When you’re eating fries at your local Five Guys or watching a tall young man stock boxes at Target, you probably don’t think that you’re watching future major leaguers. While most of today’s Orioles were fortunate enough to never have a job outside of baseball, some did have jobs that many everyday people have had.
Danny Coulombe’s father is a physician with a family medicine practice in Arizona, but he thought it was important that his son learn what the real world was like. At his encouragement, Coulombe landed a job at a hat store, and he enjoyed some control over the operation.
“Having the keys to the store, being able to open and close it,” he said. “I had so much power, I could throw people out, I’m just kidding.
“I was actually over a few of the other employees there. It was a friend who owned the business so he let me have reins … I learned a lot about asking open-ended questions, having more conversations with customers, how to sell hats.
“My dad told me: ‘You better get a job and learn what hard work looks like.’ I did my homework from 4 to 7, then would go to work at Hat Club and close it down.”
Many of the most well-known Orioles — Yennier Cano, Kyle Gibson, Austin Hays, Gunnar Henderson, Jorge Mateo, Cedric Mullins and Anthony Santander, among them — never had a job.
Most players from Latin America were already playing by 16, though Félix Bautista worked in a bakery and a body shop in his native Dominican Republic. Bautista admitted to eating some of the products in the bakery and can do some work on his own cars back home.
Adley Rutschman never had a job outside of baseball, but he did earn spending money by umpiring games while he was in high school. Adam Frazier gave baseball lessons, but doesn’t count it as a real job, and Ryan O’Hearn, who never worked outside of the game, is occasionally kidded by friends about that.
Outfielder Ryan McKenna grew up in New Hampshire, and along with his brother, worked in his dad’s coffee business, “Aroma Joe’s,” a chain of shops mostly in New England.
“We would stack cup boxes, bag ice, load up the trucks, milk, sugar, all the flavors that they have in all the huts, and then we would drive them out,” McKenna said. “I think it was every other day. We had to restock some of the huts. It was interesting.”
McKenna said that working for his father helped him appreciate that he had the opportunity to do something else.
“There’s definitely a lot of industries out there, but this is one of the ones that not many people get to do, and you do appreciate it and love it every day,” McKenna said.
Even though Grayson Rodriguez was a future first-round draft choice, he spent some time right before his selection working near his hometown of Nacogdoches, Texas.
“My first job was delivering magazines for one of my mom’s friends that actually had a local magazine, so when I turned 16 and I could finally drive, that’s what I did on the weekends,” Rodriguez said. “Driving around to different doctors’ offices, businesses, barber shops and dropping off sacks of magazines. Journey magazine—Lufkin, Texas—the town next to Nacogdoches.”
Infielder Terrin Vavra, who was sent down to Triple-A Norfolk last week, owns a baseball “Triple Threat Training LLC” along with his brothers Tanner and Trey, who were former pro players.
Vavra has also worked in other baseball camps and manned the concession stands at the Gopher State Business League. His first job was a high school internship in his hometown of Menomonie, Wisconsin.
“I worked for the Chamber of Commerce. I spent most of the time working at the welcome centers, and I sat there and I would help with directions or things to do,” Vavra said.
Ryan Mountcastle is one high-profile Oriole with some non-baseball experience at home in Central Florida.
“I worked at my dad’s car wash for a couple of weeks over the summer one time just to get a couple of bucks,” he said. “I think half the time it started raining so he sent me home. I think my first paycheck was like 20 bucks and then I got tired of doing this for three hours. My shoulder gets sore, so I’d just be the sign guy out on the street just holding the sign for the car wash.”
Reliever Bryan Baker has had perhaps the most varied work history.
“I worked at seafood restaurants—busboy, food runner,” he said. “The first two offseasons, I worked at a golf course, I was cleaning clubs and setting up the driving range. During Covid, I was working at Target for my sister. She hired me on for a couple of months when we didn’t have a minor league season.
“I didn’t necessarily dread it. I was ready to come back and play ball. Long days, this doesn’t feel like what I was meant to do … That’s probably one reason why I’m so fiery. I’m taking advantage of being able to do this.
“For my first two offseasons, I worked from 6 to noon every day at the golf course, then I’d go straight to my high school and play catch with a 16-year-old that put a bunch of gear on and straight to the gym, straight home and eat dinner and go to sleep … Once you’re doing only baseball, you enjoy it more.”
Kyle Bradish is another Oriole pitcher with restaurant experience.
“My first job was a dishwasher in the back of a Greek/Italian restaurant when I turned 16. Then I worked in a Five Guys as a fry cook,” he said. “I knew I didn’t want to have to do that for the rest of my life, working in the back of a kitchen. It’s tough. There’s a lot of standing. Hot frying at Five Guys was very hot and greasy.”
You might think that after working there, Bradish avoids eating at his old burger place.
“I love Five Guys. I’m a little biased [about] the fries. Mine used to be better.”
Follow Rich Dubroff on Twitter @RichDubroffMLB