As I look back on my first Bulls season in the marketing department there were a number of highlights for me. Right off the bat (pun definitely not intended here) I was assigned the task of picking up Blue Jay World Series manager Cito Gaston from the Calgary airport. He was part of the annual Legends of Sports dinner. To my delight Cito agreed to turn it into a Cool Cars, Interesting People episode. He couldn’t have been more gracious. We even stopped at the Claresholm memorial for Tanner Craswell and Mitch Maclean which was a rather poignant moment. I got to spend a lot of time with Cito and even drove him back up to Calgary when the banquet was over. It was pretty cool and a big thrill for me to get to talk baseball with the guy who led the Toronto Blue Jays to two World Series championships. Hell I would have done it for free. (Don’t tell the boss that.)
I feel it’s important for a baseball team with a short 24-game home schedule to be part of the community. I wanted to get people to come to a game who perhaps wouldn’t necessarily be interested in baseball. That was the motivation behind the Tug of War Charity Challenge. I contacted over 50 charities and asked them to come up with a team of 5 people to participate over the course of the season. One or two matches would be held before every game. There would be an entry fee of $100 with the eventual winner taking home the entire jackpot for their charity. While the money was a nice incentive, I really wanted the charities to come to the game to inform the general public about who they are and what they are all about. So often we hear about an organization but really don’t know what it is they do. The charities were encouraged to get the biggest and strongest people they could find. They didn’t have to be part of their organization. For example, AAWEAR had Pure Power Wrestlers on their team, Covenant Health got Action Gym and STARS managed to get five of the biggest Bulls players. We got 28 charities to participate and set up a tournament schedule. It came down to STARS and ARCHES on the final game of the season. It was an epic battle of strength and endurance with ARCHES prevailing and taking home $2800.
Also during the season three businesses got on board with our Strike Out ALS campaign: Holmes Ecowater, KCL Cattle and Rogers Sugar. For every player a Bulls pitcher struck out during the season money would be donated to the ALS Society of Alberta. Thanks to 382 strikeouts and a bit of a top up $3292 was raised. It was a poignant moment as accepting the cheque on behalf of ALS was Adam Thom who’s father had been at the ball park to witness the ALS team Tug of War match and passed away the following week to the effects of the disease.
Our Pink In the Park night featured the Bulls wearing special pink jerseys. Fans could bid on them with proceeds going locally to the Jack Ady Cancer Center. Another $1845 was generated with that event.
At the end of the season a total of $7937 was given out to three different charities.
A goal I had for the season was to get 24 different anthem singers for each home game. With the diverse pool of talent we have in the city it actually wasn’t that hard to find people from various genres of music. We had rockers, musical theatre people, jazz, blues and opera. It was an eclectic blend of performers which I was thrilled about.
(Entertainer Cal Toth)
I also wanted to create a 7th inning stretch atmosphere like they do at Wrigley Field in Chicago where celebrities who don’t necessarily sing like an opera star can provide a little entertainment with their unique version of “Take Me Out To The Ball Game.” We definitely had people who didn’t sing like opera stars. (Liam Nixon) But I loved it when our singers got into the spirit of the moment. I quite enjoyed that part of the evening.
Getting people to throw out the first pitch is another fun part of the job. While we had big-time athletes like 4-time Olympian Joe Meli we also had Fran Rude from the arts community. Fran took the job very seriously and trained for a couple of weeks. To my surprise she stayed for her game and enjoyed it so much she came to almost every game after. I wasn’t expecting that.
One of my favourite moments of the season was on July 4. We had asked one of our American-born players, Darius Carter to sing the Star Spangled Banner as we had heard he had a great voice. He declined to go solo but he would do it if all the other U.S. players on the team sang it. When it came time to sing the anthem before the game unbeknownst to me Darius called over the U.S. members of the other team to join in. Loved it.
Baseball has that ability to bring people together. Whether you’re a pure baseball fan or you just like to be at the ball park and enjoy the atmosphere it’s a great night out. People from all walks of life can enjoy the evening.
One of my favourite quotes of the season came from singer Ken Rogers. He’s another member of the arts community who has spent his whole life in music. As he was getting high-fived by members of The Bulls after his rendition of Take Me Out To The Ball Game he smiled and looked at me and said, “That’s the closest I’ve ever been to a jock.”
Another cool moment for me was when we contacted Lethbridge Family Services Immigrant Services and asked if there were any new families to Lethbridge who would want to come to their first ball game. Three Syrian refugee families accepted the invitation and it was heartwarming to hear a nice applause from the crowd when they were introduced.
Who knows, maybe it’ll take a baseball game between nations to solve the world’s problems.
The Bulls had a decent season finishing 2nd in their division and lost to Medicine Hat in five games in the best of five playoff round. Their season is done but there’s a lot of optimism for next year as the new stadium renovations should begin very soon. Here’s to next year.