I was outside proceeding toward the Walsh Athletic Center at Fairfield University to interview Zach Dayton, the Senior Associate Director of Athletics Marketing and Communications at Fairfield University on a mild, grey, cloudy November afternoon. There were empty tennis courts on the right and, to the left, the perfectly green turf of Rafferty Stadium hosting the Fairfield Prep football team practice. The Fairfield Prep football coaches yell out to the players, “let’s run another”, making everyone around take notice of what is occurring on the field.
As I walked inside the Athletic Center towards Dayton’s office, the walls were decorated with accolades received by former Fairfield student-athletes.
Sports have been a part of Dayton’s life for as long as he can remember. Nothing can compare to the joy sports gives him and the joy he sees it giving others as well. The sport that Dayton has connected with the most is baseball.
“I grew up a baseball guy. I played youth baseball growing up, I played basketball as well as being a golfer. Ultimately, I wanted to play college baseball. I did the entire recruiting process and I was able to get several different schools to provide scholarship opportunities to go play baseball. I got a Division-II offer to go play baseball at Pace University and be a pitcher for their baseball team,” said Dayton.
Even though he was a part of Pace’s rotation, he acquired interest elsewhere as well, which developed his skills at his job now at Fairfield. Being a player did not stop Dayton from being a part of different facets of the program, be it game day operations, working in the Pace Athletic Department and even maintaining the Pace baseball field.
“After my sophomore year, I started working in the athletic department as [part of the] game ops/event staff. I used to work landscaping of the fields and I took care of the baseball field. Also, for a lot of it, I was not paid but I did not ask for it. I just really like taking care of baseball fields and I always have since it is an art form. Then the guy at Pace, who has a similar job as as me, came up to me and asked me, ‘do you ever want to get paid for this?’ I was like ‘sure, that’d be great’ so it expanded my role to more of game ops and I started to work basketball games and also football games. I was on the first down markers for the football team. It was the best seat in the house. At every game, I was next to the coach, which was pretty neat,” stated Dayton.
This was just the start for Dayton as he worked his way to a marketing internship after graduation, aiming to take a step forward in the sporting realm. He wanted to stay in New York, where Pace is located, so he saw this as the best opportunity to do so.
“I was two weeks away from graduation and I walked up to the same guy [who offered to pay for landscaping] and we had a pretty good relationship at that point. He came back to me with a marketing internship that was available which was the first time the marketing aspect had ever come across. I took the job, I wanted to stay in New York and then I was the [Pace] AD Graduate Assistant so I helped with marketing, promotions and running the department, which led me to graduate school and play college golf during graduate school. That paid for graduate school and then after graduate school, I became the Assistant Athletic Director at Pace overlooking marketing, promotions and sponsorships. And the journey went from there,” said Dayton.
The memories Dayton made while on the baseball field are some images that he will never forget. He even stated that those times were the best of his life.
“I was lucky to be a starter early on for a team that was really talented so my first start was as a freshman which was amazing. We had four guys drafted my freshman year, which were all pitchers, three starters and our closer. It was a great kind of fraternity to be welcomed into so it was even an honor to start a game as a freshman. During my sophomore year, I was a starter and reliever at the same time where, at one point, I threw 30 innings in 10 days which is not recommended but we went 3-0 or 4-0 during that time,” said Dayton.
Dayton would further go on to say, “[one of] the two biggest memories for me was my biggest win in college when we beat Franklin Pierce [University] who was seventh in the country as a sophomore and we have not really beaten them before. They were lights out, tons of draft picks. And secondly, I pitched in California during the summer of my junior year where I was 7-2 with a 2.15 ERA against high D-I guys, like from Stanford, Fresno State and [Cal State] Fullerton. My roommate was from Fullerton and he was Pitcher of the Year and I was the runner-up. I peaked at that point and that was the best I could be. It was so much fun. I miss those days.”
There are key lessons that Dayton has taken with him from his pitching days that he uses towards his job now here at Fairfield.
“I would say that I equate this job to pitching a game. When you involved with sports and dialed in, there are no days off here. There are so many people here that care about this place. There are so many coaches and student-athletes that need our support. With the mental preparation that I used for games [as a player] in order to be successful, I take that [preparation] into my job everyday. My job is to be a good teammate, to really help this team be successful and I tell everyone that I work with that I am trying to remove as many roadblocks as possible for you to be successful. The true-student athlete mentality of staying in focus, with hard work and determination, overcoming adversity, not losing your cool in times of adversity all comes from being a student athlete. It helps me at home and it helps me here [at Fairfield]” said Dayton.
Dayton made time in his busy schedule to share some memories in the Walsh Athletic Center while practice for the women’s basketball team was still ensuing. Spending some time with Dayton was an honor considering he puts in so much work and he made enough time in his busy schedule to take some time to sit down with someone, handling all D-I sports at Fairfield especially with Men’s and Women’s Basketball season getting into full swing.
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