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What pretending to be Marlins Man taught me about work-life balance

This Bay Area PR exec has taken his love of baseball—and hairbrained shenanigans—to a soul-feeding new level.

What pretending to be Marlins Man taught me about work-life balance
“Marlins Man” Laurence Leavy [Photo: Scott Winters/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images]

If you watch a lot of American sports, you’ll know who the Marlins Man is. If you don’t, the mini-documentary The Man in Orange does a great job explaining him. If you watch a lot of Major League Baseball on TV in the San Francisco Bay Area, you may be aware that there is an imposter pretending to be him. That imposter is me.

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Laurence Leavy, known to sports fans as the Marlins Man, has been to 25+ Super Bowls and 100+ World Series Games and is ostentatiously visible at each and every one of those bucket-list level sporting events. He’s an active practicing workers compensation attorney in Florida who settles most of his cases out of court and, because of that, he’s been able to actively travel the country going to any important sporting event he wants to go to.

For any normal working stiff, the work-life balance Marlins Man demonstrates appears impossible. Not a lot of people can relate, except for those that share a passion and appreciation for attending so many sporting events.

One of my first real full-time jobs was with Current TV, a cable television network that no longer exists and was headquartered directly across the street from Oracle Park, home of the San Francisco Giants. Leveraging my proximity to the ballpark with the fact that I collect autographed baseball memorabilia as a hobby, it was a no-brainer for me to buy into becoming a single season ticket holder. Because my workdays started at noon, for day games where the stadium opened at 10:45 a.m., I would go into the ballpark, get whatever memorabilia I brought with me to get autographed during batting practice, and then leave before noon to clock in.  Then maybe catch the end of the game when I go out for my lunch break—when MLB had more lenient reentry policies. For night games, I would take my lunch break during the window of time when the park opened for night games and get memorabilia autographed for an hour before running back across the street to continue my work day at my desk.

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This lifestyle was too good to be true: my role, and the whole TV network doesn’t even exist today, and as a result of the economic downturn of 2008-09, I needed to find myself a more sustainable career and profession. I wound up working in public relations. I joke that my time at Current TV felt like two and a half years of professionally goofing off and I would never achieve that again. 

I somehow figured out a way to “will it” to happen.

Friends of mine provided me access to sets of high visibility seats—the kind of seats that Marlins Man would be seen sitting in—behind home plate for a number of Oakland Athletics games. One day, I thought since I was down there, I might give wearing a Marlins jersey and visor a shot. Mr. Leavy took notice on Twitter and went out of his way to provide me with the orange visor to accurately complete the look and from there, my imposter antics took off.

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The visibility of these shenanigans reached their peak when both the real Marlins Man and I were seated behind home plate at an ESPN-televised game between the Oakland A’s and New York Yankees on a Tuesday night.

By no means am I financially able to travel the country to do anything like this at every major market nationally televised baseball game like the real guy does, but I do enjoy enough work-life flexibility where I can sign off at a reasonable hour to give myself enough time to attend plenty of games between Oakland and San Francisco. 

Own your work and own your time

Real Marlins Man travels all over the country going to the games he wants to attend and be seen at. However, he finds the time during his travel, whether on the plane, in his hotel rooms, or at home, to do all the work he needs to around making a visible presence at these sporting events around the country.

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Prior to the pandemic, all employees at my employer Hotwire Global Communications were already well set up to work remotely from wherever they  could be more productive—on site, on clients’ sites, or at home—as long as they get their 40 or so hours a week done. As a result, I’ve felt that I’m in an environment where I am supported from above, adjacent to, and below me across teams I work with. I’ve been able to tell teams when I’m going to work “Eastern or Midwestern Time” hours while based on the West Coast, so that I can get a head start going to baseball games and get memorabilia autographed or preparing and getting settled into games where I’m behind home plate as the “Imposter Marlins Man” before the televised games begin. The work-life balance I enjoy through this is actually so good, that people joke that they think that all of the activity around baseball game trips must be my full-time job while my full-time tech PR work is just a side hustle. 

Being present and visible

Whether you’re setting the boundaries to be off the clock, to be present for your family and friends, or at baseball games front and center often on television, showing that you’re present leaves an impression on those you’re investing your time with. 

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I’m quite present across Slack and email while on the clock, so no one really doubts whether or not I’m engaged with our pressing work-related needs, while also being present for the people I spend my pregame activities with at the ballpark. I’m also quite visibly present on TV often enough as an imposter Marlins Man, that people who watch Giants home games from their homes or sports bars see that I’m irrefutably there. The real Marlins Man would text me about how great it is that people will take to Twitter and/or text and call him to freak out over the fact that there is someone on the West Coast pretending to be him.

Shortcuts, loopholes, and workarounds

There are friends from my earlier adulthood days that grew apart from me over the years because it’s hard to relate to someone who goes to 100+ MLB games per year on top of trying to balance full-time work when people have more demanding attention required from their work and family. I’ve used office proximity, early arrivals to justify early clock outs, strategically planned “lunch breaks” to fit all of my activity into this balancing act I’ve somehow made work for me. There are people I see regularly at the ballpark from all walks of life and varying career fields who figure out ways to make it work for them.

The one thing people forget when they see the real Marlins Man at so many games is that he’s been the example of figuring out an amazing work-life balance put into practice while having no budget restrictions to limit him. I’m not able to do things at that scale, but with what I have been able to do, I’m pretty grateful for the people around me who’ve been supportive in enabling the flexibility I’ve been able to enjoy to make this all work.

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Ken Ozeki is director of media strategy at Hotwire, a public relations and communications services company.


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