Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Off Season of Waiting (Zach Bigley: Broadcaster)

              The off season for baseball always feels like an off season for me, even if more busy. I go through my daily life with work and school, but everyday I want baseball to be back.
              After the Sweets’ season ended, I went back home to Eugene, OR and got ready for the different sports seasons. Oregon football is very important to the radio station that I am the assistant sports director for at the U of O, but fall also presented volleyball, soccer and high school football as well as daily talk shows.
            It was a fun year for the station as we pushed boundaries and called Oregon football for the first time in our history. I got the chance to travel on the road to Washington, Washington State and Stanford for football games and it was an experience I will never forget.

            One of the highlights was completing a “Weekend in Washington”, where we called Oregon versus Washington volleyball and football on Friday and Saturday respectively and then drove across the state for Oregon versus Washington State volleyball the next day in Pullman. We got about three hours of sleep that night and drove a collective twelve hours that day, but it was a great experience as well.

            The fall sports schedule kept me busy and school did as well. This brought on the stress that all college students face, and there were many long nights of studying all year. As a journalism student, things do not come easily, but the challenge is what drives the student, right?

            After a fun high school basketball season for the station, the time that I have been waiting for all year is almost here: diamond sports time.

            Our station does not have the rights to call the Oregon baseball games on our airwaves, but we call Oregon softball. The softball team has had a lot of success over the past few seasons. They have made it to the Women’s College World Series three out of the last four seasons and have won three straight PAC-12 titles. This is where the fun begins for me as I will be calling my first game for them (since last season) down in Stockton, CA on March 11th. I will be calling 30 games for them this season.

            I cannot express how excited I am for the season to start and to get up to Walla Walla for the summer. It is going to be a great year and baseball season is the only season for me.

            If you want to follow along with me in the Oregon softball season, you can find me @zachbigs on twitter, my station @KWVASports and the broadcasts on kwvaradio.org/listen-live.

            I’ll be talking to you before you know it, but if you have any questions or just want to talk, feel free to email me at zach@wallawallasweets.com.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

A Most Unique Off Season

What did I do this off-season? I find this question amusing this year simply because this off-season was more than a little unique compared to all the others. In early November my husband (J.C.) and I welcomed our first child, a beautiful and healthy baby girl named Ariana. So while this off-season ended up meaning time away from baseball, it was by no means an off-season.

The last few months have passed by quickly, and quite honestly it's been a bit of an exhausted blur. The months of September and October were spent touching base with many of our corporate partners as I worked to transition out of the front office for maternity leave. Cue November and our bundle of joy arrived, meaning the next few months were spent elbows deep in diapers, laundry, more diapers, and more laundry, with a few late night feedings thrown in just for fun. I was overwhelmed after the arrival of Ariana by the number of people from the Sweets community who offered congratulations, brought by fresh meals, sent gifts, and overall embraced our growing family. It reminded me how fortunate I am to have met such amazing people and how grateful I am to call so many of you friends.

When I wasn't busy with diapers and sneaking sleep whenever I could manager, my time off was spent visiting with family and adjusting to parenthood. I will continue to be grateful to the Sweets organization for allowing me the time off. Despite Zachary's insistence that I not worry about the Sweets, I have to admit I wasn't really able to turn of the GM mindset entirely. I ventured downtown to check-in and visit more than once, and was excited to get back to work planning for 2016.

The transition back to the office has been relatively smooth, and baby Ariana makes an excellent Assistant GM when she finds herself tucked in behind my desk (even if she sleeps through 50% of the important decisions). It will come as a surprise to no one if her first word is baseball or Sweets, and I'm certain her best friend will be Sweet Lou.

As the season approaches (and it's coming faster than I was prepared for) there is still plenty of work to be done.  Over the next 100 days I'll be working with Frank to finalize the roster, finalizing promotions and in-game entertainment, preparing the menu, transitioning the stadium, hiring our game day staff, and so much more. The entire front office seems to be buzzing with life as we gear up for what is promising to be our best season yet. I truly can't wait to welcome everyone through the gates on Opening Day to celebrate season #7!

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

The off-season...that never is an off-season

I have become a bit nostalgic as the Sweets prepare for season #7. The fact that we're still here is a bit of a surprise - a pleasant one - to me and to my family. Not necessarily because we thought the Sweets wouldn't succeed, although there has always been that motivating fear. We just never intended Walla Walla to be our landing spot. It is very exciting that we are launching the 2016 and that we have grown roots in the community. 

What didn't I do in the off-season? To this day, I really enjoy the question of "What do you do all winter long?", because I am certain that the vision is that we roll up the carpet at Borleske, sit back, bathe in the money that we've made (aka Scrooge McDuck) and work in our pajamas (when there is work to be done). I'm kidding - I don't really think people think that, but I did want to figure out how to use a picture of Scrooge McDuck in this entry.

A few of the priorities this off-season included:

  1. Making sure our manager was signed to a long-term deal. While we didn't have the finish we had hoped for, there were moments where the talent on the field and the direction of the coaching staff lined up well. I wanted to see what Frank could do with a full off-season under his belt and start building the continuity we enjoyed the first five seasons at Borleske. We were able to wrap that up right after the new year. We traveled together to the ABCA's in Nashville, TN and worked to develop the best relationships with college programs in the country. We should have a very, very good year on the field.
  2. Re-connecting with our long-time season-ticket holders and corporate partners. A lot of people thought that I had moved, because the last two seasons I've spent primarily in Yakima getting the Pippins started (what a cool experience, by the way...I'll have to write another post on starting a second team and the ups and downs that go along with that commuting 240 miles round trip everyday). I didn't move. I'm still right here in Walla Walla. To prove it, I made sure that if it wasn't a thank you card, it was a phone call, a lunch or a pop-in visit. So many of our fans have become our friends - you've seen our children grow up at Borleske, you've helped us welcome in our baby daughter (who is now 4...seriously), you've grown as our company and roles in the community have grown. It was really, really nice to remind people that we still lived here, play here, work here.
  3. Taking a vacation. It has been an exhilarating, and taxing, two years. While I've loved most of it, I've not done a very good job of disconnecting. While I've gone on family trips, I always have my cell phone or tablet within 6 inches, and I don't do anything that would mean I can't be reached. I committed to my family to make sure that this Christmas break, I was disconnected. For the most part, I was successful. I skied for the first time in a decade, I spent meaningful time (sans phone) with lifelong friends from college and our families, and I sat in a hot tub in -10 weather in the middle of a major snowstorm in Salt Lake City. It was awesome. 
I think getting back to my priorities has helped the Sweets and given Katie another person to help carry the load - we are trending to have our best crowds since 2011 (we drew 54K+ that season), our roster is good (GM Katie Biagi and Frank have done a nice job constructing a team to meet the style that our coaching staff will have), and we are really connecting with our sponsors and fans in ways that remind me of the early days. I love it! It is the energy associated with "small town" baseball that is what drives me everyday. The best part of the off-season - Yakima Valley and Walla Walla are no longer in the same division, which means they don't have to beat each other to make the playoffs, which means I can enjoy the season again. 

Like any small business owner, I know there isn't time (or margin) to take it easy. So - with 114 days left until opening day (as of today - check this out: https://days.to/3-june/2016), we keep chopping away at making 2016 the best season we've had. It sounds like a broken record - but that really is what motivates our team every single day.