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Former Oilmen interns, staff members thrive in current roles

07/16/2016 12:28 PM -

Whiting, Ind. – July 16, 2016 – The success the Northwest Indiana Oilmen have had in developing talent on the field over the last five seasons has been well-documented, but players aren’t the only ones using the Oilmen organization as a springboard to future success.

Through the years, the Oilmen have developed a good track record for helping interns and team employees elevate their careers in their respective fields both inside and outside the sports industry.

Take former Oilmen Assistant General Manager Chris Doherty (pictured) as a prime example. Doherty, who interned with the Oilmen in 2013 before taking on a larger role in the organization for the 2014 season, said his time with the team provided him with experience that has proved pivotal in his career.

Now, Doherty is one of two graduate assistants for the University of Kansas Athletic Department after being selected out of a pool of over 90 applicants.

“My time with the Oilmen helped in a lot of ways,” Doherty said. “I realized that if you want something done, you’re going to have to work hard. I realized how hard I wanted to work, that started here. Same thing at Kansas – 60 hours is a normal week. Another big lesson was being able to work with employees. As the GA, I’ll be in charge of all of our student workers and I have experience being independent and managing people.”

Last month, Doherty turned in a 91-hour work week to help coordinate the NCAA West Prelims for Track & Field, which were hosted at Kansas. The event included about 2,500 athletes and attracted 7,000 spectators.

“We got it done, but everyone we talked to – from 25-year veterans to new guys – said it was the worst week they’ve had,” Doherty said. “It was brutal; the weather kicked our butts. Saturday ended up being a beautiful day, the stands were packed and we were watching some of the greatest athletes in the country. Finally, you take a minute and you’re like, ‘This is pretty cool; we did a lot to get this done.’”

During his time with the Oilmen, Doherty helped run a Beetles Tribune Band concert and was the man behind stadium operations throughout the summer. Those experiences helped him stand out from his peers when applying for the GA position at Kansas.

“I honestly believe if you put in as much as you can working here, you’re going to learn a lot,” Doherty said. “Talk to businesses, try to get your name in the door. Make those good relationships in the community. A big part of being with the Oilmen is getting out there in the community. I learned so much that summer.”

Jason Guerette, 2013 play-by-play broadcaster – Southern Illinois Miners
Just one year after spending a summer calling Oilmen baseball, Jason Guerette made a seamless transition to the professional ranks.

Guerette was hired as the voice of the Frontier League’s Southern Illinois Miners before the 2014 season, a position he’s held ever since.

“I’m enjoying it immensely,” Guerette said. “This being my third year, I’ve gotten to know all of the environments around the league. It’s all very comfortable now. In terms of what the job entails, it’s something from when I get up to when I go to bed. Game notes, press releases, getting ready to call the game – it’s very busy, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.”

Among the highlights of Guerette’s stint with the Miners are calling two no-hitters and a walk-off home run to clinch a division title.

Guerette works solo in the booth through the 96-game Frontier League season. He said his year with the Oilmen helped prepare him for that challenge.

“I learned how to pace myself throughout a Midwest Collegiate League season, which was more innings than I had ever called before,” he said. “It was a great experience; I enjoyed calling the games at Oil City Stadium. It was good primer for working in the Frontier League.”

Chris Wartman, 2012 intern – Law Student
Now four years removed from his stint with the Oilmen, 2012 intern Chris Wartman has found his niche in a field outside of sports.

Wartman - who was the leader of the original Oilmen intern group for the team’s inaugural season – is entering his third and final year enrolled in Valparaiso University’s law school.

Since graduating from Concordia University Wisconsin with a degree in marketing and business management, Wartman has gained experience working at law firms in downtown Chicago and for a judge in Crown Point.

No matter where his career takes him, Wartman will forever be ingrained with the first ever season of Oilmen baseball.

“There’s nothing quite like working at a baseball stadium, where most of your days are filled with the crack of a wood bat and fans cheering when home runs are hit,” Wartman said. “The ultimate was when they won the championship in their inaugural season.”

Tate Hickey, 2014 community relations intern – Disney
Since completing her community relations internship with the Oilmen, Tate Hickey has graduated from St. Joseph’s College with her degree in sociology.

Hickey recently landed a spot in Disney’s college internship program. She’s currently soaking up the sun while building her resume in Orlando.

“I love community relations and I want to get more experience for my resume,” she said. “I definitely used my experience with the Oilmen in my interview with Disney.”

Hickey said her time handling community relations with the Oilmen helped her determine what direction she wants to take in the future.

“I loved interacting with all the fans and becoming friends with the regulars,” she said. “I loved making little kids’ days by having them race the mascot. I loved the fan interaction and the fast-paced environment.”

Joey Gelman, 2014 broadcasting intern – WGN Radio
Joey Gelman recently burst onto the Chicago radio scene as a producer for the Dave Plier Show on WGN Radio.

Gelman spent the 2014 season calling games alongside Brandon Vickrey on WJOB and the Oilmen Radio Network. He’s returned to Oil City Stadium to occasionally fill in as the color commentator during the 2015 and 2016 seasons.

The University of Illinois broadcast journalism graduate’s resume also includes serving as a production intern at 670 The Score, working as the on air editor for the Daily Illini, broadcasting games on Big Ten Student U and filling in as the play-by-play broadcaster for UIC Flames baseball on ESPN3.

Gelman echoed the idea that interning with the Oilmen plays a key role in future success.

“It allowed me to get much more comfortable with broadcasting,” he said. “That opportunity hasn’t been offered anywhere else since. It allowed me to get constant reps and see what I’m doing right and wrong. That summer becomes a family for three months. It allowed you to be a part of a team and family, while doing something everyone was loving.”

Logan Joza, 2015 Gameday Operations Intern – Communications Direct
Just one year removed from interning with the Oilmen, Logan Joza finds himself with one of the most unique jobs of any ex-Oilmen staff member.

He works for Communications Direct, a company that supplies radios for festivals and big events. Among the highlights of Joza’s time with the company was working the NFL Draft.

“That was pretty cool to watch the stage go up, the biggest stage ever built in North America,” Joza said. “It was the coolest event I’ve ever been to. That was by far the coolest experience I’ve had. We were in Grant Park and the main stage went up right next to us. During the actual draft, there were thousands of people walking around.”

Joza’s on-site technical support role entails checking the radios out to people and providing assistance with any issues. He ideally wants to get back into sports and work in baseball or hockey.

During his time with the Oilmen, Joza helped oversee the team’s ballpark operations.

“The responsibility I had was the main thing that helped me,” he said. “The amount of responsibility that I was given helped me mature as an adult entering the work force. It helped me understand all of things that go into preparing an event.”

Brandon Pavlina, 2015 Public Address Announcer / radio broadcasting intern – ESPN Radio Indianapolis
Through the years, Oil City Stadium has seen its fair share of strong personalities, but few are as unforgettable as Brandon Pavlina, who brought energy and fun on a nightly basis while serving as public address announcer and sound operator.

In addition, Pavlina paired with Brandon Vickrey to provide color commentary for Oilmen road games.

Now, Pavlina is interning with ESPN Radio Indianapolis, 1070 The Fan. He works with several on-air personalities, most notably Dan Dakich.

“How could I really complain?” Pavlina said. “I get to go sit in studio and listen to these guys talk about sports for four or five hours. Dakich is super cool; he’s got the loud personality. He’s been busting my chops a few times.”

During the spring, Pavlina did play-by-play for Indiana University baseball on Big Ten Student U.

Pavlina has fond memories of his year with the Oilmen.

“The one word that I think of when I think about last year is fun,” Pavlina said. “The comradery among the interns and everyone involved was flat out fun. When I think back on it, I do so with extremely fond memories. Broadcasting baseball games this year, I was leaps and bounds ahead of other people.”

Jonas Nordman, 2013 radio broadcaster – Legends Football League
Following his summer with the Oilmen in 2013, Jonas Nordman has continued his career in the sports industry at various stops.

He is currently back home in Los Angeles and working for the Legends Football League, where he does production and administrative work, writing and broadcasting.

After the Oilmen, Nordman spent a year as the voice of Wisconsin Rapids Rafters in the Northwoods League, before working with a baseball analytics company in Pennsylvania last year.

When he thinks back to his summer with the Oilmen, Nordman remembers broadcasting in a near-tornado in Michigan City, listening to Jimmy McNamara’s Harry Caray impersonation and witnessing the U.S. Military All-Stars Game.

“I certainly remember the people I met,” Nordman said. “I talk to Chris (Doherty) on a somewhat regular basis. I stay in touch with some of the players. Working with the Oilmen was a great experience.”

Elizabeth Biancardi, 2014 graphic designer – Lee Enterprises
After building her portfolio as the team graphic designer for the Oilmen in 2014, Elizabeth Biancardi has landed a full-time role in the industry.

She is a page designer at Lee Enterprises, and works at The Times of Northwest Indiana offices in Munster. She spends most of her time designing the Santa Maria Times, a paper in California.

“With the Oilmen, I was working around the clock whenever I was needed,” Biancardi said. “I was doing the gameday program, which was a lot of layout and helped me get the job that I have now. Experience is good.”

Jackie Lopez, 2013 community relations intern – WGU Indiana
Since her time with the Oilmen, Griffith native Jackie Lopez has done something that not many people from the Region do – move away.

She now makes her home in Indianapolis and is the executive assistant at WGU Indiana. She supports the university’s chancellor and makes sure she stays connected with business partners. She also meets potential students and lets them know about the university.

WGU is an online education that costs only $6,000 per year. Students are typically working adults and come from 92 different countries.

Lopez started at WGU handling community relations, which matched up well with what she did during her stint with the Oilmen.

“My favorite part about the Oilmen was getting to interact with all the kids,” Lopez said. “I’m also a volunteer for Girl Scouts now because I realized I liked working with children. Getting to interact with all the kids at the baseball games was one of my favorite parts. That’s something I’m pretty passionate about.”

Luke Purcell, 2013 ticketing intern
Luke Purcell is a recent graduate of Valparaiso University with a master’s in sports administration.

Since his stint with the Oilmen, Purcell has worked as a team manager for the Valparaiso University football team. He has also worked for the Chicago Cubs Store, interned for the Portage High School Athletic Department, volunteered at Big Ten Fan Fest and assisted with the NFL Draft.

“I didn’t just do one thing; I got to do a multitude of things,” Purcell said when asked about his season with the Oilmen. “That’s the good thing about interning there. You’re going to get experience in other areas. I think that’s what kids coming out of college need to learn – you have to be a Jack of all trades.”

Julian Gonzalez, 2013 video intern – Sigma Lambda Beta consultant
Julian Gonzalez and his sister Bianca made a bit of Oilmen history this year as the first ever sibling combo to intern with the Oilmen.

Bianca is the team’s current community relations intern, while Julian worked with videography and marketing in 2013. He’s currently working as a consultant for the fraternity Sigma Lambda Beta in Iowa City, Iowa.

“Working for the Oilmen, I did a lot of different things and expanded my skills set,” Julian Gonzalez said. “I felt like the group that we had there that summer was pretty close. There were good times and good memories that season.”

Jimmy Lafakis, 2015 photography intern - Ideas in Motion Media / Butler student media 

The youngest former Oilmen intern, Jimmy Lafakis, captured photos and assisted in updating the team’s social media accounts during the 2015 season before beginning his freshman year at Butler last fall.

Lafakis became popular around Oil City Stadium for both his fine photography and enthusiastic personality. As a freshman at Butler, he took photos of every sport, including NCAA Tournament events for softball and women’s soccer. He also wrote for the school’s newspaper, the Collegiate, covering volleyball and men’s tennis. This summer, he is working for Ideas in Motion Media, a company that publishes good-news websites in Northwest Indiana.

“I’ll always remember going to Oil City Stadium and taking pictures for Oilmen games,” Lafakis said. “The players appreciated the pictures, so that was cool. I felt like I was a part of the team. Thanks to Coach (Adam) Enright, Brandon (Vickrey) and Don (Popravak) for allowing me to come along for the ride. It’s an experience I’ll never forget.”

Are you a former Oilmen intern or employee who would like to be added to this story? Email Brandon Vickrey at [email protected]