*Story by Wilmington News Journal's Mark Huber
As a student at Wilmington College in the sports management program, Alan Ledford had one opportunity a year to visit the Cincinnati Reds offices and see what it's like off the field with a professional franchise.
Now, Ledford is in charge of the sports management program at his alma mater and he wants his students to have more than just one chance a year to see what it's like behind the scenes.
"I wanted to give back to my students more," he said.
So Ledford, now entering his fifth year as the sports management director at Wilmington College, is offering students numerous first-hand experiences at some of sports biggest events.
"We've been to the last three Super Bowls, two College Football Playoffs and next year (2020) we're going to the (NCAA Div. I men's basketball) Final Four," he said.
In addition, Ledford has taken Wilmington College students to the last two Music City Bowl college football games. They also make in-season tours of franchises as well as sports institutions like NCAA headquarters.
"My big thing is trying to get them outside the classroom, networking," said Ledford, a 1998 graduate of Blanchester High School and a 2002 graduate of WC.
The students don't just visit these venues and watch the games, they actually work on the days leading up to the event and then on "game day," too. Some days, Ledford admits, are 12 hours long by the time work and tours conclude.
But the payoff is priceless.
"When you can say (to a prospective employer) 'I've worked at the last three Super Bowls' … if that doesn't open a door for you …," said Ledford.
Baseball opened the door into the wide world of sports for Ledford.
"I've been in baseball since I was 2," he said.
He was one of the best hitters in county history at BHS and continued that offensive success at WC. His career average for BHS and WC is .392.
"I loved to hit," he said. "I would go out and take BP (batting practice) til I couldn't take BP any more. That's the fun part."
During a game, Ledford admits, he played defense just to get back to the plate.
"You only get to hit once every hour then you go back out in the field for an hour," he said with a laugh.
As fun as hitting was for Ledford, he enjoyed pitching just as much. He had good success at BHS hurling 32 straight scoreless innings at one point.
"I loved it; I was in control (on the mound)," said Ledford. "I didn't want to lose. If I had the ball (as a pitcher) I felt like we had a pretty good chance that day."
Ledford remains close to the game today as a coach at BHS. Working with former WC teammate Aaron Lawson has been an enjoyable experience.
His last official baseball games as a player have left Ledford with fond memories, ones that haven't faded in 17 years.
"The last week (at Wilmington College) I was 9-for-11 and we won our last six conference games," he said. "I was 3-for-3 the last day in a doubleheader against Heidelberg. I was intentionally walked three times. We won those games 3-1 and 2-0."