By: Marlon McKay and Rose Stanphill
Norfolk’s own minor league baseball team, The Tides, is a big hit for fans. However, those who work behind the scenes are often overlooked. For example, Jonathan Mensink, a staff member for the Corporate Sponsorships and Promotions for the Tides, is one of these workers.
Joining the Tides 12 years ago, Mensink’s job mainly consists of connecting Tides' sponsors to baseball fans in the way that showcases their business best. An example is the local coalition of Ford Dealers buying 700 tickets from the Tides, who then gave them out for free to active and retired military service members. It’s a “mutual respect” between Mensink and his clients as he would put it. Clients tell him what their business is looking for, and Mensink helps to sell them what works best for them.
“It helps me understand so much better where they come from.” he explained.
There isn’t always a guarantee on whether or not a sponsor will return the next year, even if the promotion was a success. This was the case with Subway and their deal to give away four tickets to every customer who ordered a certain combo. “I can’t get mad at them for that, it’s just what they decided to do.” Mensink said.
During the gaming season when he isn’t busy meeting with sponsors, Mensink is out on the field engaging with the fans. “What’s interesting to me is, like to kinda see what I can get away with.” Mensink said, “I’m not a performer...I wasn’t like a drama major.”
But when the time calls for it, he’s ready to poke fun at the audience to raise a reaction. Whether it’s having the crowd engage a yelling match about ice cream flavors or calling out Red Sox fans, Mensink always seizes the moment.
“It’s not about what you like, it’s about what they like.” he said.
As comes with every type of entertainment, there is trial and error, “The feedback I was getting was that I wasn’t putting enough energy into it.” said Mensink, concerning his early experience as the Tides M.C. But that did not stop his continued efforts to connect with fans.
“If we keep trying, hopefully we’ll get some hits.” Mensink said.
Despite the fun that he has as an M.C and making relationships with sponsors, his job can be a little draining. “Working here has deepened my love for baseball and deepened my hate for baseball.” Mensink said. He explained how working at the Tides has caused him to become exhaustedly immersed into baseball. But, at the end of the day, it’s about the fans.
As he said, “For that kid...it’s probably their only time (on the field)...it’s going to be, like this memory that he’ll have forever, and I have to always remind myself that.”