Photos and Story by Gordy Jones
I love writing about all of the interesting jobs there are in baseball – most of which the general public has never heard of. That’s why, when I talk to kids in a classroom, I tell them that if they have passion for a sport, but not all of the talent to play professionally, they might try to get an internship or an entry-level job with a team, and then climb the ladder.
Twins President Dave St. Peter started his career as an intern. The same holds true for the Twins’ Director of Team Travel, traditionally known as a traveling secretary, Mike Herman.
Mike went to Hopkins High School before playing ball for St. Olaf College. He loves sports, particularly baseball, but knew he’d never be good enough to go pro. In 1999 Mike got an internship with the Twins and was hired full-time for the 2000 season in the PR department. He stayed there for 13 years, and worked his way up to Director of Baseball Communications. Then in 2012 an opportunity arose, and he became the Director of Team Travel.
“It’s fun! It’s different! You’re on the run – on the road with the team all of the time. It’s exciting!” Mike explained. “It’s not like sitting behind a desk for eight hours.”
I soon found out that it’s far from a desk job – literally and figuratively. I asked Mike if his main responsibility is booking hotels, and he replied, “I wouldn’t say that’s the main responsibility. It’s a cross between hotels, flights, buses, equipment trucks, and anything the players need on the road or at home. It’s a jack-of-all-trades-type job. I wouldn’t say there is only one primary focus.”
When you see the team entering a hotel or a bus, at first you might mistake Mike for a player or coach. He is well dressed and in athletic physical shape. But if you continue to observe, you’ll realize he is a bit different. He looks around nervously, as if he is watching over his flock, and he keeps them together and secure.
While on the road, the coaches and players are allotted daily meal money, and Mike is in charge of that, passing it out as they hit the road.
When a player is new to the team, Mike is there to make his travel arraignments, then to pick up and greet the new arrival, give him expense money, make doctor appointments if needed, and help him acclimate to his new team and city.
Every game, players and coaches are allowed a set amount of “free” tickets (although the government taxes them, because they consider it income). Each day Mike must check the computer for the players’ requests and get the tickets ready. This includes seating arraignments. Sometimes the guys want certain friends or relatives to sit together.
He’s the family travel agent on the road, too. He explains: “Many times players’ families will contact me for rooms, or sometimes the players will ask me themselves. I just ask them to try and give me a little heads up…especially when we go to certain cities. New York can be tough, Chicago can be, too. I get calls from players’ wives, fiancées, girlfriends, and families.”
And while on the road, Mike is the players’ friend and family, especially when a player is alone and hails from another country. And when there is an emergency, he is the “go-to” guy. During spring training Pedro Florimon had an appendicitis attack in the middle of the night, and Mike was there to take him to the hospital. He told me, “Things like that don’t happen very often, but when they do it’s a shock to the system. You never know what to expect, but one of things I’ve learned in this job is you can never turn your phone off. You always have to be available. Sometimes things happen, and you’ve got to get out of bed at an odd hour. Problem solving is a lot of what my job is. Most days are not the same as the previous day.”
In the off-season he works more of a 9-5 schedule, and that’s when he takes vacations with his wife. But even then, Mike has his phone on and he’s ready to go. The team could make a move and need his expertise.
He enjoys playing golf, but explained there is only time to play in team charity events, usually on his off-day, and with his phone at hand.
It takes a certain type of individual to do this job, and Mike Herman fits the bill. He is a perfect team travel agent, petty-cash dispenser & bookkeeper, counselor, welcome wagon, equipment mover, ticket distributor, ambulance driver, babysitter, and whatever else comes along, and his phone is always on.