On May 16, ten days ahead of the 2017 Texas Collegiate League baseball season, the management team for the Brazos Valley Bombers reached out and asked if I wanted to be part of the festivities for the season as the on-field emcee.
I'll be honest: I had a lot of conflicting thoughts on the matter. As much as I've come to do it (in recent years especially), public speaking is not my favorite thing to do. This would be introducing, directing and commentating on more than a dozen activities each game night -- the vast majority involving kids and their varying degrees of unpredictability -- in front of hundreds of Bombers fans, many of whom have been supporters of the team since its start in 2007.
There was also the fact that I would be following the only person to ever hold the role. Smitty, who moved with his family for a new full-time job, had devoted part of his time in the ten summers prior to the team. He was a beloved member of the club. They named a burger after him. Food dedications are kind of a big deal.
There were other factors for me, too, but after conversations with a number of folks, including team owner Uri Geva and Smitty himself, I decided to give it a shot.
I'm immensely glad I did.
The quality of product the Bombers players and coaches put on the field is always evident. Friday, August 11, the team earned its fifth straight TCL championship after yet another regular season title. The team certainly provided its fair share of nail-biters, especially down the stretch of the season and including the final game, which was the last of the team's walk-off victories at Nutrabolt Stadium in Bryan. But the effort on display all those evenings was so fun to see.
That's on the field. There's so much more, though.
My sincere thanks to the front office of the Bombers. I've come to greatly appreciate them for their efforts on behalf of the team and the fans, and their attitudes in creating the game experience. I had the chance to work with Uri, Chris Clark, Colby Street, Kelly Duggan, Hunter Walling, Morgan Key, Susan Cagle and Taylor Lindsay. To them, you all did great work and deserve kudos from the fans just as much as the players and coaches get. The Bombers work so well for our community during the season and in the months around it because of your work, so much of it unseen but still so worthy of thanks.
The team was also responsible for launching another sports team, the Brazos Valley Cavalry FC. The club serves a developmental opportunity for the Houston Dynamo of Major League Soccer, and provided a new option for the summer in our area. I had a minor role at halftime of those games and filled in a bit on the public address announcing, but those times gave me a chance to see all the effort and the evolution through the first of what will hopefully be many seasons of Premier Development League soccer in the Brazos Valley.
The interns who worked Bombers and Cavalry games deserve so much credit as well. These college students serve as the engine that make the workings of the stadium go. Each of them rotated through a wide range of roles, from food preparation and serving, to Kid Zone overseeing, to occupying the mascot costumes. And most found their way to the on-field games at some point, where they helped make sure the kids had fun and the fans had something to watch between half-innings. It was wonderful for me to hear about their professional goals -- many in the sports/event/marketing/communications worlds -- and it was humbling for so many of them to say they had the most fun at the stadium when they were helping on the field.
A handful of the interns were part of the front office and definitely deserve a bunch of credit for coordinating all those matters. That includes Allison Richardson, who was with me for nearly every game heading up the on-field activities. Her work in the lead-up to each game set the table for what the fans saw, and she brought an attitude, patience and effort to the ballpark that was needed to get the job done. She should be proud of what she was able to accomplish. I know I am.
There are so many more who do so much, like on-field photographer Wayne Smith, Craig Regan at the public address announcer microphone and a great crew of folks in the press box who all spread the word about the games and enhance the stadium experience. You don't get the truest perspective of what it takes to make a game night go until you're in the apparatus. I wasn't even close to fully inside, but I was in enough to gain a much greater appreciation.
And of course, the fans have been outstanding. A big thank you to them for their enthusiasm and their support of the club. The Bombers appreciate it. And thank you for the kind words you've given me from the first game to the title game.
It has been a wonderful summer, one that I'm so happy to have been able to spend in part with the Bombers as well as the Cavalry. Please mark your calendars for next summer and make sure you take part in the festivities. The players and coaches deserve your support when they go for a sixth straight title. The staff deserves your appreciation for what they do to make it all possible.
They've got mine.