Right skills = grand slam

Jake Thorn in the press box at Miller Park. Photo by Troye Fox.

University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee senior Jake Thorn is getting used to seeing his work splashed hundreds of feet in the air before 40,000 fans.

One of his jobs for the Milwaukee Brewers Scoreboard Department is doing the instant replays that appear on the scoreboard after a spectacular play or stupendous hit.

Video by Tanner Johnson

In this video: As part of the scoreboard crew at Miller Park, Jake Thorn keeps the crowd fired up with Brewers highlights. Jake is an IT major at UWM.
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Thorn, an intern who’s become a seasonal employee of the Brewers, has “my dream job since I was 12,” working in sports multimedia. In addition to replays, he does detail work like cataloging highlight clips and developing short highlight packages from the previous day’s game (if the Brewers won).

He also gets to work on special projects like rally videos to pump up the crowd if the team falls behind. He had a hand in last year’s “Beast Mode” video, as well as a fan appreciation video for the 2011 season.

Thorn – who’s majoring in Information Technology Management, minoring in Journalism and Media Studies (JAMS), and finishing a Digital Arts and Culture certificate – has the right combination of skills for the job.

An early interest

His interest in media developed at home – his dad worked for the local cable company. “I liked messing with cable equipment, and computers seemed to come easy.” He picked up video editing using his dad’s analog systems, then made the switch to digital. During high school, he did some video production and got interested in sports media.

When the Brewers clinched the division championship in September 2011, Thorn got a chance to go behind the camera to help out with recording the celebration. (Photo courtesy of the Milwaukee Brewers. )

But figuring out a career path wasn’t easy. He wasn’t quite sure of his future direction when he put in his application for an internship with the Brewers Scoreboard Department in 2009.

“I was kind of ready to give up on media when I applied,” says Thorn. He got the call, “had quite a fun interview,” and was hired. “It was a pivotal point and got me right back into it.”

Thorn moved from the internship to become a seasonal employee the next summer. He also works as marketing media coordinator for UWM Athletics, making most of the media for the men’s basketball games at the U.S. Cellular Arena, and as web and digital media assistant for University Housing. Oh, and he’s finishing classes at UWM for summer graduation.

Cataloging and doing highlights for the Brewers replays is fast-paced work, says Thorn, made possible by digital technology that allows him to quickly review the feeds from several cameras, select the best for the replay system, cue it up and get it onto the scoreboard, literally seconds after the play ends.

“People have grown to expect that instant turnaround.”

Education in action

Having the background in information technology helps him understand the infrastructure of the technology he’s dealing with. Sometimes, he helps troubleshoot technical problems, and he’s working on a way to automate a process for transferring game statistics from one system to another.

But the JAMS and Digital Arts and Cultures courses, combined with what he’s learned from co-workers in the Scoreboard Department, help with the storytelling for longer pieces.

One of his favorite assignments last year was helping with the video when the team clinched the National League Central Division championship. For that one, he says, everyone was pitching in, so he switched from editing other people’s shots to compiling some video of the celebration himself.

Although he’s too busy during the games to do a lot of cheering, he says he’s become more of a baseball fan while working with the Brewers. And he’s enjoyed some extra-special games – like last year’s win that featured three double plays and a triple play – and showed up in lots of highlight clips.

The technology has come a long way since he saw his first game – which featured a small, black-and-white scoreboard, he says – and it’s still changing rapidly as fans come to expect more and faster scoreboard highlights.

“It is one more way of improving the experience of all the fans,” says Thorn. “It’s all emotion-driven. You have to keep the fans involved.”