BY CAROLYN LaWELL
RANCHO CUCAMONGA, California | For nearly 20 years, Linda Rathfon designed beautiful bouquets. There was nothing ordinary about her choice of colors and shapes and final designs. She started Country Garden Flowers with friends, selling flowers out of buckets on street corners until they could afford their own shop. The hours were long and every day brought a new challenge. That mattered to Rathfon.
Almost two decades into her floral career, Rathfon, a diehard baseball fan since childhood, started working as part of the Rancho Cucamonga Quakes game day staff. That was 18 years ago, and again she has built a name for herself. Now director of group sales and guest relations, she has the longest tenure of any Quakes employee and has experienced almost all of the team’s 20-season history.
I started as a ticket taker at the front gate. There was an opportunity in the offseason to get involved with the Quakes and I said, ‘Ya.’ I owned my own business, so I could work my own hours. Then they asked me to come on full-time and I said, ‘Ya, absolutely.’
I bleed blue. My family was originally from the Midwest, from Iowa. When my father came out here, I was 3. I remember in the early days before the Dodgers were even in their stadium, they were still at the Coliseum. That was my earliest memory, and my father and my brother and I going to baseball games. My father taught me to keep score and I would score every game. I still do when I can sit and watch a game.
I romanticize baseball. I love the history of baseball. I love the nuances. My dad would always talk to me about why they were doing certain things on the field and it isn’t just what you see, it’s a mental game, as well. I think that’s what always fascinated me about it. There is nothing more thrilling. I never played it, I never played softball, but as a fan, there’s nothing more thrilling than a ninth-inning walk-off — just the excitement of the game as an onlooker. I can’t even imagine what it would be like to be a player and do that.
They asked me to join the group sales department. My favorite part was I was asked to visit all of the groups in the stadium and just check on them. So I moved into group sales, and that part of it I loved.
I also have the great pleasure of organizing the section leaders. I’ve done that for many years and it’s one of my great pleasures of the season. A wonderful group of people who really dedicate so much of themselves at the game, and they’re enjoying themselves and it’s their release from their eight-hour job or school. They have fun here, and I love working with them.
Choosing the name, the Quakes, and taking that theme to the Epicenter, to Tremor and Aftershock — the whole story is so identifiable with Southern California. I was in Wyoming visiting a cousin and I had a Quakes shirt on, and somebody stopped me and said, ‘The Quakes. I was there. I was at a ball game once.’ Rancho Cucamonga has a lot of assets that put it on the map — the name being one — but I think that we’ve really added to it. We were one of the first entertainment options of this kind in the area when they were building Rancho and there was nothing around us.
"I love the catcher position. I think it’s a very challenging position on a baseball field, so I’ve always been fascinated by catchers." — Linda Rathfon
This is the second ownership. You take what you learn from each regime and then you incorporate it into the next. Then when Brett Sports took over three years ago, I love this management, I love the camaraderie. They’re smart people who have reasons for why things happen, and they are all about customer service. We are here to wow the fans. And I believe in that and have always believed in that. I had my own business and that was sort of my mantra for my own business. Then they do it, they make it happen. People talk a good game, but actually making it happen is hard.
We were originally with the Padres for eight years and then we went to an Angels affiliation. It was OK with me because I’m a huge Mike Scioscia fan. He was my favorite Dodger ever. I love the catcher position. I think it’s a very challenging position on a baseball field, so I’ve always been fascinated by catchers. He was one of my favorite growing up, and before him Steve Yeager and Johnny Bench. Now being a Dodgers affiliate it’s like coming full circle, it’s how I grew up.
I can’t imagine not being here. Every single season is different, I work with different people. I like the challenges that go along with that. And it’s baseball. Every time it’s a long day and we’ve put in 14, 16, 18 hours in a day, and we’re exhausted, and we’ve made it work, I go home and I think I can’t do this another season. Then I come back and I say, ‘Are you kidding? Look at where we work.’
I keep my fingers crossed every year that I would be valuable enough to stay. That’s what makes you try to do better. Every year it’s a challenge. It’s never been mundane. It’s never been the same. Every year I try to do my job better and better.
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