Chantella Moore's sports management class at Lakewood High School got a behind-the-scenes look at Tropicana Field last week to learn exactly what goes on in the home of the Tampa Bay Devil Rays.
Students walked through the executive offices, checked out the press box and sat in the visitors' dugout on a 90-minute tour of the dome Wednesday.
"I thought it was really interesting to find out what people actually do here," said senior Jazmyn Shorter. "I thought it was just baseball."
The class is part of the Program for Academics and Sportsmanship, one of the school's small learning communities, and is new to Lakewood this semester, Moore said.
"They've dabbled a little bit into sports journalism. They're keeping stats and writing on them for football and they'll be doing the same thing for basketball," Moore said.
The program is meant to give students marketable skills, like coaching and refereeing. "The kids who are old enough, we can get them certified and actually get them jobs, get them some experience. It's a great part-time job you can take with you to college," Moore said.
The curriculum is intended to prepare teens for college majors or careers in fields like exercise science, recreation management, sports journalism and athletic training.
"You don't have to be an athlete on the field. The kids can get a view of what goes on behind the scenes and can ask, 'What can I do outside of that and still bring home a good paycheck?' " Moore said.
On the tour, the students got tips on pursuing a career in sports management from Rick Nafe, vice president of operations and facilities for the Tampa Bay Devil Rays.
Nafe, who has spent nearly 30 years in the business, advised them to go after internships, work hard and show dedication.
"It's hard work, but it's rewarding work and a lot of fun," he said. "Anytime you can get up on Monday morning and want to come to work, you know you're in the right place."
Nafe also outlined some of the challenges: The work is less than glamorous, the hours can be long and the popularity of the field means jobs can be hard to come by.
"The competition is tremendous," he said.
Be willing to work your way up, Nafe told them. "Minor leagues are a great way to get to the major leagues, just like for players."