Weber State center enjoying summer with Raptors

Tuesday , July 22, 2014 - 9:37 AM

OGDEN -- For James Hajek, working for a minor league baseball team is the best internship in town. The senior center for Weber State’s men’s basketball team is interning for the Ogden Raptors for the second consecutive summer, preparing him for life after college basketball.

“I’m just trying to get experience, because my ultimate goal is to be in a front office position for a professional sports team,” Hajek said. The 6-foot-10 center from Nebraska is scheduled to begin the Masters of Business Administration program at Weber State in January, when he will lay the educational groundwork to combine with his internship experience.

Growing up in Omaha, Hajek’s family held season tickets to the Omaha Royals, the triple-A affiliate of their namesake in Kansas City. “I love baseball,” Hajek said as he described his typical day with the Raptors. “I get here at about 5 p.m. and take in some batting practice before it’s time to work.”

The work begins at 6 p.m. when the Raptors’ opponent finishes batting practice, as Hajek - noticeable as the only near-seven-foot crew member with curly hair sticking out from under his ballcap - helps Ogden’s veteran grounds crew lug the batting cage, protective screens, and mats back into storage. The rest of pre-game preparation involves raking, tamping, and watering the infield dirt and pitcher’s mound.

Hajek spends the first five innings of each home game assisting the on-field, in-game promotions like the dizzy bat race. Another promotion is the Strike-O contest, where a contestant tries to throw baseballs through a small hole in a display board.

“I get to hold the big board and have people throw baseballs at me,” Hajek said. “Some of them come pretty close to my head so I have to duck every once in a while.”

Spending his summers with the Raptors has begun to turn Ogden from his college town into something more. “I’ve got to a certain age where this has become my home,” Hajek said. “I obviously love everything about Omaha and wish I could be there more, but this is where I live.”

Once his college basketball career is over, Hajek is unsure of where his career pursuit will take him, but he’d like to stay in Ogden if he doesn’t return home to Nebraska. “Wherever I can get a job,” Hajek said.

Staying in Ogden has allowed Hajek to work out using Weber’s team facilities and stay in better touch with his coaches, preparing for another successful season in the Big Sky Conference.

“A lot of people are looking at us saying we only have five returning guys, there isn’t going to be any leadership or cohesion,” Hajek said about the 2014-15 Wildcats. “But we were here during the summer and I felt like there was a lot of leadership, a lot of accountability, guys were really buying in.

“We have some personalities that are going to hold people accountable, even the younger guys are taking responsibility for getting things done and showing up to work every day.”

Those attitudes certainly stem in part from Weber State’s head coach Randy Rahe, who Hajek hopes to emulate in his business career. “I feel like he’s such a great communicator, a great listener,” Hajek explained.

“He’s very strict and business-like on the court, but off the court he’s the first guy you can go to if you need help with any problem. That’s the kind of leader I want to be some day.”

“Playing for him, you learn you have to work hard, you have to be tough,” Hajek continued. “Things won’t always go right and you have to learn to fight through adversity, and that’s going to help me.”

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