MANKATO — Barry Ballinger is a defensive lineman, a position of notoriously big eaters, with the Minnesota State football team.
So it should surprise no one that for the 300-pounder, the favorite part of his summer job with the Mankato MoonDogs is when he gets to work the grill at ballgames.
“I’d rather grill than carry kegs, for sure,” he said.
Ballinger is one of many Minnesota State athletes who spend their summer staying in Mankato so they can work out with teammates or continue with some classes. In order for Ballinger, who will be a junior this fall, to stay here, he needed to get a job, in part to pay for his food and entertainment but also for something to do when he’s not lifting weights or running to get ready for the upcoming football season.
“I (have a job) to keep busy,” Ballinger said. “It gives me some money to eat, and it works perfectly with my schedule. It’s a lot of fun. I like being outside; I worked in a factory last year and hated being inside all the time.”
Ballinger said he could work up to 30 hours in a week, depending on the MoonDogs’ home schedule. He works with concessions, getting to Franklin Rogers Park in the early afternoon to get the booths and decks ready for a 7:05 p.m. first pitch.
Every morning, and some nights after work, Ballinger and some of the 40 or so football players who stay here, will go to the Minnesota State weight room or get together for a run.
“I’d like to do it again next summer,” Ballinger said. “The MoonDogs have a reputation of bringing back the employees they like.”
While the lure of grilled meats is obvious, Karlee Gengenbacher, who will be a senior on the Minnesota State women’s basketall team, has a different issue. She spends 25 or so hours each week working at Angie’s Kettle Corn, either in the office or at the factory, where the smell of freshly made kettle corn can be trouble.
“Sometimes they let me taste-test,” Gengenbacher said. “It’s so good. You can’t just eat one handful. You need to go back for more.”
Gengenbacher helps out with several duties around the company, working 25 hours or so per week. The schedule works well for her because she and her teammates get together in the evenings to workout or play pickup games.
“I really like all the people (at Angie’s),” she said. “There are a lot of great people there who enjoy what they’re doing.”
Gengebacher said it was neat that when she returned home to Illinois, she noticed that the kettle corn was beginning to be sold in the local supermarkets.
“I needed to get a job to help pay for my classes,” she said. “I’ve always had a job, and I don’t know what I’d do if I didn’t have one. I need to have a schedule.”
Zach Romashko, a junior on the men’s basketball team, got a job on the grounds crew at Mankato Golf Club. He likes being outside, and he enjoys golf, but his job starts at 6 a.m. Not a lot of athletes are looking for reasons to wake up with the sun to mow grass or rake sand traps six days per week.
“It really works out well with my schedule,” Romashko said. “It gets me up in the morning, and it makes me go to bed early. It gives me the rest of the day to work out.”
Romashko said there are about eight Mavericks who have stayed all summer, though the entire team was back to work the youth camps earlier this summer. There’s weightlifting and pickup basketball games to fill some of the days, but by the time Romashko gets to the gym, he’s already put in a four-hour work day that gives him some extra spending money.
“I like the guys I’m working with (at the golf club),” Romashko said. “And I like being outside. It’s a good situation for me.”