SIOUX CITY | When St. Louis Cardinals relief pitcher John Axford takes the mound Wednesday, tens of millions of people will follow his every move.
Four months ago, Axford sat before Briar Cliff University student Kaitlin Meister. Tens of millions weren't following. The room had maybe two dozen people in it. Axford, "The Ax Man," he's called, participated as the first Milwaukee Brewers player to embrace social media.
Meister helped staff the event, one of her first duties as a summer intern for the Brewers.
"John's a very cool guy," Meister says. "Very personable."
Very famous, quite accomplished. The Cardinals righty enters the World Series having given up just three runs in 13 appearances since being traded from Milwaukee to St. Louis on Aug. 30. Axford, who earns $5 million annually, has 73,000 Twitter followers.
"It's cool," says Meister, a Briar Cliff senior. "I see someone I was in close contact with to now being in the World Series. I want to see him do well as part of the extended Brewer family."
On that day in late May, Axford pitched something beyond fastballs and sliders. He served up advice for those communicating via Twitter.
"He said Twitter allows fans to see him outside baseball," Meister recalls. "John said he could share things about his family, his favorite music, things like that. He could show more of his personal side."
It comes with a caveat.
"He said you have to be professional about it," she says. "Keep it professional."
Meister, a member of the BCU women's basketball team, uses Twitter herself. Like Axford, she keeps it professional, tweeting her gratitude to fans for supporting Briar Cliff teams. She also tweets upcoming game times and rivalries, encouraging her 362 followers to cheer on the Chargers.
Following basketball practice Wednesday, Meister will take a seat to watch this World Series with more of a critical eye, thanks to her internship. She realizes that while the game unfolds between the foul lines, there's all kinds of activity popping behind the scenes.
It's where Meister toiled from May 24 through mid-August. While her peers earned a few bucks as lifeguards and nannies, the daughter of Brett and Kelleen Meister of Mesa, Ariz., worked in an office at Miller Park in Milwaukee, Wis., preparing Brewers news clips, game notes and highlights.
"I gave all the information to both clubhouses (visitors and the Brewers) and to the TV and radio booths," she says.
One day, while sitting in the lunchroom at Miller Park, the Brewers' famous broadcaster, Bob Uecker, sauntered in. "He just stopped and said 'Hello' to everyone," she remembers.
Meister, a mass communication major/Spanish minor, entered the trade by working with the BCU Sports Information Department, writing "Jewel of the Week" features on her Charger peers. She also compiled BCU soccer statistics and announced a couple of softball games last spring.
Weeks later, the scope of her work changed. She quickly disseminated information between innings after Brewers center fielder Carlos Gomez hurt his shoulder. In an age of real-time communication, she came to realize how fast reporters work.
She also watched some media members gnash their teeth at a development she enjoyed: Extra innings.
"My first week with the Brewers, we had a game go 14 innings," she says. "And there was grumbling from the people working the game because they had to stay there a long time after it was over. As a fan, I always liked extra innings."
She also always liked the Los Angeles Dodgers. That fact leaves her grumbling about these Cardinals, who eliminated her favorite team last week in the National League Championship Series.
While Meister says she can't force herself to support the "Redbirds," a National League Central Division rival of the Brewers, she will cheer for St. Louis pitcher John Axford, a member of the Brewers' -- and, by extension, Kaitlin Meister's -- extended baseball family.
Heck, she may even tweet about "The Ax Man" and the wonderful summer job she had that allowed their paths to cross.
Who knows, maybe Meister will again be working behind the scenes when the 2014 "Fall Classic" takes place.
"A job with major league baseball would be a dream come true," she says.
Weighing that sentence, she offers an addendum: "The internship alone was a dream come true!"