Sunday, February 7, 2010

Phoenix Part 2: How do we react outside of our comfort zone??

So after a three day journey across the country, I arrived in Phoenix. These were the days before GPS were so popular and I am sitting there driving on Bell Road in January (aka, my first experience driving with the snowbirds). Quite an experience I tell you. I pull up to the stadium where the Kansas City Royals and Texas Rangers play their spring training. A LOT bigger of a complex than TR Hughes Ballpark back in O'Fallon. I thought there was a lot of opportunity with the size of the stadium (give it a few paragraphs).

There was five of us from MO out here working to the bone on getting this team off the ground. We were like a family, who knew no one else in a big town. We watched the Super Bowl together, celebrated birthdays together. We all lived in one apartment complex.

To give you an idea, it normally takes 18-24 months to get a minor league baseball team off the ground and running. Matt started in November and the team opened up play in May, so yes 6 months. Those few months were spent trying to get the name out as much as possible. We worked with the local businesses as much as possible. We sat at stores and theaters passing out information. We called whomever would not hang up us within the first few seconds.

The season began and we had a few decent crowds the first few games. However, inside of that park, it still did not feel that big. The big moment of the season was coming: Rickey Henderson was coming to town! A future Hall of Famer, this was the league's hope to get its' name out that first year. We were preparing that weekend for everything and ready for some decent crowds!

I started to head to the stadium that Monday morning and I get a phone call that, in a lack of better words, changed my "work" life. Matt called me to tell me that the league he had worked so hard for and sacrificed so much of his time over the past 7 months, had let him go. They had also let Steve go as well. Steve was the AGM and had worked with Matt since 1999 and myself since 2002. A few others on the staff had quit because of this and here I was left with a decision, Do I quit or do I stay? I had to make a quick decision as after they let Matt and Steve go, the league reps met with us in the press box in Surprise. After that meeting, a few more quit and remember, there was a game that night. This was the hardest decision I had made up to this point in my life. I decided to stay with the team as I was 1500 miles from home and could not afford to quit. I told my decision first to Matt and Steve and I felt led to apologize for my decision. I will NEVER forget their reaction: They understood. They were just let go, people were quitting in response to them being let go and I am staying on with that same league and they understood. Blew me away.

So here I am in, it ended up being about 3 of us working with this team for a few weeks before we got a few more staff on board. I had worked with Matt and Steve for years and now they were not around. I go from working with people I was blessed to be good friends with to people I hardly knew. I knew Allen from Rascal days and he was working over the summer with the team and then heading back. That was it. It was challenging to say the least. It is very hard to explain the separation, but it was rough. I would randomly talk to Matt and Steve, but could not hang out due to my time commitment to the team.

We finished out the season, I think. I rarely slept, ate horribly, never went to church and just finished the year frustrated with everything. It was a challenge that only was completed by the grace of God.

Near the end of the year, Matt and his family left back to St. Louis. Steve stayed out in Phoenix. Marlena worked for the Fiesta Bowl and eventually moved back as well. Allen left after the season.

I was so used to working with close friends for years and now I am working with three people in minor league baseball that I hardly knew. We would try to hang out, but it was not the same or event close. It is nothing against them, just a challenging time for me. I will say this though. This time built my strength when it came to work. If I could work for this team, especially on my own from the core I worked with for such a long time, then I felt I could take on much more than I was used to. The situation looked hopeless, but in those times, I think we have the chance to grow the most. You learn about yourself and understand that it might not be great at this moment; however, when you push through the "mess," you know you will be better off!

Problems will always arise. The question is, How will we respond?

Next-- Phoenix Part 3: End of baseball, insurance for two days and a certain Bible Study leader

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