When Ryan Nicholson graduated from Xavier High School a few years ago, he first headed for the University of Connecticut to study biology. While there, he felt the bio route didn’t really work for him, so the Middletown native enrolled at Middlesex Community College to explore other educational options.
As a full-time Middlesex student and while working full-time, Ryan took general studies classes and eventually landed in an art class with Professor Judith DeGraffenried. During this period, he discovered a genuine interest in graphic design. Little did he know it at the time, this became the point where his future career and his lifelong enthusiasm for baseball would intersect.
In his final semester at Middlesex, Ryan accepted a graphic design internship with a popular local sports team, the New Britain Bees. The Bees organization is a member of the independent Atlantic League of Professional Baseball (not affiliated with Major League Baseball) and hosts 72 home games during the season.
Meanwhile, despite some initial doubts from his family about studying art, Ryan went on to graduate from Middlesex with an associate degree in graphic design and new media in 2017.
After completing his internship with the Bees, Ryan’s front office opportunity bee-lined into a full-time gig starting in May 2017. However by November that year, he was laid-off by the team.
But Ryan’s hopes were not completely dashed. Growing up a Boston Red Sox fan, baseball was always a passion for him, and next came his chance to break into the Major League affiliated minor league program. He decided to attend the MLB’s Baseball Winter Meetings in Orlando that December to seek better opportunities. This annual event is the perfect place to get face time with professional baseball management, especially for internships and entry-level roles.
Ryan soon found himself moving to North Carolina to begin a graphic design position with the Winston-Salem Dash, a Class A Advanced Minor League affiliate with the Chicago White Sox. As part of the Carolina League, the Class A Advanced teams play a longer season than Class A or Class A Short teams.
While designing sales collateral and season ticket books for the Dash, Ryan reflected on the courses he took with Middlesex instructors Pat Rasch and Rick Eriksen. Impressed with Instructor Rasch’s freelance work in book publishing, Ryan now appreciates the diligence of her Adobe InDesign class. He also admires the extensive experience Professor Eriksen brought to the new media classes, especially in the area of troubleshooting, something Ryan didn’t expect from a community college.
Ryan looks at the progression of his career this way, “If you’re not happy doing something you don’t want to do, you won’t magically become happy. I’d rather be doing something that makes me happy to begin with, and for now it’s baseball and design.”
Written by Thea Moritz