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."