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02/09/11 11:33 AM EST

For Hawthorne, fun is name of the game

As MLB.com celebrates Black History Month, we will tell the stories of influential African-Americans throughout the game of baseball. Today we'll explore Corey Hawthorne's story, from his days interning at NASCAR to being one of the main men in charge of the fan experience at Great American Ball Park.

CINCINNATI -- Enthusiasm and a positive attitude aren't just a daily way of life for Reds front-office employee Corey Hawthorne. It's a core portion of his job description.

Hawthorne is an event coordinator in Cincinnati's marketing and promotions department, and is also in charge of the "Reds Heads" kids club. If you can't have a good time handling just about any situation, you can't do Hawthorne's job.

On a given gameday during the season, Hawthorne works to maximize the fan experience at Great American Ball Park -- and that includes coordinating the Reds Rally Pack of entertainers, or the club's three mascots, or helping with the team's ceremonial first pitches, or organizing the honor guard and singer for the national anthem, and any or all in-game entertainment between innings and on the concourses.

Duty also calls during the offseason. At the end of last month, Hawthorne logged over 1,000 miles as a member of the Reds Caravan advance team, to set up for each stop and help make sure they go smoothly.

"All of those things fall under the umbrella of our department. All of the fan stuff, I enjoy it," Hawthorne said. "You definitely have to be in a great mood. I see it that we work in entertainment. People want to have fun. You don't want to be the one to suck the life out of it. Fans paid with their money and time. The least I can do is make sure I see to it they have a good time. You can change a fan's or a kid's day in a second by doing something so that they'll remember that day for years. I can say I helped them do that.

"Whether the team is playing good or bad, you can't let it affect you. I take the mentality that this is somebody's first game and you want to make that first game memorable. We try to make sure fans have fun."

Hawthorne, who turns 26 on Friday, is headed into his fifth season with the Reds after graduating from Xavier University with a sports marketing degree in 2007. His ability to land a job in baseball was not only a tribute to his resume and personality, but also with being in the right place at the right time.

Already having successful internships with Gatorade, NASCAR and an independent Minor League team in Camden, N.J., in his past, Hawthorne was an XU senior when the Reds came to campus to recruit for front-office interns. At first, he had no interest.

"My roommate said 'Why don't you go?' I had a guaranteed job already with NASCAR, but I thought I could try and pad my resume," he said. "They said I was overqualified because I did a lot of that stuff at my other internships. I walked away thinking I had heard the last from them."

The 30-minute interview proved to not be a waste of time. After being told he was overqualified, Hawthorne still chatted with director of promotions Zach Bonkowski, and he impressed.

It didn't take long for the Reds to call back, but not about an internship. They instead offered a full-time staff position in the marketing department.

"It was at this time when the Reds planned to start a kids club," Hawthorne said. "I had experience running a kids club with the Minor League team."

Goodbye NASCAR, hello baseball.

Getting into a career within baseball wasn't a life goal initially for Hawthorne, who grew up in hardscrabble West Philadelphia, the same neighborhood that boasts actor/rapper Will Smith. Working with athletes -- especially on community endeavors that promoted positive influences -- was something that he aspired to do.

"It wasn't the best neighborhood. A lot of people didn't graduate high school, and the teen pregnancy rate was astronomical," Hawthorne said. "There were not a lot of good influences. I made it out and I want to give back. Despite the adversity, there's nothing special about me. If I can do it, anyone else can do it. Nobody will just give it to you. I know athletes can really motivate [people] to see that."

Hawthorne's life influences were not famous people like Smith or any professional athletes. They came from within his family.

"I take the mentality that this is somebody's first game and you want to make that first game memorable. We try to make sure fans have fun."
-- Corey Hawthorne

"My older sister is a huge influence," he said. "We went to the same grade school and high school, and we often had the same teachers. She left a legacy of being a great student, the role model of a well-rounded person. I was Danielle Hawthorne's little brother, and wanted to live up to the Hawthorne name. I always said if she did it, I could do it, too. I sort followed in her footsteps.

"I have two great parents that have been married 26 years and they have always been supportive of me. I've always been able to follow my dreams. They let me do what I wanted and let me live my life. They said if you want to do something, try it. Why not you?"

That attitude helped land Hawthorne a starring spot in a Skyline Chili commercial along with front-office executive Ryan Rizzo, which is currently airing. Hawthorne, who enjoys the local delicacy despite being an out-of-towner, made an off-hand joke to Skyline advertisers that he could promote the product well. A year later, Skyline came calling.

Last weekend, Hawthorne was at the stadium as a batch of applicants tried out for the Reds Rally Pack and hoped "Why not them?"

If they can keep up with Hawthorne's passion and energy, there is a good chance they will get a call back, just like he did a few years ago.

You never know.

"The mentality I have is two things," Hawthorne said. "The worst someone can say is no. Don't be afraid to ask. The possibilities are endless. You always have to stay hungry and passionate, or someone else might come and get what you want. It motivated me to get all the internships I had, and it got me where I am today."

Mark Sheldon is a reporter for MLB.com Read his blog, Mark My Word and follow him on Twitter @m_sheldon. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.