OKC Dodgers recruit customer service star through iJobs disability training program
OKLAHOMA CITY - Carter Williams gets paid to rub dirt on new baseballs for the Oklahoma City Dodgers. Yes, that’s his job.
He also fills up buckets of ice for ice baths, scans tickets, ushers, stocks supplies and loads gear on “getaway day” when players head out of town.
Williams, age 18, is tall, blond and immediately likeable with a great, big smile.
A senior at Edmond Memorial High School, he is a man of action, rather than words, especially around strangers.
Williams wears a blue polo shirt and cap with Dodgers logos -- the official customer service uniform. A water bottle is tucked in the back pocket of his shorts.
He got his dream job through iJobs, a training program for high school students with disabilities operated by the Oklahoma Department of Rehabilitation Services.
“iJobs gives high school students the opportunity to possibly have their first paid work experience in an area related to their vocational interest,” said Kim Osmani, DRS Transition School-to-Work Coordinator for a range of job training programs including iJobs.
“For most, this experience helps solidify what vocational goal they want to work toward, and for a few, it helps them weed out those jobs they thought they wanted to do,” Osmani explains about the program she launched in 2013.
As a DRS Transition program client, Williams, who has an intellectual disability, is building good career skills and having a great time at the ballpark.
“I like my job,” Williams said. “I love it. I like to stay busy.”
Wayne Mosby, customer service manager and Williams’ supervisor agrees. “He’s punctual, and he’ll do whatever you ask him to do without raising an eyebrow.
“I haven’t put him out on the baseball field yet, but that’s next,” Mosby teased as Williams vigorously shook his head indicating no.
Clearly, there’s a bond between soft-spoken Williams and Mosby. They banter and joke as Mosby encourages Williams to “open up and talk” during the interview for this story.
“Wayne is a good man,” Williams said softly, wearing that constant smile.
“My motto is you try everything once, twice if you like it,” Mosby said. “I think you got to give every kid a chance – no matter disabilities or no disabilities. And I do that out here with people. I think every kid ought to have a chance to work at a ballpark, and other sporting venues should look into hiring these kids too.”
In an email to Mosby, Williams’ mother Nancy Williams wrote, “The wonderful way that you work with Carter, letting him deliver on his strengths and teasing him out of his comfort zone to work on his challenges, goes a long way to make you a hero in my books.”
Before he knew about iJobs, Mosby approached special education teachers Jeff Moore at Carl Albert High School and Dedra Strecker at Carl Albert Middle School for hiring recommendations. Three of those students are now working at the ballpark as part-time, seasonal employees.
When the Carl Albert teachers told Mosby about iJobs, he went to the top to sell the program. He asked DRS vocational rehabilitation counselor Carl Perkins from Midwest City to visit with OKC Dodgers President and General Manager Michael Byrnes and Director of Operations Mitch Stubenhofer. Top management supported the program and encouraged Mosby to work with two iJobs students as part of the Dodgers’ program.
Evan Todd from Moore works at the ballpark too and was hired through the iJobs program.
iJobs expanded this year to four locations: Norman High School, Owasso Mid-High School and Francis Tuttle Career Technology and Classen School of Advanced Studies, both in Oklahoma City.
Thirty-three students participate in the summer program, which includes half-days of classroom studies each week. That focus is job and social skills, money management, students’ workplace experiences – and ultimately building self-confidence. Students took field trips to volunteer at the Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma, window shop at the mall and Goodwill Industries, or visit the Federal Reserve Bank.
“As with any new program, it is better to grow slowly and improve upon what you do than to grow too fast and have things fall apart,” Osmani explained. “We are not without our bumps along the way, but we are better able to manage them well them at this pace.”
Bonnie Allen, who is Williams’ DRS vocational rehabilitation counselor, said, “Carter is a really nice kid who found the perfect job, and he’s doing great.”
The Oklahoma City Dodgers are the Triple-A affiliate of the Los Angeles Dodgers and have been a member of the Pacific Coast League since 1998. The team has won seven division titles in 17 seasons and plays home games at Chickasaw Bricktown Ballpark -- recognized as one of the best facilities in Minor League Baseball by several national publications. For more information, visit www.okcdodgers.com or phone 405-218-1000.
The Transition School-to-Work Program helps eligible students with disabilities get vocational rehabilitation services that prepare them for employment and life after high school. Services may include career counseling, vocational evaluation, work adjustment training, on-the-job training, work study, and job development and placement. iJobs is just one of the many programs DRS offers to help youth with disabilities prepare for employment after high school. For more information, contact DRS Transition at 405-635-2768 or 800-845-8476 toll free or visit DRS Transition on the web at www.okdrs.org/students/transition.