Earlier this summer, Abby Ramirez’s family joked with her that she might have been part of an international scandal.
Just about 12 hours before the incident that implicated Ryan Lochte in an alleged falsification of a police report, Ramirez had met the legendary swimmer.
“My family and stuff were like, ‘Oh, you were probably involved,’ joking around and stuff,” Ramirez said. “But it was still cool to meet him and other athletes.”
It was all part of her job this summer.
Life for student-athletes during the offseason is different from that of the professional athlete — while most pros can focus solely on training and recovering, student-athletes often take classes or look for summer jobs or internships, all while continuing to train.
And for Michigan softball senior third baseman Lindsay Montemarano and senior shortstop Ramirez, that held especially true. While they may have finished playing in June, that was just the beginning of what would prove to be an eventful and life-changing summer.
Montemarano, an English major, spent her offseason interning with the New York Mets, while Ramirez, a communications major, worked for NBC during the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.
They both found their internships with the help of the University: Ramirez heard of the NBC internship through MPact, a program that helps Michigan student-athletes with their resumes and career opportunities, while Montemarano was hired in part by Fred Wilpon — the owner of the Mets, a Michigan graduate and the namesake of the Wilpon Baseball and Softball Complex in Ann Arbor.
For Montemarano, her role with the Mets meant working at all home game days, where she was assigned different tasks, such as working at booths or helping to set up postgame concerts.
She also showed off her softball skills once in a while — though it was with investment bankers and children rather than Big Ten competition.
“Sometimes there were clinics, and we would have to work those with the coaches,” Montemarano said. “One time, I stood with one of the coaches and one of the kids was like, ‘Girls can’t play softball.’ The coach said, ‘Well, she plays for Michigan!’ and a little girl asked me for my autograph, which was cool.”
There was also one instance when Montemarano met both Jeff and Fred Wilpon — a meeting during which the elder Wilpon told Montemarano he had been following her and her team throughout the season and was hoping to return to Ann Arbor sometime for a game.
“Being able to network with so many people shows you how great this University is and how they really do want to help their own,” Montemarano said. “It’s good to know our alumni understand how great of an education we get and how great this University is.”
Meanwhile, a typical day for Ramirez began with her leading NBC clients on a tour, before spending the afternoon usually working on office tasks such as ticket coordination, guest communication or writing daily newsletters. The evening, however, was perhaps her favorite part of her internship. She was able to attend Olympic events as a spectator, watching athletes such as Michael Phelps compete.
Though she was initially apprehensive about going to Rio given the conditions, Ramirez found that it was nothing like her preconceived notions.
“Lindsay and everyone kept saying, ‘Don’t get Zika,’ so I was a little nervous about that,” Ramirez said. “They were also saying it was very dangerous out there, so I just made sure I was aware of everything. But it definitely exceeded expectations. Everyone was really friendly and it was a really beautiful place with breathtaking views.
“I was pleasantly surprised because I was expecting bad things. It was definitely better than the media perceived it as.”
Ramirez was grateful for her internship and admitted it was good to take a step back from softball, especially given the ending to her junior season. But softball wasn’t too far from her mind: Ramirez was quick to add that she spent most of her summer training with her teammates in Ann Arbor.
Both Ramirez and Montemarano are back in Ann Arbor now, continuing life as students and preparing for fall exhibition games like they usually do this time of year.
And though they both acknowledge that there’s a finality to it all, with their final season beckoning, the two seniors are simply looking to finish their Michigan careers the way they want to: on their own terms.
“If you think about it as, ‘This is my last year,’ it can get to you in your head, like, ‘Oh this is my last chance,’ ” Ramirez said. “So we like to think about it as (being leaders) of Team 40. We get to set the example and show them the ropes. We’re excited for that, and it’ll be a cool experience.”
Added Montemarano: “Our ultimate goal is to win a national championship. That doesn’t change.”