Jake Goebbert’s Selling Pumpkins, Charlie Brown!
Back before the 1970s, when Curt Flood challenged baseball’s reserve clause and began the era of the free agent, baseball players often had jobs in the offseason. 30-game winner Denny McLain worked in night clubs as a lounge singer. Mark “The Bird” Fidrych pumped gas after his rookie year. Harvey Haddix, he of the 12-innings-of-perfect-baseball fame, delivered heating oil. And Richie Hebner worked at his father’s cemetery.
These days, with a minimum major-league salary of a half million bucks a year, players are more likely to be practicing their golf games on a tropical island than trying to scrape together a few extra bucks to make ends meet. But one of the San Diego Padres isn’t on vacation these days.
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Major-league first baseman Jake Goebbert is selling pumpkins.
Goebbert’s family owns a pumpkin farm in Hampshire, IL, and Jake is working there until they close for the season on November 1, according to Joe Stevenson of the local Illinois newspaper, the Northwest Herald.
But Goebbert’s Pumpkin Patch is no ordinary pumpkin farm. It’s a Farmer’s Market. And it’s a tourist destination. And right now it’s Fall Festival Time. For the low, low price of $15 ($12 on weekdays), you can see pig races, visit the exotic animals tent, slide down the giant pumpkin slide, see the giant pumpkin-eating dinosaur, and any of the dozen more attractions. The coolest attraction seems to be a pumpkin cannon that can shoot a pumpkin a third of a mile. That, or maybe getting to meet a big league baseball player.
As different as the two jobs seem, Goebbert finds some similarities:
"“Baseball and the pumpkin patch are eerily similar in some ways. They’re both entertainment businesses, we both have to handle large crowds for a short period of time. It’s a very special thing. You grow up getting to know this, and it’s taught me some major lessons in my life – how to be approachable, how to talk to people – just the whole business aspect of it is something I always hold close to my heart.”"
(h/t to Joe Stevenson at the Northwest Herald)
And it’s true. This season, I got a moment to spend with Goebbert as he was signing autographs for some fans before a game. In just a few seconds, he managed to connect with nearly everyone he met, with sincere smiles and friendly words for children and adults alike.
Once pumpkin season ends on the day after Halloween, Goebbert will go back to focusing on baseball, when he will begin training at Elite 7, the sports training complex in Lake Barrington, IL. But even during pumpkin season, he’s still getting in some swings.
“I’ll set up the [pitching] machine in the greenhouse because it’s easier to heat than the barn.”
Seems like Jake would have fit in just fine in the pre-1970 era.