Dream comes true for Westport's Max Orland
There are many who go through life saying, "I can't," but 23-year-old Westport resident Max Orland is one who, from an early age, said, "I can."
Orland has a significant disability that involves learning, speech and language, yet he never let that stop him from fulfilling a dream of working for the Boston Red Sox. He began an internship with the seven-time World Series champions early last month in Fort Myers, Fla., where the Red Sox do their spring training.
The road to the Red Sox wasn't exactly an easy one. Orland struggles in academic areas. Reading is exceedingly difficult for him, writing is tough and conventional learning is not easy. Even so, he wanted to head off to college, and take regular classes, after graduating from Staples High School four years ago.
He could have gone to a local university and participated in a life skills program that would have kept him among a limited number of students, and students with disabilities. Orland didn't want that.
He wanted to experience college life like so many others do. He wanted to be among a diverse group of people, even if that meant his mainstream course-load would require significantly more effort.
Orland ultimately decided to attend the University of Delaware (UD). He hasn't regretted the decision. He gained valuable experience for his Boston Red Sox gig, getting involved in the sports management program, as well as becoming student manager of UD's baseball team, and a manager of the men's basketball team. No matter the task, Orland does it all without complaint.
In addition, for three straight summers -- 2007, 2008 and 2009 -- Orland "did a little of everything" with the Bridgeport Bluefish. He mainly worked in the clubhouse but once had to don the outfit of the team's mascot, B.B. the Bluefish. In summer 2009, the Bridgeport Bluefish wasn't the only baseball team Orland interned with. He also worked for the Pawtucket Red Sox, a Rhode Island-based affiliate of the Boston Red Sox. Orland assisted with concessions on game days.
Out of all he's done both on and off campus, he perhaps had the greatest experience with UD's baseball team. He's been with the team his entire three years at UD, and as Orland's mother Carole said, "They embraced him, he became a part of their family." He wasn't a player but he might as well have been. He was at every single practice, every single game.
"When they were there, he was there," Carole said. She said his work with the baseball and basketball teams provided Orland a vehicle to expand his social horizons. Orland may have difficulty with academics, but he has a personality that draws people to him. Countless professors and coaches at UD took to him and became mentors.
To fulfill his dream of working with the Red Sox, Orland had to leave that extended family at UD for a couple of months. However, he'll return to help the baseball team at the end of its season when the Red Sox wrap up their spring training in April. Orland has been working with the Boston Red Sox as a clubhouse attendant for less than a month, yet he's already becoming a part of that family. He's earned a nickname down in Fort Myers -- "MaxLovin," since players find him to be a dead ringer for "McLovin," one of the main characters in the movie Superbad.
Orland's day begins at 7 a.m. and usually wraps up around 6 p.m. The team began practice games earlier this week and, as such, his workdays have extended beyond 6 p.m. He could be found doing everything from putting equipment in its proper place to cleaning cleats and putting laundry away. It's a lot of work and long days, but Orland wouldn't have it any other way.
"I enjoy going in every day. Everybody is so nice," he said. When pressed as to who the nicest players are, Orland was hesitant to name names. However, he ultimately revealed that Dustin Pedroia and Kevin Youkilis are the most sociable with him.
"These are the guys I talk to every day," he said. But ever the diplomat, Orland wanted to make sure to add that everyone on the team is nice.
Orland is staying at a Holiday Inn with numerous athletes from the Boston Red Sox organization's farm system. The clubhouse managers often take him out to eat and occasionally he's rubbing elbows -- off the field -- with the major league players he's been following for years.
However, he hasn't let the experience of working with his favorite baseball team affect what he went there to do. Orland said he's down in Fort Myers to do whatever is needed of him and to "learn as much as I can."
"It's a great opportunity," he said, and added that he hopes it can lead to a paid position in the future.
Carole, an attorney, said she's normally a pretty verbal person, but when her son landed the internship with the Red Sox she was "beyond words."
`It's such an extraordinary situation that he really created for himself," she said. "He knew what he wanted to do and he did it. It leaves us [his parents] speechless."
The two-credit internship will likely wrap up Orland's schooling at UD. He hasn't been working toward a degree but rather an advanced certificate in sports management. If Orland does land a paying job with the Boston Red Sox, he won't be the first in the family to land a gig with a famous organization or entity that is in the limelight year in and year out. His older brother Michael is the musical director of American Idol.
Carole said her younger son is a perfect example of what individuals can do, even with disabilities. However, Orland acknowledges coming as far as he has wasn't a solo effort.
"I had great tutors, people who went the extra step to help me. I had great support from coaches and professors," he said.