Dave Aichinger has one of those keep-everyone-happy jobs.
As senior manager of New Era Cap’s team services department, he visits with every Major League Baseball club three times a year: once at spring training, again during the season and finally over the winter at league meetings. He works with equipment managers to make sure the team is fully stocked with regular and one-time caps (like those worn on field for Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Sept. 11 and other special days). He helps players with special orders and with the occasional problem. (One time, for example, Aichinger helped change the material in a cap that a player felt was causing acne.)
Aichinger’s job is to keep big-league teams as happy customers. But it’s also his job to make sure the company’s brand is getting good play, particularly since New Era started investing significant marketing dollars last fall to have its flag logo visible on the side of game caps.
This time of year, that includes handing out New Era champagne goggles in the locker room for cork-popping, series-clinching celebrations. It also means monitoring every game to make sure players and coaches are wearing caps with the appropriate playoff patches on the side.
“This is our time of year to shine,” said Aichinger, who lives in Cheektowaga and has worked at New Era for 26 years. “Our product, on television, is being prominently displayed right now, so we want it to look as good as possible.”
He spoke recently to The News about making sure New Era products look good, why he carries a heat-sealing machine to playoff games and what happens to those other World Series caps.
Q: What does the rest of October look like for you?
A: It’s a lot of watching baseball. You try to watch every game, almost every pitch. Especially with the side patches, you want to make sure they all look good and that all the guys have the proper gear on. After clinch games, we’re watching for the celebration hats.
Q: If something is off or catches your attention, are you reaching out to the teams?
A: I send a lot of quick text messages to equipment managers asking them to check on this or that. The Red Sox played in the rain last night, and if they would have advanced, I would have checked with (their equipment manager) to see if they needed more hats. (Note: The Red Sox’ season ended Oct. 9 with a divisional-round loss to Houston.)
The team that clinches, you always check with them because a lot of guys will wear those caps into the locker room, and you want to make sure they have enough for the next round. You always want your product looking good.
It’s a fine line, though, because a lot of guys don’t want to change their caps once they start the playoffs. Or it might be a cap they’ve worn all the way through the season, and now it’s their lucky cap. That's why in some cases I’m onsite with a heat-seal machine affixing the current side patch.
Q: I know you travel to all the World Series games. Do you personally hand out the championship caps?
A: Yep. It’s a small group of people who run out onto the field and we hand out the product as fast as we can to get that exposure on television, and then back into the locker room quickly to hand out the New Era goggles and make sure our logo is well-displayed during the celebration, as well.
Q: What happens to the championship caps for the team that loses?
A: (Laughter) That’s the most frequently asked question. They get sent to an organization that’s based in Pennsylvania, and then they redistribute those caps to underprivileged countries through Major League Baseball. I believe that’s happening again this year.