Just open up the gates and it’s that easy…right?

Busy times here in Cougarville, as we call it.

Less than four weeks remain until the start of the 22nd season of Cougars baseball. The month of March, particularly mid-March, always seems to shift the pace of our work into a different gear.

Before I elaborate, I should preface this blog by clarifying the following misconception. We, as a Cougars front office staff, work year-round, 9-to-5 (often later…as is the case with you) in our profession.

We have a lot in common, don’t we?

It’s fairly typical that once or twice each homestand, I will have a fan ask one of the following questions (often the first question leads into the second, and so forth).

1.) Do you guys work here in the off-season? (Yes…)
2.) What do you guys do in the off-season? (Where to start…)
3.) It must be fun to watch baseball for your job, huh? (Wrong.)

I guess the goal of my post is to tackle each one of these questions and shed some light on what minor league organizations typically prepare for when spring is upon us.

First, we DO work here in the off-season. Granted, the months of September through March typically do not feature balls, strikes, outs, fireworks shows, and funnel cakes around here.

But the process is a busy one, nonetheless. I’ll try to break it down by month. This isn’t an “all-inclusive list” but summarizes some of our larger tasks.

Within 2 hours of the season ending. A couple of us go to work on getting the players safely home and that involves numerous logistical items, such as arranging flights and cars to transport them to the airport. Uniforms are checked in and returned as well as pieces of equipment and other items. There are lots of logistical responsibilities as the clubhouse goes from a place of lively activity, to a place of empty lockers, in seemingly no time.

September. Staff-wise, we place the finishing touches on the season by putting together reports detailing inventory (ranging from souvenirs to detailed ticket sales reports). We’re always receiving fan feedback through surveys and that information is compiled as well.

September-October. In the fall, we as a staff collaborate on putting the upcoming season’s schedule together. What time will games be? Which nights should include fireworks shows? How many theme nights should fill the promotional calendar?

That is an exhausting but invigorating process for all of us. The brainstorming sessions involve our entire staff and is one of the joys of our profession. The process is similar to putting together a big puzzle. I’m fortunate to attend Minor League Baseball’s Promotional Seminar, an annual event that brings minor league executives from all over baseball to share ideas. Those ideas are brought back home to share with our staff, in the hopes of adding a few new wrinkles learned from the seminar, into our next season.

I could write a blog on this seminar alone. It’s a treat to meet with other people who have a passion for our business.

October-November. Usually by late fall, we are ready to roll with announcing our season schedule. That schedule includes promotions, theme nights, ticket prices, and anything else you can think of. It’s advantageous for us to have those items in place in the fall. With due respect to minor league organizations that announce their schedule in the spring, it’s our belief that it’s better for our fans and for us as an organization to be ahead of the curve in having our ducks in a row well before the season.

 Printed marketing pieces such as pocket schedules, group flyers promoting all of the above are designed and put together.

November-December. The ticket office is busy with season ticket and ticket package renewals. Group outings are on sale. Individual tickets go on sale at the ballpark. Despite colder weather and the absence of baseball in the news, smart Cougars fans know that in order to get the tickets for the game date of their choice, now is the time to make their reservations.

January-February. The pace continues to pick up. Special events such as our “Meet the Royals Event” fill the winter calendar. This is one of many off-season events that involves our food and beverage staff. With our upstairs renovations added in 2009, numerous groups use the Super Suite and other party areas for holiday parties, fundraisers, and much more throughout the 12-month calendar.

March. As I mentioned earlier, the gears begin to shift a little. Operationally, the ballpark begins to breathe again as we anticipate another 400,000 fans arriving throughout the season, beginning in early April. Our personnel department is busy training the hundreds of seasonal employees that will assist you in many ways this season.

Needless to say, everyone here in our office has a list of primary responsibilities this time of the year, and the days just seem to fly by as we near the arrival of the team in early April.

Many of these responsibilities are a consistent process from the days of fall through March. That includes the efforts of our ticket sales and sponsorship departments, who are essentially talking Cougars baseball with potential groups and sponsors as early as the fall.

And it would be impossible, much as it would be for you, to list EVERY task that fills your work schedule. I can safely say that in 8 years of working in baseball, there’s no time for solitaire or watching the minute hand move.

For me personally, it’s an odd, “only in Minor League Baseball” type of punch list this time of year. Some of the items on the agenda this week.

Editing the media guide and April game program.
Finalizing team travel and logistics.
Preparing for our high school marketing seminars and field trips that begin in April.
Working to promote our inaugural 5K Run and Walk this May.
Securing lodging accommodations for our umpires.

So in response to the third question we frequently hear (Do you guys get to watch baseball?). That is typically a rare situation, when we have a spare minute during games to take in an at-bat. We’re usually working. That’s ok. When we hear a loud cheer from you, we usually know it’s something good. =)

It’s a unique job, and it’s often a job that is tough to describe to others. But regardless, March is stressful, it’s fun, and…would you believe it…65 degrees and sunny! (sometimes)

Thanks for reading.

– ST


About Kane County Cougars

The Kane County Cougars are the Class-A Affiliate of the Arizona Diamondbacks.
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