can broadcast 20-plus games a year doing play-by-play,” Wright said. “The Florida League, in general, has really made me feel welcome — the highlight of my last few summers has been doing this internship.”
The internship, itself, is no walk in the park, either. Teams in the Florida League play five or six games per week throughout June and July each summer, and games often are delayed for rain storms.
“It’s a grind,” Bates said.
In a way, the demanding nature of this particular internship helps students determine whether the industry is really for them.
“It teaches me what my life will consist of in the future,” Wright said.
Wright broadcasts each game over the web, and although the audiences usually are small, he said he still feels an obligation to do good work — the most common listeners are parents of the players playing. Other roles, including game operations, mean interacting with fans, players and coaches frequently, meaning each intern gets a crash course in communication.
“It’s really helped myself become better as a communicator and better at being a person, first, and then a play-by-play broadcaster,” Wright said.
Florida League players who are from outside the Central Florida area usually will stay with host families during the summer season, and interns who do not have local ties do the same. Milliren, for instance, has been staying with a woman in Winter Garden since mid-May and said having a host has helped her feel more comfortable in a new setting.
“It’s nice; I haven’t really gotten homesick — she takes care of me really well,” Milliren said. “At the end of the night, we sit and watch TV together.”
Interns get perks, such as meeting personnel for the Orlando Magic and other experiences, in addition to the day-to-day operations of each franchise. For the Winter Garden franchise, Bates has impressed upon each group of interns that they are a part of the Squeeze’s story.
“They’re part of the family,” Bates said. “Every year, we have an intern (come) back, and it’s kind of neat.”