Walking onto the field during opening ceremonies for the 2013 NCAA Baseball College World Series was a surreal moment for Neosho native Spencer Farley.
Just a year prior, and previously in 2009, Farley spent time in the stands amongst the spectators to watch his alma mater, the Arkansas Razorbacks, play in the prestigious tournament. This year, however, he was on the field and a part of the celebration as a member of the Louisiana State University Tigers.
What a difference a year makes.
Farley’s career path has been nothing short of adventurous. After graduating from NHS in 2006, Farley trekked south to Fayetteville, Ark., to attend college at the University of Arkansas. One day during his freshman year at Arkansas, Farley said it occurred to him that he needed a job. He was bored and could use some extra money, so he placed a call to the school’s athletic department.
Initially, he hoped to land a job working with the baseball team. A man named Tim Cheney answered and informed him that there weren’t any openings for baseball but there was, however, an opening with the football team. Cheney told him to be at the football stadium by 4:30 a.m. the next morning. Little did Farley know at the time, but his career was about to begin.
It didn’t take long for Farley to fall in love with the job. During his offseason from the football team Farley landed a job in professional baseball, joining the Northwest Arkansas Naturals in Springdale after the Kansas City Royals moved their Double-A affiliate from Wichita in 2008. Farley worked under Danny Helmer as a clubhouse attendant for the Naturals.
There he did odd jobs like rubbing baseballs with Mississippi River mud, setting up batting practice, doing laundry and prepping meals for players amongst other things. He spent four seasons with the Naturals from 2008-11.
After graduating with his master’s from Arkansas in December 2011, Farley hung around for a couple of months in the spring before leaving on March 1 to take a job as a clubbie with the Royals at their spring training facility in Surprise, Ariz. After spending 2012 there, he’d planned to return to the Royals for the 2013 season. where he likely would have been assigned to one of the club’s full season affiliates.
Things changed in January, however, and a whirlwind ensued thereafter.
During the second week of January, Farley got a call from a friend who was working for the Omaha Storm Chasers, the Royals’ Triple-A affiliate, who informed him the Chicago Cubs’ Triple-A squad, the Iowa Cubs, had an opening in their clubhouse. Farley applied and was soon offered the job, but that same week he received a call from LSU regarding an assistant equipment manager opening in Baton Rouge.
Working for Arkansas’ foes in the Southeastern Conference wasn’t something Farley ever considered before, but the idea now intrigued him. During the Thanksgiving holiday, the staffs from the Razorbacks and Tigers used to get together before football games to have dinner. Through those visits he’d become acquainted with most of the LSU staff and even considered himself with friends with several of them. An offer soon came and he pointed his wheels to Baton Rouge to don the purple and gold.
It took some getting used to, he admitted, but in the end it was an easy transition.
“It was a big learning curve for me going from Arkansas and being a student there and getting my master’s and undergraduate degree to learning LSU and their history there. I was really lucky to get an opportunity to come down here and join a program like LSU.
“The first week I was down here we played (Arkansas) in basketball and I just kind of sat there and didn’t root for either side. Having that little rivalry going on down there, you definitely have some fun. I guess the paycheck and the job security helped me get over it. I guess you’ve got to root for the purple stamp on the check.”
Now he has his own office tucked inside LSU’s Tiger Stadium where he works alongside the coaching staff and four other equipment staffers. On his first day he learned rule No. 1 from legendary head coach Les Miles — do not wear red.
“First day I was told I couldn’t wear red in the building because Coach Miles is not a big fan of the color red,” Farley said with a laugh. “I’ve got a lot of clothes in my closet that I can’t wear now that I’ve been giving to family. I didn’t have a single purple clothing item in my closet. Now I’ve got purple clothes and shoes and everything.”
At his new job Farley is second in charge, so to speak. He is over baseball, softball, soccer, swimming and diving and is an assistant with football. The school employs four full-time staffers.
“I’m kind of the Nike contact guy,” Farley said of the shoe/apparel company that provides its brand to the Tigers. “If there’s a major issue (the workers) come to me. If not, I don’t hear from them too much. It’s a much different job range from the minor leagues to college.”
Farley said working hand in hand with such a high-profile institution like LSU has its perks. Recently he was standing in a room when new football offensive coordinator Cam Cameron, a former NFL head coach, walked through the doors. “I’ve got someone I want you guys to meet,” Cameron said. The next man through the doors was New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees. Farley was speechless.
“This year I got star struck for the first time in a couple of years,” Farley said. “When Coach Cameron got the job I guess he has a good relationship with Drew Brees and he wanted to bring him in and introduce him. It’s definitely cool to look back and see that you were hanging around with (Darren) McFadden and (Peyton) Hillis and guys like that in the locker room at Arkansas back in the day. It’s cool seeing those guys doing good on the professional level.”
Unfortunately for Farley and the Tigers, the baseball team was bounced from Omaha after two games this season. That doesn’t mean he’s twiddling his thumbs now, though. He says he’s already hard at work prepping for football season.
“Once we got back from Omaha, everybody was asking us if we had any down time,” Farley said. “There’s no down time. We’ve been working and getting prepped for football. I love being busy.
“Getting to experience both of those programs is truly a blessing,” Farley said of the football and baseball team. “I’m lucky to have ended up with the opportunity I got, for sure.”
He said the experience in Omaha this year is one he hopes to have again next season.
“It was awesome,” he said. “I went in 2009 as a fan to watch Arkansas play LSU. I went up last year for a day. Being with the team and going through everything and walking through opening ceremonies definitely gave you the chills. Being with a program like LSU it was definitely an awesome experience, one that we’d like to do over again.”
For now Farley says he’s happy at LSU and can still see himself there in the future.
“I think I still see myself down here in five years,” he said. “It’s hard to get a better job assistant-wise than LSU. I’m trying to do a good job down here and hoping to maybe get a few big rings while I’m down here, too.
“Being where I’m at, I definitely couldn’t ask for more, that’s for sure.”