Long before athletes take the field, behind-the-scenes crews are at work getting ready for the day ahead. One of those jobs is the clubhouse manager.
Kenneth Bufton, known around the ballpark as Kenny, is in his 14th season as the clubhouse manager for the Round Rock Express, a Triple A baseball team in Texas. “I got my start in hockey right out of high school,” he says. “It took me to California, Ohio, and Kentucky before I finally switched over to baseball.” Kenny works long hours, often arriving at the stadium around 7 a.m. and staying until one or two in the morning!
He takes care of each player’s needs, such as showing the visiting team to the gym in the morning, doing eight loads of towels and clothes a day, and unpacking each equipment bag after a road trip. For kids who might be interested in being a clubhouse manager, Bufton suggests, “Start at a young age, and get the experience.”
Bufton did indeed begin at a young age when he started the hockey job and got the experience needed to hustle and perform the duties of an excellent clubhouse manager: helping the players do their best and creating a comfortable locker room environment.
Bufton’s average day looks a little like this: At 7 a.m. he arrives at the ballpark and begins the morning’s chores, which include folding towels; doing any laundry from the game the night before; and making sure that the visiting team’s locker room is ready with equipment, jerseys hung up, and the coaches’ room in top shape.
Around noon, most players start arriving at the ballpark. Bufton then runs to the front office to gather all fan mail and packages. By 2 p.m., everyone is there, including coaches, players, and batboys. “Up until game time, I walk back and forth between locker rooms getting the players anything they need, like food, errands that need to be run, and other stuff like that,” he says.
When I got a chance to shadow him, I saw everything that was going on in the clubhouse! Vacuums being run, players getting ready for batting practice, and a name being put on a substitute coach’s jersey. When mealtime comes, Bufton told me that he and his crew feed up to 50 people at one time in a kitchen three times larger than the average one!
Once the game starts, Bufton and his crew start loads of towels and have laundry rolling all during the game. When the game is over, Bufton does his post-game duties such as cleaning up the locker room and finishing his last load of laundry. Then he heads home well past midnight to get some rest before another day at the ballpark.
Each day, new, unexpected things occur in the clubhouse, whether it’s a player moving up to the big leagues, a player being demoted to another level, or something needing to be repaired. “It gets kind of hectic at times,” he says as he unpacks a player’s equipment bag he picked up that morning from the airport after the team arrived from Sacramento.
A clubhouse manager's day is not complete until the final player leaves for the night and the manager has done all that he can for the players. It is a physically demanding job that involves determination and dedication. Although the schedule is tough, clubhouse managers like Bufton help each player succeed.
Photographs by (from top): Riley Zayas; Round Rock Express