Denfeld News

Oct. 10, 2008
Duluth News Tribune

Game time (again) for Dukes

Dukes Knutson was a fixture in Duluth for more than 30 years as a teacher at Denfeld and East, a baseball and hockey coach, sports information director and coordinator of men’s athletics at Minnesota Duluth and a leader with The Fellowship of Christian Athletes.

The 57-year-old retired to Florida last year, but quickly found new work as a press box attendant for the Tampa Bay Rays.

The News Tribune caught up with Knutson earlier this week and asked him about his work with the Rays.

Q: How did you get involved with the Rays?

A: I was driving home from an afternoon at Siesta Key Beach back in February when I received a phone call from Rick Vaughn, the vice president of communications for the Rays. He was in immediate need for a substitute press box attendant to supervise all press box operations.

I had sent Vaughn a letter of inquiry back in January, and fortunately for me, he had saved my letter. He liked the fact that I had worked with UMD athletics for 37 years — mostly in the press box at football, basketball and hockey games — and so he hired me right then and there.

Q: What are your duties with the Rays?

A: I arrive at Tropicana Field four hours before game time and prepare the press box for the media — print, radio and TV. We usually put out about a dozen press releases for each game, and the statistics we assemble for the media is remarkable. Scores of scouts visit the press box each game and scarf up as much material as they can. I order any supplies we might need — from paper for the copy machines to food and snacks. The starting lineups are always phoned up to me, and I post them on a huge whiteboard.

I sort of act as a host to the media and make sure everyone has what they need. I have a small office where we have media guides for all major league teams, and I’m in charge of distributing them. Fortunately for me, my duties are more relaxed during the game so that I get to watch virtually the entire game.

But immediately after the game, we’re very busy again. The final box score, including play-by-play, is printed out and I make copies. I usually run three copies down to each clubhouse before returning to the press box to distribute final boxes to all the media, most of whom are in the clubhouse getting interviews. Then we publish a sheet of postgame notes and postgame quotes from each team. I then tidy up the press box, and usually about an hour after the game is over I’m ready to leave the park. It’s usually a least an eight-hour day... and I love it all.

Q: What has it been like following the Rays during their remarkable season and postseason?

A: Well, actually, the Rays’ run this year reminds me so much of the ’87 and ’91 Twins. It’s a collection of some fun-loving, blue-collar ballplayers under the tutelage of a unique skipper, Joe Maddon, whose unorthodox style is reminiscent of former Twins’ manager Tom Kelly. They’ve had a remarkable run of come-from-behind victories this year, and a different hero seems to emerge every game.

Q: Have you gotten to know any of the players or coaches?

A: Because of a recent article I wrote for the Fellowship of Christian Athletes’ Web site (www.fca.org), I was able to interview shortstop Ben Zobrist, outfielder Gabe Gross and first baseman Carlos Pena. All three are super young men, and very active in the Rays’ Baseball Chapel program. The Rays’ chaplain, Gio Llerena, has become a very great friend of mine, and we actually went to Chicago in August when the Rays played a series against the White Sox.

I also count one of the Rays’ coaches, former major-leaguer Tim Bogar, as one of my new friends down here.

Q: Prediction for the Rays-Red Sox series?

A: The Rays won the season series 10-8, but almost every game was decided by a run or two. Both teams dominated when at home.

The Red Sox have more power; the Rays have more speed. Pitching is outstanding on both sides. The Red Sox have more experience.

With all that said, how can it not go seven games? And, of course, I’m picking the Rays to go all the way!

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