Western Washington University softball catcher Emily Paulson’s summer internship with the Portland Pickles was a typical gig for a broadcast-career hopeful, until she had to call upon a different skill set of hers.
The Pickles, a summer wood bat collegiate baseball team that competes in the West Coast League, welcomed Paulson in mid-June. She was able to try her hand at numerous gameday tasks with the ball club over two months.
“They kind of threw me in there. I got to try out a lot of different things,” Paulson said. “I got to work the merchandise tent, do some on-field announcing, I even got to do PA and some social media content ... I got to try everything that goes along with baseball operations, and everything it really takes to run a team.”
During the Pickles' July 8 game versus the Portland Gherkins, Paulson was called up to the plate. The at-bat made her the first-ever woman to suit up and play for the Portland Pickles.
“It was something that I will never forget, and something that was so in the moment,” Paulson said. “I go up to bat, and I think I blacked out during my at-bat. I don’t really remember it that well.”
Better yet, Paulson put bat to ball. She ended up going out at first, but avoiding a strikeout was what mattered to her most.
Emily Paulson makes contact with the ball during her at-bat with the Portland Pickles on July 8. (Photo courtesy of Cameron Parker)
“I remember running down the baseline and being like, ‘Why am I not there yet?’ And it’s because the baseball bases are 30 feet [further] compared to softball,” Paulson said with a laugh.
The occasion was sort of planned, sort of impromptu. Ross Campbell, formerly the Pickles’ general manager and now vice president of baseball operations, mentioned the idea to Paulson the night before during a staff batting practice. He told her to bring her softball gear, just in case.
An hour before the game the next day, Campbell said she probably wouldn’t suit up. About 40 minutes later, he changed his mind.
Paulson was called behind the third base dugout, where a bag of uniforms had been plopped on the ground. Campbell told her to grab one.
“I grabbed the smallest jersey I could find,” Paulson said. “I had to tie my belt so tight because there are just these huge pants left.”
In the sixth inning, she was called upon. Her name was announced over the public address system, and she picked up a wood bat. Paulson was given a bouquet for being selected as the “Sweetheart of the Game,” an in-game promotional award the Pickles hand out.
Then, the crowd stood up and provided Paulson with an ovation she will remember forever.
Emily Paulson smiles at the plate during her at-bat with the Portland Pickles on July 8. (Photo courtesy of Cameron Parker)
“I’m just so thankful for the Pickles organization for even giving me an opportunity to even do something like that,” Paulson said. “It’s just something that I will never forget.”
Paulson learned a lot about herself from the internship, she said. She made connections that will last a lifetime and further solidified her desire to enter the sports media field.
At Western, Paulson is a double major in news/editorial journalism and accounting. Her motivation for the latter was her love for sports statistics.
“I’ve always been a huge sports fan my whole life,” Paulson said. “My dad was a stay-at-home dad while my mom went back to work, and he would just sit me in front of the TV while he was watching SportsCenter. So, I grew up just only watching sports.”
Paulson hopes to do on-air reporting, whether that be for a local station or internally for an organization. Her dream job is becoming a SportsCenter anchor.
Emily Paulson, right, and co-intern Ashtyn Gates while on the job at a Portland Pickles game this past summer. (Photo courtesy of Cameron Parker)
“It’s just something that I’m so passionate about, and I want to be passionate about my work,” Paulson said.
As a sophomore for Western’s softball team last season, Paulson appeared in 12 games and started eight. She qualified for the Great Northwest Athletic Conference All-Academic team and tallied two hits, one run and an RBI on the season.
Paulson will return for her junior season in the spring and is assisting WWU Athletics with some video media and interviewing in the meantime.
Her favorite part of the experience with the Pickles was what came after being on the field. Paulson said she was approached by fans multiple times at subsequent games saying how awesome it was that she got to play for the team.
“One person told me, they were like, ‘Oh you inspired my daughter.’ I thought it was so amazing,” Paulson said. “In the moment you don’t realize how much of an impact you have, until afterward. Those people coming up to me made me think so differently.”
A previous version of this story incorrectly stated that Emily Paulson's at-bat came in a game versus the Cowlitz Black Bears. The Pickles' opponent in that game was the Portland Gherkins of the Wild Wild West League. The story was updated to reflect these changes at 12:05 p.m. on Oct. 27. Cascadia Daily News regrets the error.