By TOM BONE
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
Nick Gill prides himself on being a “utility player.” He’s now gotten that chance on and off the baseball field.
As a member of the baseball team at St. Leo University in Florida for the past four years, Gill and his teammates were called upon to perform all kinds of duties in the concession stand at athletic events.
He is putting that knowledge to good use this summer as director of The Birds Nest, the concession stand at Bowen Field.
“It’s a different ballgame,” he said of being in charge.
He is proud of the staff that works to feed fans at the Bluefield Blue Jays’ Appalachian League games.
“They’re all great,” he said prior to Monday’s home game. “Most have worked here in the past. They’re very familiar with the environment and with their particular jobs. They get along well. We joke, we kid with each other. We’re more like a family than a workplace.”
The concession stand sells about 100 to 150 hot dogs “on an average night,” he said. “On July 4, it was ridiculous.” Around 300 to 400 hot dogs were handed through the windows that night, when the crowds flocked in for the traditional game and fireworks.
The job is also serving to complete an internship for Gill, his last step before graduating from St. Leo with a degree in sport business with minors in marketing and sales. He said the sports business program there is “one of the best in the country.”
He said about his work at the ballpark, “At times it’s been a little hard.”
“When I first got here, this place was a mess. I spent a long while, a lot of man-hours, getting it ready. ... But there haven’t been any major problems.”
He noted that he was able to change food suppliers and thereby save money for the local Bluefield Baseball Club.
The first-year general manager of the Bluefield operation, Jeff Gray, is also a graduate of St. Leo. He sent notices of job openings at Bowen Field to Gill and to Taed Moses at his alma mater, Gill said. Moses now works in the Bluefield clubhouse.
In fact, Gill and Moses drove to Princeton to see another St. Leo alumnus, Rick Teasley, in his pitching debut for the Princeton Rays. He was moved up to Tampa Bay’s Hudson Valley Renegades after that one game, in which he allowed no hits in 2 1/3 innings.
On the diamond for St. Leo, Gill played primarily at shortstop and second base, though he said he’s seen time at every position on the field except for pitcher and first baseman.
He occasionally is able to hop out of the concession area to watch some of the Appalachian League action. Asked for his analysis of the players, he said, “They’re all pros, and they all have pro tools — pro power, pro arms, big-league speed.”
He said it has been fun to watch the Bluefield team “all jell together.”
Still, he said, “Sometimes it gets difficult, watching the game instead of playing the game.”
He hopes to stay in baseball, “playing independent ball somewhere” after he has his degree in hand. “Then we’ll see where I go from there.”
A resident of Tampa, Fla., Gill has played ball at Tropicana Field, the Rays’ home diamond, during children’s camps years ago, and even came back as a camp coach one year.
“I’d love to work with the Rays,” he said.
When he first accepted the job at Bowen Field, he got some advice from a friend in Tampa, the Rev. Dave Looney, who is from Bluefield.
“He said that I’d love it,” Gill said. “It’s kind of my style, kind of old-school.”
He said about the area, “It’s small-town. It’s different from home. I’m a flatlander from Florida. Getting used to the mountains is different.”
He added, “I really wish the community would support the team more. It’s a fun environment, a family-friendly environment. And around here there’s really not that much to do.”
From the standpoint of a baseball player, he said he wants more fans at Bowen Field “not for just the business reasons, but for the energy that the fans bring for the players. For players, it’s so much better to be playing in front of a crowd and to know that they support you.”
“The energy you get as a player is something surreal.”
— Contact Tom Bone at