CLEVELAND — The ability to successfully pull off any major event like next month's MLB All Star Game is tied to a city's ability to recruit a large number of courteous, friendly and informed volunteers. For Cleveland that's not only not a problem, it's a major selling point.
"It's part of the reason that Cleveland has become known nationally for hosting these events because we have this infrastructure in place," said David Gilbert, President & CEO of the Greater Cleveland Sports Commission. "So when it comes to everything from volunteers and vendors and you can go on and list dozens of different things, we know how to do it. We have the people behind it, we can pick up the phone and get it done."
They hoped for around 6,000 volunteers for the Republican National Convention in 2016, they got over 8,000. When the Cleveland Indians and Major League Baseball put out a call for volunteers for the All-Star Game they broke another record with more than 10,000. Many will be helping with events around the ballpark and convention center others will be acting as airport assistants, hotel greeters and wayfinders.
The volunteers are often on the front lines and play a huge role in shaping the experience these visitors to Cleveland will have and the opinion of the city they will leave with.
"Let's say there's 20,000 people coming in for the All-Star Game. They'll be more than that but think of it as 20,000 first dates," Gilbert said. "How do you then convert some of them into long-term relationships and that's what we really look to do."