Former Hall of Fame interns return for Cooperstown Symposium
The returning trio – Adam Berenbak, Eric Poulin and Hanna Soltys – have embarked on successful careers thanks in part due to their summer spent awash in the game’s long history.
Coincidently, the 18-member Class of 2022 for the Frank and Peggy Steele Internship Program for Youth Leadership Development began the same week as the Symposium.
Now in its 20th year – and after a two-year in-person break due to COVID-19 – the 10-week Steele Internship Program allows the college students to study in a variety of disciplines at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum. Since it began in 2001, more than 400 interns have worked at the Hall of Fame.
The 33rd Cooperstown Symposium on Baseball and American Culture, held June 1-3 at the Hall of Fame, is arguably the country’s preeminent academic baseball conference. Known more for its presentations on baseball off the field, tackling such subjects as art, music, poetry, literature, economics and architecture – to name a few – it provides a unique platform for men and women from around the country to discuss baseball and its relation to society.
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The Museum in Cooperstown features more than 50,000 square feet of exhibits devoted to the National Pastime.
Berenbak was a Steele intern back in 2008 working in the Hall of Fame Library in technical services. Today, he’s an archivist with the Center for Legislative Archives, which is part of the National Archives in Washington, D.C. His Symposium presentation was entitled: “Herb Hunter’s 1922 Tour of Japan and the Film that Almost Was”.
“Interning at the Hall of Fame really opened doors when I was looking for jobs. It is something that pops out when somebody looks at it on your resume or just talk about it in an interview setting. It sticks out in somebody’s mind,” Berenbak said. “The reason why I love baseball is because it kind of seeps through all different genres and walls and cultures. Whenever you talk to somebody and baseball comes up, it’s something that’s still part of their life and part of their experience.”
Looking back, Berenbak looks on his Hall of Fame internship as a great experience.
“It was 100 percent a positive, but even then I didn’t care because I still had so much fun. To me it was really just a matter of getting the training and learning about the archival world,” he said. “So a win-win.
“I will tell you my favorite moment. That year Jackie Robinson’s plaque was updated to reflect the importance of his integration of the game. They held a ceremony and Rachel Robinson attended it and I was able to be here to hold the door for her and move about the ceremony. Obviously I wasn’t a part of it and I wasn’t really involved in it at all, but even just to be on the very fringe of something like that was amazing.”
Poulin, a Steele intern in 2002 working in the Hall of Fame’s Giamatti Research Center, is currently a Professor of Library and Information Science at Simmons University in Boston.
“The internship was really just an incredible thing,” he said. “I literally just got an email that spring and it said the Hall of Fame was looking for research interns. And I was like, ‘Wait a minute. You can be a baseball librarian? That’s something that exists?’ So I hopped right on it and came here that summer.”
“I tell my students all the time to do something that will set you apart from the pack. Once I got those interviews, it was up to me to sink or swim. But absolutely, when people saw that I interned at the Baseball Hall of Fame, they were like: ‘This guy could potentially be interesting. Let’s talk to him.’ They wanted to talk about what the experience was like, but then I had to sell myself in other ways. But that absolutely opened most of the big doors of the early part of my career.”
Poulin’s Symposium talk was “Miracle on Beech Street: A History of the Holyoke Millers, 1977-1982”. He grew up 10 minutes from the Double-A team’s ballpark.
“I thought it’d be a significant thing for me – 20 years after being an intern – to come back and to talk about not only the impact the Hall of Fame had on me, but the impact that our minor league baseball team had in my town,” Poulin said. “The first thing that I said to the first group of interns was about my first experience here. I had been an intern here for a week and it was Memorial Day and there was a big event honoring Hall of Fame members who had been in the service.
“The event is in the Plaque Gallery and the Hall of Famers are coming in for the ceremony. And Warren Spahn, who was one of my father’s heroes, stops, points at me, looks at me and says, ‘Hey, would you look at that guy?’ I go into a panic attack. I just got here. What did I do? And I realized his plaque is right over my shoulder. He wasn’t pointing to me at all. I shared with the interns that moment of panic, telling then that nothing’s going to be as bad or as nerve-wracking I hope for them as that moment was for me.”
For Soltys, being an intern at the Giamatti Research Center in 2017 has led to her current position as a reference librarian in the Prints and Photographs Division at the Library of Congress.
“After my Hall of Fame internship I actually went and worked with the Boston Red Sox for a semester,” she said. “I went to the Library of Congress in 2018 as part of their inaugural Librarians in Residence program for recent grads, received a full time job offer six months later, and I’ve been there ever since.”
Soltys was attending Simmons College when she got news of the Hall of Fame internship, a period she looks back on fondly.
While Soltys joked that being back at the Hall of Fame was bittersweet “knowing that you can’t just kind of walk in and do your own thing,” she did cherish revisiting old haunts.
“It’s really great to walk by Doubleday Field and think, ‘Oh, remember when we held this event there?’ Even just walking down Main Street and seeing the places that we used to stop at along the way, it’s still very special five years later.”
As for any advice she would give to members of the incoming class of Hall of Fame interns, Soltys said she would tell them to seek out experiences aside from the ones that they’re assigned to.
“Just because you’re in public programs or in manuscript archives doesn’t mean you can’t get exposed to other parts of the Museum and staff,” Soltys said. “I found a lot of staff were more than willing to sit down and talk with you for 20 minutes just about their job and how they got here. That is something that I think is very valuable as you continue to grow in your career.”
Bill Francis is the senior research and writing associate at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum