Friday, December 31, 2010

Happy New Year and Stuff Like That

Well, 2010 is racing to a close. It will be a memorable year for many reasons, but primarily because of the fact that, well, we actually got the season of the ground and despite some first-year challenges, it was by many accounts a success. 40K+ fans, a pennant race, and some incredible players means that 2010 will hold a special place in my heart.

I have a sneaking suspicion that 2011 will be as (if not more) memorable, but for different reasons. In addition to a few more ballgames, we have some special events lined up for the stadium (more on that later), and at least one of them will have an importance on the national scale. Our fans will see an improved product on the field, our sponsors will see more fans in the park, and our players will see an improvement over the experience from year 1. It will be exciting not because it is brand new but because it will be improved.

 Please be safe tonight...we need you alive and well at Borleske this summer. And as a last shout out to people who loved the Montreal Expos as much as I did, please enjoy our new alternate cap for 2011 - a tribute to the great team from the Stade Olympique. Check out this link if you want to pick one up: That great city may never again have an MLB team, but they had the coolest hat of the 80s.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Winter Can't Pass Fast Enough...

We have had finicky winter weather so far this December. To start the month off, we received about 6 inches of snow. Then it warmed up (into the 60s at one point!!). Then, this past weekend, the snow started again. Well, Sweet Lou got tired of waiting, and decided to take matters into his own hands. Check out this video on our newly launched YouTube Channel (YouTube/WWSweets). Can't wait until the season!

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Del Taco Fans unite

For those fans from Southern California, Utah, Nevada, Arizona - there is a little treasure here in Walla Walla that will remind you of home, $.59 chicken soft tacos, crinkle-cut french fries, and great shakes, and they have just joined as a corporate partner for 2011. Del Taco (I'm hungry writing about it) has partnered with the Sweets to bring the Family and Friends 4-Pack to life. It is 4 tickets to a single game, 4 Sweets caps, and 4 free combo meals at the College Place Del Taco - for $44. It is a $108 value for $44 - pretty good deal if you ask me. In addition to the four pack, they will have radio, signage and other brand integration pieces within Borleske Stadium and at

What excites me about this deal is that it is a national-quality partner taking a risk on our team's ability to drive people to their single store in the area. We can do big things for our partners because of a passionate fan base that truly embraces this team and it's players. It will be fun to activate with them and to have a few chicken softs and crinkle-cut french fries this summer. For more information on the deal and when it is available to the public, click HERE.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Shop Small Business Saturday, Nov. 27

Cynics disagree with the motive behind it, but at it's core it is a great concept.
This is pretty cool. Despite the cynicism behind who is presenting it (large credit card companies), the idea of it is very noble. As a small shop on an historic Main Street, we certainly fit into the "small business" category. We employ all local people, we invest the money back in the community, so this is something that I hope people respond to. I am not a "shop local" freak - but I do think that it is an important part of the economic mix. And what better way to overcome the cold with the thought that pitchers and catchers report in 78 days with a Sweets cap or sweatshirt? Good times...

Come say hello at the Sweets Shoppe - open Friday, Nov. 26 and Saturday, Nov. 27 (the "official" Shop Small Business Saturday)! See you then...and if you can't make it down, we can be your "mom and pop" shop online (still fulfilled right here in Walla Walla, WA) - here is the Sweets Shoppe link:

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Big Signing...Big Big Signing

Huge signing for us - these guys were big contributors last season, great members of the community, and the type of player that we want. Glad we were able to get them back - the team is coming together nicely.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Growth one series at a time

The WCL approved the 2011 schedule this morning (the full schedule will be released later this month). The highlights include an increase from 24 to 27 league games - meaning 54 league games, and we have added 6 additional games (3 2-game sets) to get to 33 home games at Borleske for the 2011 season (a STEAL for season ticket holders - because we set the prices while we were still at 31...great for the fans!).

It is exciting to see the growth of the league - painful at times (with the loss of Moses Lake this season - a market we hope to resurrect soon - we are staying at 9 teams this year), but still a far stretch from what it was 6-7 years ago. It makes me appreciate people like Jim Corcoran and Jim Richards, who a decade ago had the vision to see that baseball at this level could be successful as a business. Major Leagues? Nope. Fun, engaging, great baseball and a powerful way to reach fans for businesses in an affordable manner? Yep.

The Sweets Shoppe re-opens next Monday - fans will love the new gear, and with our talented retail manager Katie running the show - look for us to have continually great gear for people to choose from, especially at the holidays.

More signings to come - stay tuned.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

All-Star Outfield

I am very excited about our outfield for the 2011 season. We have only released two of the signings in the outfield (Kelani Brackenridge of Hawaii and Brett Jacobs of Washington State), but the other names (coming soon) are as talented as they get at this level. Kelani was a draft pick as a senior in high school (Tampa Bay, 44th round), and figures to be a big part of the Rainbow Warriors push to return to the NCAA tournament in 2011 (after a trip to the Regionals in 2010).

If you are from Southeastern Washington and follow baseball, then Brett Jacobs name should ring a bell. In addition to being the State 4A Player of the Year as a junior, hit .429 as a senior in high school, was a 2X all-state selection and led a team from Richland, WA to Williamsport, PA for the LLWS in 2003.

With how big the outfield plays at Borleske, our outfield is an important piece of the lineup, and I think Sweets fans will like who is out their every night.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Refreshed Website

We have refreshed the website. You can check it out here:
In addition to the refreshed look of the site, we are enhancing content, building in tools to keep our burgeoning group of social media (Twitter, Facebook) engaged and interacting with our team. I really enjoy this page - our alumni list: It will be great as players move on to minor league baseball, and ultimately to Major League Baseball, and create the tie back to their start in Walla Walla.

We also now have a tentative date on the store re-open - we are targeting the second week of November, and may be able to move that up depending on when product arrives. We will likely have some game-used jerseys and other collectibles on sale as well, so it will be fun to re-launch. Check out this story to find out how you can get some deals in Walla Walla with our new gear:

The roster is coming together - we have a release planned for next week in which we will begin to announce signings. We are making pitching depth a priority.

Any predictions on MLB playoffs? Lincecum and and Halladay were awesome - but it was only one game, and if Atlanta and Cincy can bounce back they can still go home with a chance to win.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

2011 Roster

We are starting to see signings come in for 2011. What is great for year 2 is that we can really look at our roster position by position, know the ballpark we play in, and be systematic as to our approach to improve the team, rather than just sign someone for the sake of signing them. While we are releasing names or schools yet, I think Sweets fans will be happy with the improvements that we will be making. Pitching is certainly a priority...really looking at guys that can throw strikes, eat innings, and be bulldogs on the mound - I like a little mean streak in a pitcher.

Offensively, I know the fans like a home-run hitter, but personally I could care less, especially in Borleske. Give me a guy who can consistently hit a double to the gap, run the bases hard but smart, and refuse to strike out, and I'll sign him all day long. Too many strikeouts and base-running mistakes in 2010. Again, not a criticism, just recognizing areas of improvement.

Stay tuned as we begin in mid-October to start announcing signings.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Sweets Players Recognized by League Coaches

Everyone loves all-stars. At the MLB level, it allows the fans to participate in a way not available at other levels, and for players it is a level of recognition that says "you're elite". And the fans are pretty right on most of the time.

In the WCL, all-stars are selected by the coaches, which I think is a great way to do it. For a three-month season and not a ton of shared media, it would be pretty difficult for fans to accurately pick the all-stars, and with players that are long on potential but short on experience, the trained eyes of a manager or coaching staff can recognize all-star talent that stats from a 3-game series might not be able to.

Kevin Kuntz was not flashy, but effective. Photo: S. Parsons, WW Sweets
Kevin Kuntz - a guy who developed into our starting SS this season - was a player who quietly did all the right things. He took pitches, he put extra work in, he got on base and was a phenomenal bunter...all things that help a team win but don't necessarily get reflected in a stat line (although he was a league leader in OBP and walks). He was recognized by coaches - being named to the WCL honorable mention squad - who noticed the little things that a fan might miss but that accumulated over the course of a season and allowed our club to be competitive - within a 1/2 game of the playoffs with 10 games to go in the season (although we fell just short).

I am excited with what our players did this first year and the chance to build on the foundation of success that they established.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Some Sweets Headlines

The Sweets have had a run of headlines recently that have brought some great national attention to the club. Two that stand out are the following:

1. This piece was a feature on - written by senior baseball writer Jim Caple. Believe it or not, we did not solicit this piece. Kudos to our staff for their job in presenting our product.

2. This news release highlighted that the team cracked the top 25 in overall attendance among summer league teams - finishing at #23. Thanks to Ballpark Business for compiling the data. Here is the story that ran in the Walla Walla Union-Bulletin.

3. A little love from as we are talked about on NPR. Take a listen here.

We are hard at work speaking with players and finding the right fit for the 2011 season. We were league leaders in every facet of the business operations side of the WCL and look to work hard to make sure the play on the field is the best in the league as well. What schools would you like to see represented in Walla Walla?

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Tough Road Trip

We need to get home.

In my professional career, I have never been part of a franchise that has lost 7 in a row. Well, there is a first time for everything! The silver lining - we are learning that we have a great group of guys who battle, it's early on in the season (so we can recover)...and at least it was while the team was on the road.

July is upon us - what will 18 home games in the month bring us?

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Off the ground

Terrible blogging, I know. But the good news is that we are officially off the ground as far as the season goes - and it was a fun and exciting opener, despite the fact that we didn't play all that well. The energy was phenomenal and we are working to improve the little things - both on and off the field.

Here are some videos that local media shot of the opener:

Union - Bulletin:
Tourism Walla Walla:

Back to getting all the bills together and paid and back to work on Tuesday at Borleske...see you there!

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Host Families

Still could use a few more host families. The basics:

1. A bed
2. A Shower
3. The ability to help a player get to the ballpark
4. A love of baseball and free tickets

The commitment is for the summer, but with players gone for half the summer (on the road), it equates to about 30 days. Questions? Call us at 509.522.BALL (2255) or email us here. Check out this page for more detailed info on host families.

39 days to go!

Friday, April 23, 2010

League Meetings - Kelso (Cowlitz Co.)

Well, in Longview-Kelso today and tomorrow for the WCL semi-annual meetings. It is always a fun part of this kind of thing - getting together with other league leaders and to learn from each other. You learn what is and isn't working in each market - one goal I have for this weekend is to see what can be done to better brand the league as a whole. Individually, clubs in our league do a great job in their individual markets, but a growth area for the league is building a brand identity that doesn't take away from what each team is doing, but strengthens individual efforts because Bend vs. Kitsap means something to fans in Walla Walla - like Texas vs. Los Angeles means something to fans of the Seattle Mariners. It will help recruit better talent to the playing field as well.

What are your ideas for building brand recognition of the league outside of individual markets?

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

So, I forgot the pictures...

But, we really did move into our new offices on Main Street. The natural light is great, and it is awesome to be out of the dungeon. Retail displays start going up, and we will add some pictures and "accent" items and we will host a ribbon-cutting grand opening on May 11...the merchandise is going to be fantastic.

On the player front, I am really excited about the players that we have recruited. We have some players that I think will be real stars in this league. Solid OPS guys at the plate, pitchers that throw will be great to see what happens as the season unfolds.

Stop by and say hello in the new digs.

Monday, March 22, 2010

April 4 is the target...

That we have to move into our new offices. This post would be better with updated pictures - sorry about that - I will make sure we have them up tomorrow. That will give us a month to get it ready for the ribbon cutting/grand opening, which will be a great time. Here are some dates to pay attention to:

May 11 - ribbon cutting/grand opening of the store
May 12 - Single-game tickets will go on sale (pending availability!)

Some cool news today - all the player BP gear arrived today - fleece tops, dri-fit tee-shirts, dri-fit shorts and travel bags - is getting me pumped for the season's arrival. We meet Wednesday with a contractor to start the bid process on the Phase II improvements (finally), and tomorrow we put the finishing touches on the revised concessions beer and wine plan.

This was also a nice surprise in the paper today - - the phone began to ring off the hook as soon as the paper was hitting the stands (from 3 pm - it's an afternoon paper - until 6:15, we received 24 phone calls and sold 4 season tickets, 2 family plans, and 2 1/2 season plans). The details aren't exactly correct, but still - great pub.

Pics tomorrow!

Thursday, March 11, 2010

And we are under 90 days...

We now have less than 90 days left until we open Borleske Stadium with Sweets baseball. We had our "90 days until Opening Day" meeting on Wednesday, and our to-do list currently sits at about 200 items to do. Some are 1-and-dones (order staff shirts), others are ongoing (sponsor fulfillment). Either way, a lot to do in a short window. But we'll get there...

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Losing my Edge!

Sorry - this should have been up on Sunday, but I'm losing my edge...! Here is a fun feature that will help you keep track of what our players are doing, etc.


Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Ides of March...just around the corner

As I get older, time passes far too quickly. It has been 6 months since we arrived in Walla Walla, and it is hard to believe that pitchers and catchers have already reported. Here is a quick update on where the club is at:

  • We have almost completed our roster. Tomorrow will be a release highlighting some top junior college talent that has been scouted by Steve Avila. Avila is a former Indians scout and one of the top baseball people in the Pacific Northwest, and has been working as a special adviser to the GM and Jeff, our director of player development. Avila has been a champ in identifying pro-quality juco talent, and we are excited to help them progress their careers.
  • Ticket sales and sponsorships continue to be brisk. Nearly 60% of our available season ticket inventory is gone, as families start to realize the value in getting season tickets. The reality is the best seats, price and benefits will go to season ticket holders. Click here to see the benefits and to learn how to get yours.
  • Our Facebook family continues to grow - I am excited to see how we can help connect people both in the ballpark and online. Twitter is growing as well...join us!
  • Partnerships are growing - as soon as our wall is full (getting close) I will let you know who they are. Actually, you can see a growing list here. I am excited to see how many businesses are local businesses - if you own or operate a local business, this is where people will be in the summertime! Join us - here are some of the reasons why and here are some of the options. Because we control our inventory, we can put something together that is customized to your needs.
  • Join us Friday, Feb. 26 at 5:30 for sandwiches, sodas, and treats and to learn about host families. This isn't a commitment to be a host family - just a place to come have questions answered about the program, and see if there is an interest to join. Here is the info.

On a personal note, I want to thank the paramedics who came to the house the other night and saved my life...insulin reactions are not fun, and I am grateful for the people that are trained to save peoples lives. What a great act of service. The dislocated shoulder is no fun, but at least I am alive to feel it! Guess I won't be pitching this year...

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Internship Opportunities

Our internship program is now live and ready to accept applicants. I think, beyond just the experience that internships provide, that our group is a particularly good one to be a part of, but it will definitely take people who are incredibly motivated and passionate about the game. You can see more about them by clicking here.

The one that I think will be the most interesting is the baseball operations internship - I know we are only a summer collegiate wood-bat team, but why not collect, prepare and track data in a MLB fashion? If for no other reason, scouts will like tracking guys here because we can give them the data that they will be looking for. This position came with help from the Arizona Diamondbacks scouting department - we are going to be able to do some great things with the D-Backs and the M's in terms of scouting and player development. Let's create as much of a professional environment for the players as we are for the fans. Who knows what will happen? Perhaps we open the doors for the next Billy Beane - but you better believe that he/she will help pull the tarp!

Friday, February 5, 2010

Sweets Sign 3 from the East

Check out the story here - it'll be exciting to see players from the Big East in the Pacific Northwest.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Blogs that are talking about the Sweets...

With the advent of social media, the role of traditional media has come into a weird, in-flux position: why wait for a paper to cover, edit, and print a story (and then deliver it) when it can be tweeted, posted on facebook, and e-published immediately through blogs? Newspapers have escalated their online features and work to still "beat" amateur publishers, maintaining twitter and facebook accounts, but it is increasingly difficult for these papers to keep up with the sheer volume of other options.

Gratefully, in Walla Walla, the paper has been a great source of sharing progression with the community, and still sees many loyal readers, but we are starting to see other blogs and online media cover and write stories about the Sweets. Here are some examples of national blogs that are writing features about the team:

Studio Simon
Summer Ball
Coldwell Banker - Walla Walla Realty (ok, not a national blog but still one that gives us some good press)
Summer College Leagues

There are more, but it is late and I am tired - and of course is a favorite but that is a little bit of an inside job...)

We even have our own Wikipedia page, which as you know, is the source of all truth and knowledge:

Walla Walla Sweets Wikipedia

My question to the readers out there - where do you follow and get news on the team? With nearly 1450 Facebook fans (and growing - you can join us here) and a growing number of Twitter friends (search wwsweets on Twitter) I am curious as to your preferred method of obtaining information.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Diamond Season Tickets & Field Boxes sold out...

In what I have to assume is a good sign of the interest in baseball coming back to Walla Walla, we have sold out of the new Diamond Seats (the new stadium-style seating section being constructed behind home plate) and the field boxes (5 boxes of 10 seats located 20 feet from the right field line). Both seating sections include waiter service for the 2010 season.

The crazy thing is that it is another 2 1/2 weeks before we even launch our advertising campaign to promote season tickets (I know it is a little late, but we didn't even have a franchise in late October when we would normally begin the early sales cycle).

We will create a waiting list for the Diamond seats - you can join the list by securing reserved season tickets. If seats open up, we will start with the first reserved season ticket holder, and go in order until the Diamond Seats are full again. Additionally, we hope to add more seats in 2011, and reserved seat holders would have first right of refusal to upgrade to Diamond Seats.

We are excited as we look to fill Borleske Stadium for professional-style baseball for the first time in nearly three decades. Call 509.522.BALL (2255) or click here today to find out how you can join us!

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Ernie Harwell...and Walla Walla?!

One of the elements of the game of baseball that I missed, and that drew me back in, was the relationships that exist among "baseball" people. Whether it is running into a long-time mentor at a convention after years of not seeing that person (see below), or watching a player that you saw "before" he made it get a big hit or win, it is first and foremost a relationship-driven game.

That is what made what happened tonight so cool. I received a phone call from a gentleman who introduced himself as the producer of an audio book about the great Hall of Fame broadcaster Ernie Harwell (Detroit Tigers). Harwell, who spent 55 years as a broadcaster (and 42 of those years with the Tigers), was known for some remarkable calls and for being among the most gracious men in the game. One of his famous "calls" was on foul balls, where he would identify someone from the outlying areas of Detroit (or another city the Tigers were playing in) as having caught the ball (Saginaw, Grosse Pointe, and Lansing were among the locales). One time, at a Mariners game in Seattle, Mr. Harwell made a call of "the man from Walla Walla will take that (ball) home". For a brief moment in baseball history, Ernie Harwell and Walla Walla were connected.

Now back to the phone call - it was placed by a Mr. Gordon Miller (the owner of Audio Book Publishing), who had noticed our press release a few days back announcing our agreement with Capps Broadcast Group to be the radio home of the Walla Walla Sweets broadcasts. In the press release, we made reference to the greats - Ernie, Vin Scully, and Dave Niehaus (among others). Well, Mr. Miller saw the release, called me, and let me know of the following call (click on "signature calls" and listen to about 2/3 of the way into the clip).

Mr. Miller graciously offered us use of the clip during the season - in-stadium, on broadcasts, etc. Its a small, and seemingly insignificant, gesture, but it was a kind and thoughtful offer, something that brings notice to what is great about the game of baseball: the relationships that draw communities as far apart as Detroit and Walla Walla together. Thank you, Gordon, for the call, and I encourage people who are fans of the greats to purchase the audio book and find out why Mr. Harwell was one of the best in the game.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

ABCA Convention

Pro Baseball has the winter baseball (and by extension, collegiate wood-bat baseball) has the ABCA convention. Admittedly, while I had heard of the ABCA, I had never bothered to give it a look because I thought it was only for coaches. But, I joined (so that I could go to the convention) and our baseball staff headed down to Dallas, TX this past week for the adventure of the ABCA.

Jeff (Cirillo, one of our owners), manager JC Biagi (also an assistant at Walla Walla Community College), Mark Michaud (also the pitching coach at Whitman College), and I loaded up and headed down south, where balmy temperatures of...20 degrees awaited us. The convention was held at the Hilton Anatole (same hotel that hosted the winter meetings in 2005), and over 3500 coaches (at least it seemed like that many) from college and high school programs were there, in addition to many of the scouting departments from MLB teams. (On a tangent - it is mildly exciting when a scouting coordinator for an MLB team glances over your roster and nods in agreement to 3 or 4 of the players with a "yep, I've heard of him..." - we are finding the right players) I realized how intertwined the game is and how a man that I only recently met - Mike Gillespie, head coach at UC-Irvine - has indirectly had such a profound effect on my career in baseball.

Gillespie, of course, was the head coach at USC, where he led one of the most successful programs in the country, winning a national championship. He coached Jeff Cirillo, who of course is a big influence on our organization, and mentored Abe Flores, the director of player development for the LA Angels, who was a major influence on me when I was with the Owlz (the Angels Pioneer League affiliate). After meeting Coach Gillespie, I can see why the majority of the men he produces are such quality individuals, both on and off the field. He was gracious, kind to everyone he met, and obviously loves the game and the most important asset within the game - the relationships with people.

The conference was great for another reason: it energized me for the 2010 season and marked the beginning of "Baseball 24/7" in Walla Walla. We have a little over five months to go! We were able to finalize a few players from top conferences while we were there (meeting coaches face-to-face is invaluable), and finalized our radio deal (all games home and away will be broadcast live on KTEL 1490 - check out the story here). But, as coach Michaud said as we were riding to the airport, you leave ready to start the season, full of momentum and energized by thousands of coaches and front offices gearing up for America's Pastime.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Walla Walla's "Two-Bit Baseball" of 1891

Here's a good trivia question for Walla Walla baseball fans.

Question: In what year did organized baseball begin in this community?

Answer: 1891

In a new scholarly paper by Walla Walla University history professor Terry Gottschall, our community emerges as the center of an active, competitive new baseball league called the Bunch Grass League. Walla Walla competed with three nearby Oregon teams -- Pendleton, La Grande and Baker City.

Click here either to read an abstract or pay to dowload the piece, entitled "Two-bit Baseball: Walla Walla and the Pacific Interstate League, 1891."

Although we often think of organized baseball in connection with its minor league days in the 1970s and 1980s, in fact organized baseball in Walla Walla follows the very storyline of our country and our community.

Baseball as a sport came into fashion in the late 1830s and 1840s.  The Whitmans arrived in what would become Walla Walla in 1836 and Walla Walla was eventually incorporated in 1862.

As a fan of the Cape Cod Baseball League, which boasts of its origins in the 1800s, I was surprised to learn how early organized baseball got its start in the Pacific Northwest.

Gottschall carefully chronicles the single season of the Bunch Grass League by researching old newspapers, including The Walla Walla Statesman, Walla Walla Union, East Oregonian, Baker City Weekly Bedrock Democrat and a publication I had never heard of before, the Reach Guide.

A highlight of the article is the raucous relationship between Walla Walla and La Grande (does that still exist?). Anger between the two sides erupted into what one paper of the time called "The Base Ball War."  When neither side could agree on a fair umpire, each claimed victory and the league broke up.

In the end, the author concludes, "Management and fans alike quickly learned that capital revenues derived from community ownership and fund-raising subscriptions, when combined with the standard admission of "two bits" — twenty-five cents — simply proved inadequate to fund the league through the entire season."