Eric Jarinko was a standout baseball player at Souderton and has been in the minor league systems of the Baltimore Orioles and now the Boston Red Sox - but not on the field.
Jarinko is now the Senior Director of Marketing and Media Services for the Greenville Drive, a Class A minor league baseball team in Greenville, South Carolina, affiliated with the Boston Red Sox that plays in the South Atlantic League.
Although he was an All-Suburban One League rightfielder for the Indians, Jarinko was realistic enough to know that if he wanted a career in professional sports, it would be in an office, not on the field.
"I was five-foot-nine and not fast," said Jarinko, a 2000 graduate of Souderton. "I did well in high school but I knew I couldn't play at the next level.
"I like warm weather so I applied to schools down South. (I) didn't even apply to a college in the state."
Jarinko ended up in South Carolina attending Clemson University. After graduating in December 2004 with a degree in sports marketing, he got a job with the Frederick (Md.) Keys, an Orioles minor league team, and moved on to Greenville the following year.
Now in his fifth year, Jarinko enjoys where he is at.
"It is the ultimate goal of anyone in my position to become the general manager of a minor league team or work in media relations in the major leagues, but I have a great situation down here with the team, and downtown Greenville is unbelievable," said Jarinko, 28. "They have opened 65 new restaurants in the last couple years. It's also only 45 minutes from Clemson, and I still have season tickets to their football games and my wife is from the area and she's also a Clemson grad."
While he might love living in South Carolina, Jarinko is still a fan of his hometown sports teams, and Drive co-owners Craig Brown, Roy Bostock and Paul Raether were able to give him a reward for his work (the team broke attendance records his first two years) because of it.
"The owners knew I was a huge Phillies fan so, in 2008, they flew me and my wife to Philadelphia for Game 3 of the World Series," he said.
Jarinko's job entails handling all press responsibilities, working with the team's sponsors and community relations.
While he may not work in the major leagues, Jarinko has had contact with major leaguers. Current Red Sox starter Clay Buccholz pitched for the Drive in 2006 and major leaguer pitchers Jon Lester and John Smoltz have had rehabilitation assignments with the team.
When Smoltz came to pitch in Greenville for a game last year, it meant a lot of extra work for Jarinko.
"We have the biggest press box in the league, it seats 16, but we had to have an auxiliary press box that night," said Jarinko. "The field seats only 5,000 but we have a large grassy area where people can sit as well.
'There used to be a Braves affiliate in Greenville and Smoltz is such a great person, he had a huge fan base here. The record for attendance was 6,800 but we had 7,200 that game."
A big lure for fans is the Drive's home, Fluor Field, a five-year old facility modeled after Fenway Park. It even has its own 'Green Monster' in left field and is hosting the South Atlantic All-Star Game this year.
Marketing a minor league franchise has one big handicap compared to a major league team. While the Phillies most popular players, like Ryan Howard, Jimmy Rollins and Chase Utley, are there for years, since the main objective of a minor league franchise is to develop talent, if a Drive player is doing well they are taken off the team and promoted to a higher-level.
"We have 140 games but the (South Atlantic) breaks the season into 70-game halves (because of all the roster changes)," said Jarinko. "The winners of each half make the playoffs. We won the first half last year. We had six guys make the all-star game and all six got promoted right after the game.
"We have no control over the players so we try and sell the family friendly atmosphere. We have games, a big playground and a great video crew that puts fun things on between innings. Our biggest thing is, win or lose, we want the fans to have a good experience."
Jarinko does not know who will be on the team until the Red Sox break training camp. Only three days before its first game was the Drive's opening day roster set this year. Before the first game, he and the rest of the management of the Drive met with the players, many of whom never played professional baseball before.
"We just let them know what is expected of them," said Jarinko. "This year, we're the youngest team in the league. We have a lot of 19- and 20-year-olds but we've got some good players.
"We had three guys make an appearance at a hospital and, afterward, all three told me if I needed them to go again, let them know."
With the baseball season just getting under way, this is obviously a busy time for Jarinko. He got a total of two hours of sleep the night before the first game dealing with field issues and media demands.
"All the morning shows are at the ball park for the first game so I had to be there at 5 a.m. and I had been there to 2 a.m. getting the sponsorship signs ready," he said. "We've had four games out of 140 so far. My wife is a night nurse so, right now, we're like two ships passing in the night."
Once the Drive's season ends in September, one would think Jarinko could kick back and relax for a few months, but that is not the case.
"In the off-season, we have performance meetings with the sponsors," said Jarinko. "We meet with them and go over how things went, what they wanted out of us, things we might need from them.
"We also have 65 community events at the field. I don't have to be at all of them, but there is always something happening there every week."
Jarinko was honored for his efforts when he was named the 2009 South Atlantic Media Relations Director of the Year.
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