By Ed Brennen
Denisse Torres needed to find a YouTube clip of a famous “Trevor,” and she needed to find it fast. First pitch of the Lowell Spinners’ minor league baseball game against the Aberdeen IronBirds was less than 20 minutes away.
“Can anyone think of a good ‘Trevor’?” Torres, a senior in the College of Fine Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences, asked her half-dozen fellow interns in the crowded video production booth above home plate at LeLacheur Park.
“How about Trevor Noah, ‘The Daily Show’ host?” someone suggested.
“Or what about Trevor, Hillary’s fiancé on ‘The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air’?” someone else suggested, prompting the entire booth of 20-somethings to laugh as they recalled the character’s ill-fated bungee jump proposal on the ’90s sitcom. “Trevorrrrr!!”
“Yes! That’s perfect!” Torres said as she found the clip on YouTube and imported it into the computer program that controls the video scoreboard in left field. The clip was ready to roll whenever Aberdeen first baseman Trevor Craport came to the plate — providing just the right whiff of random pop culture silliness that’s become part of the show at minor league ballparks across the country.
Torres and fellow FAHSS senior Anthony Gervase are working this summer as video production interns for the Spinners, the short-season Single-A affiliate of the Boston Red Sox. Their office, LeLacheur Park, is just a foul ball away from the Campus Recreation Center on East Campus.
“I’ve learned so much from this internship,” says Torres, an English major with a minor in digital media and a concentration in journalism whose ultimate goal is to work for ESPN. “You have to be able to work at a fast pace under pressure, and this experience has helped me practice that.”
For Gervase, a sound recording technology major from Lebanon, Conn., this is his second season as a video intern for the ball club. While he came to UMass Lowell for its renowned SRT program, Gervase says the Spinners internships have convinced him to broaden his career horizons.
“Now that I’ve seen how the process works on the video side, it’s really opened my eyes,” says Gervase, who hopes to work in the entertainment industry after graduation, perhaps on a soundstage. “I still love audio, don’t get me wrong, but video is a different style of fun that really appeals to me.”
Both Gervase, a teaching assistant for the Digital Media Program, and Torres learned about the internship through their classes with lecturer Wael Kamal.
“I’ve always wanted to work in sports media and my favorite sport is baseball, so when I found out about the internship, I knew I had to apply,” says Torres, who grew up in nearby Lawrence and used to attend Spinners games as a kid. Now, she’s helping entertain thousands of fans during 38 home games at LeLacheur — while gaining valuable hands-on experience for a future career.
“I love that the Spinners give us the freedom to express our creativity,” says Torres, who also works as a camera operator at UMass Lowell hockey games. “They encourage thinking outside the box, which I absolutely love because you get to learn what works and what doesn’t.”
Connor Sullivan, the Spinners’ creative services representative who manages Gervase and Torres, has found a nice pipeline of talent in the team’s own backyard.
“Whatever they're teaching these kids at UML is working,” he says. “The video team has been incredible. The amount of work and responsibility can be daunting at first, but Anthony and Denisse have been crushing it all season.”
Besides coming up with content and running the video board during games, the interns also have the opportunity to produce pre-recorded pieces such as the “Spinnies,” where Spinners players re-enact their favorite movies. They also get to operate cameras for live shots with fans in the stands.
“We all rotate different jobs,” says Gervase, who adds that the people — from the club’s front office to the fellow interns from other area colleges — are what make the work so fun.
But most of all, the fun comes from entertaining fans between pitches, whether it’s by playing old standards like the stomp-along “Let’s go Spinners!” or the more subtle mosquito noise they played whenever Aberdeen’s Kirvin Moesquit came to the plate.
“It’s cool being up in the booth and being able to affect a crowd of 5,000 people with a video,” says Gervase, who knows that with video board freedom comes great responsibility. “We have some boundaries. Sometimes we push the envelope a little, but we try not to be offensive. It’s all done playfully.”
When the Tri-City ValleyCats came to town, for example, they scanned the team headshots and noticed one of the players looked extremely tired. So the interns came up with a bit called “Superlatives,” which included “Most Likely to Be the Sleepiest Cat.”
“It was funny seeing the players’ reactions in the dugout,” Torres says. “You could tell they enjoyed it. They were all looking at the board and pointing at one another.”
When pitcher Dallas Keuchel, who won the 2015 American League Cy Young Award for the Houston Astros, made a recent rehab start for Tri-City against the Spinners at LeLacheur, it garnered a lot of media attention. So on the video board during the game, the interns replaced every other Tri-City player’s headshot with the words “Not Dallas Keuchel.”
“The crowd loved it,” Torres says.
“That’s what we’re here for,” adds Gervase, “to get the crowd involved as much as we can.”