Football: Best seat in the house

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  /Courtesy photo
North Texas assistant equipment manager Clint Gibson, left, spends many summer nights in Arlington as a bat boy for the Rangers. The Rangers have three bat boys, including UNT assistant equipment manager Parker Zavala.

UNT equipment managers moonlight with Rangers

The walk-off wins are what Clint Gibson and Parker Zavala love most.

In that way, the North Texas assistant equipment managers are not all that different from a lot of Rangers fans.

They just get a much better view as Rangers bat boys.

Gibson and Zavala tackle a variety of tasks behind the scenes — serving as clubhouse assistants by doing laundry, packing and unloading trucks and setting up the dugout before games — while also filling the traditional role of picking up bats near home plate.

The job keeps Gibson and Zavala up late at night at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington and offers plenty of challenges in terms of juggling schedules that also include working with the UNT football team.

Having the best seat in the house for moments like Jurickson Profar clubbing a walk-off home run to give the Rangers a 6-5 win over the Los Angeles Angels on Thursday night is what makes the challenges of the job worth it.

“One of the greatest things I have ever been involved with is a walk-off win,” Gibson said. “Even with all the football games I have been around that we won or could have won [at UNT], by far the most exciting thing I’ve been involved with is a walk-off win. You are right down there in the middle of it all. You get to see, feel and hear the emotion.”

The Rangers have three bat boys who work home games and handle a variety of tasks. Gibson and Zavala rotate with one other bat boy picking up bats one night while working in the clubhouse or the dugout on others.

Most days, Gibson and Zavala get to the ballpark at about 1 p.m. and don’t leave until all the laundry is done and the clubhouse is in perfect order — around 1 or 2 a.m.

The long hours and the challenges are the reasons why the Rangers don’t use younger bat boys.

Gibson and Zavala are paid an hourly wage and typically receive tips from players at the end of the year. But it’s the love of the game that keeps them coming back.

“Going to a baseball game 81 times out of the year is the best part,” Zavala said. “It’s nice being around the guys. They are all respectful.”

Gibson, 34, started working at UNT as an assistant equipment manager in 2004, left in 2007 and returned in 2011. He’s also worked for the Dallas Desperados arena football team in the same capacity and did a brief stint with the Fort Worth Brahmas hockey team.

Gibson starting applying for a job with the Rangers on a yearly basis in 2005, shortly after he started at UNT, and finally landed a job as a bat boy last year.

Zavala, 25, is a UNT student and is in his first season with the Rangers after Gibson helped him land a spot in the team’s rotation of bat boys.

“It’s awesome to be around the Rangers,” Gibson said. “They are a great group of guys and are really laid back. There is not a lot of ‘I’ around there. It’s all about the team. Everyone cares about each other.”

It’s that attitude that has made Gibson and Parker valued members of the UNT athletic department.

“Clint loves North Texas and does anything and everything,” UNT head coach Dan McCarney said. “I love being around people who don’t care what their job description is and do anything to help a program. He’s one of those guys. He does whatever he can to help. He does a great job and means a lot to our program.”

UNT equipment manager Mike Gallup said Gibson and Zavala do whatever they can to help the program and credited them for handling what can be a hectic schedule.

“It’s a lot of hours that they put in at both jobs,” Gallup said. “Clint isn’t going to school, but he is married and has three kids.”

Both play key roles for UNT.

“Clint helps me out with whatever I need and travels with me on the road,” Gallup said. “He’s a great guy. Anything I need, he’s there to help me. I rely on him and trust him a lot.”

Working as equipment assistants and bat boys allows Gibson and Zavala to stay involved with athletics, something both have loved since childhood.

Zavala played baseball growing up and graduated from Fort Worth Southwest. Gibson played every sport there was to play at Strawn, northwest of Stephenville.

“I grew up playing six-man football and have been on the sidelines my whole life, from high school to college to pros,” Gibson said. “Every time I go to a game now, if I am not working on the sideline, there is no good seat.”

Gibson and Zavala don’t often have an opportunity to sit, but they have seen some of the great moments of the Rangers’ and Mean Green’s seasons up close. Both were on the sideline at Apogee Stadium when UNT came back from 18 points down to beat Ball State this month.

They have helped UNT and its players along the way. For Gibson, watching those players grow up is a thrill a lot like the walk-off wins he has seen up close while working for the Rangers.

“The majority of the time we have really good kids who are respectful,” Gibson said. “It’s fun to watch them go from being freshmen to seniors. A lot of times they come from schools where they don’t have much. When they get here, they expect us to give them what they want. It doesn’t work that way. By the time they are juniors, it starts to click.

“When they are seniors, their last couple of games they come up to you, hug you and tell you how much they appreciate you. Their whole mindset changes. They start out expecting a lot, whether it is shoes, gloves, clothes, whatever. When they are seniors, they come to the window and have a hole in their glove and ask if we can help them out.”

Helping out behind the scenes is one aspect of the job Gibson and Zavala love, whether it’s assisting millionaire Rangers or teenagers living out their college football dreams at UNT.

“I am a big sports fan,” Zavala said. “These are the two best sports I could think of to be involved with.”

 

BRETT VITO can be reached at 940-566-6870 or via Twitter at @brettvito.


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