UofSC students, alumni help Columbia Fireflies glow

As a marketing intern for the Columbia Fireflies this summer, senior Julie Nelson runs the on-field promotions, writing newsletters and blogs, handling the mascot’s Twitter account and organizing a youth baseball camp. The senior marketing and management major even spent a few days as the mascot — entertaining fans while dressed as Mason the Firefly.

When the Spirit Communications Park opened for its first season this spring, it not only provided a new venue for the public to enjoy, it also opened up job and internship opportunities for University of South Carolina students and alumni. The stadium and the minor league baseball team, a Class A affiliate of the New York Mets, offer work opportunities from marketing, retail, food and beverage to operations and ticket sales.

This season, there are 10 University of South Carolina interns, including current students and alumni, and three Carolina alumni on the full-time staff. Jeremy Keen, a 2014 master of sport and entertainment management graduate, interned with the Columbia Blowfish as a student before he became operations manager with the Fireflies after graduation. In addition to overseeing stadium upkeep and parking attendants, Keen works closely with the various interns throughout the park.

“You don’t get the typical internship here; you’re not just following someone around doing grunt work and you’re not always wearing one hat,” Keen said. “We definitely don’t treat them as only an intern, we put a lot of responsibility on them because it helps them grow.”

Before the franchise started, students interested in sports and entertainment management often had to travel outside of Columbia to find an internship, said Steve Taylor, the director of internships for sport and entertainment management. Now, students from multiple colleges are able to benefit from the close proximity of the stadium.

“Having an internship allows students to choose a position in their area of interest to verify that they truly are interested in their major field or not,” said Glenna Gillentine, an internship director for the College of Hospitality, Retail and Sport Management. “There is nothing worse than completing four years of college, getting your degree and then finding out you really don’t like what you thought.”

Nelson, a senior marketing and management major, was able to get hands-on experience as the marketing intern this summer.

“Because it’s a startup, it’s been a learning process for everyone. Traditions have not been established yet, so there was a lot we had to figure out,” Nelson said. “Every day was an opening day for at least one person, so there was a lot of pressure to make every single game special.”

Jay Hill, a senior sport and entertainment management major, worked in ticket sales for the season and was able to see another side of operations for the Fireflies. Instead of working on the field, Hill worked with customers, assisting with ticket purchases and answering any questions patrons might have. He was even able to dress up as Mason the Firefly for a few appearances as well.

“I have gotten a lot of good experience and exposure during this internship,” Hill said. “It was definitely challenging in terms of time commitment, but I think this will be very beneficial for me landing a bigger job in the future.”

Creating internship opportunities is not the only relationship the university has built with the Fireflies franchise. “Sales in Sport and Entertainment Business” is an eight-week course taught by Fireflies executives in the spring, allowing students the opportunity to learn about minor league baseball sales. There also are HRSM doctoral students who are conducting marketing and consumer behavior research for the team.

Get in the game

For students who aren’t interested in an internship and simply looking to experience a minor league baseball game, the Fireflies will host “USC Night” Aug. 20 as a part of the university’s Welcome Week. Students will be shuttled to and from the stadium from campus as a way of welcoming the students back to Columbia. Admission to the game as well as a snack/drink is all included free of charge to students.

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