Senior Finds His Field of Dreams
With less than a month to go until graduation day, most college seniors are busy wrapping up coursework and looking ahead to what's next — from grad school, to service projects, to beginning meaningful work in their fields of study.
The same holds true for Augustana senior Ryan Turnquist, a business communication and sport management major from Minnesota. After commencement next month, he’ll say goodbye to good friends, pack up his car, and head east to pursue the one field he’s most passionate about.
Field, as in, baseball field. That magical diamond where all dreams come true. The place where the crack of a bat delivers automatic goose bumps, the smell of a glove permeates our senses, and where names like Babe, Mantle, Gehrig and Cobb need no further explanation.
But, not just any field – Turnquist will spend the summer as a communications/public relations intern at the place that celebrates the game’s greatest fields, its best players and its most memorable moments – the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York.
And he can’t wait to get there.
Internship to Internship
A lifelong baseball fan and a graduate of New London-Spicer High School, Turnquist worked as an usher for the Minnesota Twins at Target Field last summer. Someone there encouraged him to apply for the Hall of Fame internship position.
“There were about 350 applicants. I was told they interviewed the top five percent,” he said.
He’ll spend the summer copywriting for the Hall of Fame’s website and print publications, and helping to prepare media kits ahead of the annual induction ceremony in July.
For Turnquist, it’s an opportunity that could, hopefully, open other doors.
“My dream is to be the director of communications for a major league baseball team someday,” he said.
The Road to Here
To watch Turnquist talk about baseball is to witness true happiness.
“I’m a huge Minnesota Twins fan. Target Field is my heaven,” he said. “I love everything about the game – the analytics, the smell of the leather, the crack of the bat, the history, the pace of each inning, the feel of the dirt. I even love ballpark food.”
“When I was 8 years old, I got to visit the Twins’ dugout and meet some of the players – that meant so much to me. I love that team. I met Kirby Puckett a long time ago and got to shake his hand – I’ll never forget that.”
His love for baseball is nothing short of exceptional, especially considering he’s rarely had a chance to play the game.
Born 12 weeks early, Turnquist weighed just 2 pounds, 10 ounces at birth. His twin sister, Shelby, weighed less than that at 2 pounds, 7 ounces.
At three days old, his lung collapsed, causing internal bleeding on his brain. The result was a mild form of cerebral palsy.
Growing up, Turnquist endured multiple major surgeries to help with his balance and fine motor issues. After a double leg reconstruction surgery, he spent the entire seventh grade in a wheelchair. Today, he walks with the help of crutches.
Despite his physical challenges, Turnquist says he’s lucky.
“I’m so lucky compared to other people. I have a great life, I just got this great internship, I have my family, I have my friends,” he said. “I refuse to ask ‘why me?’ Instead, I wonder how I got so lucky.”
Finding a Home at Augustana
As a high school student considering colleges, Turnquist said he ended up visiting Augustana because his twin sister, Shelby, was coming for a campus tour.
“I was on campus for five minutes and I just knew it felt right,” he said. “I could feel the closeness of the community.”
After their campus tour, Shelby also chose Augustana. A nursing major, she will graduate next month along with her brother.
Turnquist chose his major, he said, because of his passion for baseball.
“I kept coming back to my passion for sports. When you think about it, you spend one third of your life working. I want to do something I’m passionate about,” he said.
He counts a number of professors and staff as important mentors to him.
“The whole Communications department has been amazing – my advisor Dr. John Bart, Dr. Mike Nitz, Dr. Heather Bart – they’re all so great. Dr. David O’Hara (Philosophy) has been fantastic to me. Corey Camp, director of the Augustana Fund, was amazing to me – always willing to stick his neck out to help me.”
Looking ahead, Turnquist is excited to see what the future holds.
“I believe everything happens for a reason,” he said, smiling. “My sister got offered a nursing position the same week I was offered this internship. Our parents were pretty happy.”
“I can’t wait to see what happens next.”