CLINE: Caretaker of the clubhouse

Nick Dixon

Nick Dixon

Nick Dixon is the Gwinnett Braves’ clubhouse manager, but the title does little to explain his duties, not that any short description could. When it comes to taking care of the players, there’s not much Dixon doesn’t do.

From cooking before and after games, to washing uniforms, to running errands or sewing on a name plate to the back of a jersey, Dixon does a little bit of everything. Though he’s spent his career in baseball, he says his skills equate perfectly with another job.

“My job would probably make me a perfect house wife, to be honest,” Dixon said.

Like a parent getting their kids ready for school, being a clubhouse manager is all about getting the players ready for the game. Dixon, who is assisted by Dakota King, said the goal of his job is pretty concise:

“Do whatever it takes to get the guys to concentrate on nothing but baseball,” he said. “That might mean picking their wife up from the airport, helping them do their taxes or going out and buying a birthday card for them (to send). Whatever it takes so that all their focus is going out and playing baseball.”

Accomplishing that goal requires Dixon, who lives in Buford with his wife Teresa and three children, to be a jack of all trades. Some of it can be as random as returning a rental car for a player (which kept him busy on Tuesday even though the team was on the road) while other duties are scheduled, like the meals he cooks before batting practice and after games. Dixon said he thinks his cooking abilities set him apart and have led to a 20-year career in baseball, the last 15 in the Atlanta Braves organization.

“I think what does make me a good clubhouse manager is I do cook, and not everybody does,” Dixon said. “When you’re dealing with these guys, how good you do the food is how good your day is going to go in the clubhouse.”

When the G-Braves are in town, an average day for Dixon involves arriving at the ballpark at 10:30 a.m. and staying until nearly 2 a.m. In addition to the cooking, he orders and organizes the equipment, makes sure the uniforms are clean and even runs errands for the players.

He stays busy even when the team is on the road. For instance, on Tuesday he got together equipment and sewed a name plate on a jersey for newly acquired pitcher Kameron Loe. He then sent the stuff to Pawtucket, R.I., where the G-Braves are currently playing.

Though the hours and duties can be crazy, Dixon loves what he does. And though on occassion he’s thought about doing something different, he can’t leave the game.

“I’ve thought about getting out of baseball many times, but my wife always talks me out of it,” he said. “This is just something I do and something I’ve always done. I just don’t feel comfortable in the 9 to 5 setting.”

Professionally, baseball is all Dixon has known. He got his start in his native Spokane, Wash., with the Spokane Indians minor league team.

“I was the kid who rode his bike down to the stadium but couldn’t afford to go in,” Dixon said. “One day I was loitering around and they asked me to come in and be a bat boy.”

He went from that to shagging fly balls to becoming the visiting clubhouse manager in 1994. He moved to Richmond, Va., in ‘98 and then followed the club when it moved to Gwinnett. It’s a unique job that has allowed him to meet some unique people, and that, he said, is what stands out most about his career.

“You meet people from all walks of life,” Dixon said. “And some of them go on to become $100 million players on SportsCenter and others go on to be school teachers that you get to see in the summer.

“The different personalities are what stands out.”

The nature of Dixon’s job is not to stand out. But he does his best every day to make sure the players can do just that.

Email Todd Cline at todd.cline@gwinnettdailypost.com. His column appears on Wednesdays.