When I first returned to BYU after my mission in 2005, I desperately found the first job that accepted me. I remember that exact moment when I made a phone call from the library telephone to a man who would later be my supervisor and told him that I had experience working as a custodian and needed the work. I didn't even bother looking at the job location - its hours and wages were sufficient for me.
That is how I found myself the sole evening caretaker of the BYU Miller Park clubhouse. I guess that just goes to show you how I can bought with a price. Clean a dirty, smelly locker room? Clean the men's shower and bathrooms? Scrub the red clay out of the carpet? Not a problem as long as I was ensured BYU minimum wage and making enough to pay my meager rent and food bills.
Honestly, though, I loved the work. Not only was it fabulous to spend my evenings after cramming information in my brain to doing something that required little brain power and only elbow grease. I would tote a CD player around with me and play music. (Fresh off the mission, I only owned 3 CD's - the musical Secret Garden's Original Cast soundtrack, Vocalpoint's Standing Room Only CD, and Dvorak's New World Symphony) And...
I got a fabulous glimpse into the internal world of BYU baseball...
(1) One of my first weeks on the job, I accidentally walked in while a baseball player was still clearing out for the day. There I was, with vacuum and cleaning cart in tow, looking as awkward, I'm sure, as I felt. The baseball player and I locked eyes for a second before I apologized and started backing (as best I could) towards the door. Meanwhile, this baseball player immediately apologized himself, "I'm so sorry," and then he grabbed his practice jersey and folded it carefully before placing it in his locker space. I never saw him again - his last name read Romney - but his clothes were always carefully folded or hung up and his shoes always were lined up and out of the way of any vacuum's path. Every day after that, I would look at his locker and send up three "Hip Hip Hoorays" for a mother who taught her son to clean up after himself.
(2) Another time I accidentally ran into a baseball player who was waiting around for his date to show up at the ballpark. Again, the same deal. I awkwardly apologized and backed away. Instead, he started in, "Thank you so much for all you do for us." I looked at him, more than embarrassed. After all, I was paid to do what I did. He continued, "I have a few minutes now. I'm just waiting for someone. Can I help you in any way?" I looked at this baseball player in disbelief. Are you kidding me? Are you for real? What happened to the stereotype about athletes and their big heads? He reached out his hand, "I'm Patrick, by the way." I shook his hand possibly remembered to mumble out my name. Whenever I saw him again, he always smiled like we were best friends from birth and waved and called out a 'hello'.
Note: Before you start to think that I just walked in on players every day, I didn't get to work until long after their practices. And I always made sure to yell, "Ollie Ollie Oxen Free!" or something along those lines before I just barged in.
(3) There was only one time I actually walked in on someone who was less than fully dressed. I had a coworker at this point and I sent him in to see if anyone was inside the room changing and to let me know before I came in a minute later. I waited outside for him to come back but after a minute (or two) he didn't so I walked in, toting cart and vacuum as per usual. I walked in to see one of the baseball players sitting at his locker in just a towel and about to change in to clothes. I looked at my coworker in shock and fled. He later admitted that he did it on purpose because he wanted to see my face flame up. I asked him if it did. He laughed and said I blushed all the way to the roots of my hair.
(4) One time I walked in to the locker room long after I had cleaned it, just to check on something and walked in to find a baseball player and his girlfriend picking up pieces of paper off the ground. The floor was covered in red paper hearts. I looked at the mess in shock while the couple separated quickly as though they had been caught and stood awkwardly apart from each other. We looked at each other for an eternal second before the baseball player spoke up, "Oh, hey. Well you're the first person to find out - she just said 'yes'. We're engaged!" I looked at them and gave my hearty but shocked congratulations before we all jumped down on the ground to continue to pick up the paper red hearts. And then I left the room as quickly as I'd come to let them continue to celebrate. I later decided that the locker room proposal was sweet but I did wonder if it had any personal meaning to the girl other than the fact that her boyfriend spent a considerable amount of time there.
(5) I have the greatest of respect for the coaches. Coach Law became one of my heroes. I was pretty sure he was the one who helped keep those baseball players in line. None of them dared enter the carpet area without first knocking the red clay off their cleats in the cement hallway between the outside and the locker room. (Hey! This is important to a custodian!) Not only that, he had a list on his wall of the missionaries from his team who were currently serving with a schedule of writing them letters. He also had a list on his wall of how to help his current pre-missionaries prepare to serve and a list of objective for his team that included more than just winning. I had the general feeling that Coach Law was as interested in turning out a team of men as he was in a successful team of baseballers.
(6) And now we get to my favorite player - Apana Nakayama. Not only was his name incredibly fun to say but he was a great catcher and hitter. I loved going to the games and cheering him on. (I got to the point where I cheered them all on - I knew all their names and positions thanks to cleaning up after them) But Apana was always one of my favorites. One day I ran into him in the clubhouse, crutching down the hall with his parents. In shock, I forgot my usual shyness around the baseball players and asked what had happened. He smiled and explained that he had hurt his knee and had just completed surgery on his ACL and then he turned it around and said, "How are you doing? How has your summer been?" I responded cheerfully enough and wished him the best of luck on his recovery. (He is actually one of the motivators for writing a blog - I wonder what he's doing now. I hope he's happy and successful)
After the summer of 2005, I found a new job working as a TA for Instrumentation. That would also be a highlight job for me. But I will never really forget the Baseball team of 2005 for making a custodian feel like more than just a maid.