So I have finally woken up and realized I was with the woman I was supposed to be with for the rest of my life. So some planning had to start! However, before that could start, it was time for a bowl game!
Stephanie flew back to Phoenix as my brother Andrew and I flew to Dallas, TX to watch the University of Missouri play against the University of Arkansas. I had gone to the Independence Bowl a few years ago and watched the same two teams play and was hoping for a much better outcome!
We got there and took a taxi to as close to the hotel as we could get. The hotel we were staying at was right along the Cotton Bowl Parade route. So the taxi could only go so far before we just paid him and hauled our luggage 8 blocks to the hotel. We had to cut across the street too so it was already getting interesting for the two of us.
We finally arrived at the hotel and dropped our bags off. We took a look at a map and started walking. We wanted to see one main thing while we were down there: Dealey Plaza, where JFK was assassinated back in 1963. I have always been fascinated with the incident and all that surrounded it. We arrived and there were about four different people telling stories of that day and selling merchandise. Personally, I thought it was kind of tacky but people were buying. We saw the grassy knoll and the Texas School Book Depository. We saw a Mizzou fan getting his picture on the grassy knoll facing the street with a finger pistol. Proud moment for this Mizzou Alum.
We went back and had dinner and just relaxed. We were both not feeling 100% and we needed medicine fast! We got dropped off at a CVS when we arrived in Dallas so I started to head that way. I arrived at about 8:05pm and they closed 5 minutes before. So I started to walk. I ended up finding a CVS at 8:55pm 2 miles away and that was closing at 9pm. I ran into a few people I would prefer not to see again for awhile but I got the meds for my brother and myself!!
The game was not very close. Mizzou blew them out of the water. Mizzou had some anger with getting turned away from the BCS that year and they definitely showed that in the game. I remember freezing because I wore two short sleeve shirts to the game and it was FREEZING! Another proud moment for the Mizzou Alumni!
Andrew left for St. Louis and I left for Phoenix. That was my last moment of relaxation for a little bit. I had to get back and get ready for a little event called the Super Bowl.
After over years of planning by our franchise company, the Super Bowl was here. What a four day weekend that was. My AGM and myself were shuttle drivers going all over the city of Phoenix. My Front Desk Supervisor was the dispatcher for us as well as running the desk. I will say this: Even though it was the most hectic five days I have ever had with any job (Sorry Rascals, but it was), it was one of the most fun times too. It really showed how a staff could pull together and everyone help out for better of everyone! We did not have one complaint about the hotel room rates because the guests saw us bust our tail. We actually received letters saying we had done it better than previous super bowls attended.
During this five day stretch, I did not see Stephanie during that time at all. I had realized a few weeks prior that we were meant to be; however, if she could put up with me during that stretch, she could handle me at any point! So I had the ring purchased and the M+M's purchased that would ask the question for her hand in marriage. Then February 7, 2008 happened.
I was sitting in living room watching television when Stephanie called me and told me to go to a computer and check out something about a shooting in Kirkwood, MO. I went to a computer and checked it out and my hear just sank in sorrow. A man who had many disputes with the City of Kirkwood had gone and shot two officers and several council members, including the mayor. (Click this link for a more detailed account.) Kirkwood was my hometown and my parents continue to live there to this day. It is a town of about 30,000 in one of the many suburbs of St. Louis. My parents went a vigil that night and there were a lot of tears shed. I cried in Phoenix watching live online updates. I did not know anyone specifically in the shooting; however, if that happens in your hometown, it tugs at you just a little more.
After going to work the next day, I was still in shock but instead of waiting until Valentine's Day to ask Stephanie the BIG question, I decided that night to do it. After all the sorrow that happened the night before, it was time for some much needed happiness. This was going to make me the happiest man on the planet after I would ask the question... FINALLY!
About 10 people knew it was going to happen and they were made aware of the situation and were more than happy for us. I decided to have her cook dinner at my apartment so she would not suspect anything. After dinner I asked her, "How about some dessert?" And she told me, "How about we wait for a bit and then we can dessert." OH COME ON!!! I had planned for weeks that this was how I was going to do it with M+M's and her favorite ice cream, mint chocolate chip, double churned. I told her she needed to have some and we would just eat it slowly. She was fine with that. I got the ice cream and then added the secret ingredient, the M+M's. I brought it over to her and sat down on the couch with her. She looked at the M+M's and saw that they were different but not sure why. I asked her what did they say and got the ring from a cabinet next to the couch. I turned around and opened the box and before I could even start the question, Stephanie said yes and tackled me. Then she was on the phone for a few hours while I played Tiger Woods Golf on the Nintendo Wii while on the bluetooth with a few friends and family.
Phoenix Part 9: Heartache and how God taught us to respond.
So after going through these times of challenges, I had to head to Washington D.C. for SpringHill Suites and Marriott Training for three weeks. It was wild to be gone that long but it was very exciting. I had never been to D.C. before and was excited to check out all of the history as well as learning more about the brand I was representing.
There were a total of four people in our class and three of those people , including me were from the same management company in Phoenix. We had talked to each other a few times previously but did not know a whole lot of each other. I think if you asked them now that they know I am a die-hard Cardinals fan as there were many days after class I would go grab dinner and head home to watch the Cardinals on the laptop. It was a way to stay connected to my great baseball hometown!
If you have never been to Washington D.C., I HIGHLY recommend you go. We did not have class on the weekends so we took advantage and hit up as much as we could while we were there. We saw the White House, the Washington Monument, the Lincoln Memorial, the somewhat new WWII Memorial and the reflecting pond. After the Lincoln Memorial, we hit the Vietnam Memorial. Talk about powerful! They let people go about one hundred at a time after hearing a two minute speech on how the monument came to be. As we walked through, it was DEAD silence. You heard some crying there are still many families touched by the war. Very moving memorial.
The following weekend we took a trip to Mount Vernon, the home of George Washington. Another GM and myself took a boat up and down the Potomac River and toured everything over there. We also went to Arlington National Cemetery. I walked ahead of the group as they moved a little slower. I went to the JFK Memorial, Iwo Jima Memorial and saw the resting place of on other president, William Taft. However, if you ever go, please see the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. Every thirty minutes when they do the changing of the guard many gather to watch. I am pretty sure that when they do the Changing of the Guard, there is not a dry eye in the house.
So after three weeks of history and Marriott information embedded in me, I returned to Phoenix. Stephanie and myself were still dating and I think people were starting to ask when the question was going to be asked to her. I was still waiting for that special sign from God to know this was going to be the one for me. I was starting to "lean" that way when he smacked me upside the head.
Stephanie came to St. Louis with me for Christmas in 2007 and started to see why I am so partial to this town. We did the "touristy" things (i.e. the St. Louis Arch, Anheuser Busch or InBev tour, and of course had to show off the Cardinals Stadium and buy some Cardinals apparel.) However, the moment were God smacked me was technically not in St. Louis.
It was in St. Charles, MO. We were walking down Old Town St. Charles near the Missouri river in about 28 degrees weather with a nice wind chill going too. We were waiting to meet friends for dinner at Trailhead Brewery and Stephanie was loving these old shops. The shops range from spices to crafts to art to dog treat shops. We must have hit six or seven, mainly to get out of the cold. However, I sat there and said to myself, "If I am willing to walk down from shop to shop with this woman in this type of weather, I must really Love her." THUNK! There it was. God telling me, "You finally got it! DING DING DING!" Amazing how He works!
Phoenix Part 8: From St. Louis to the Cotton Bowl to the Super Bowl to a sad/unbelieveable 24 hour period in February.
So I have started a new position as General Manager of a great hotel in Glendale, AZ, I was in a great relationship with a God fearing woman and had great friendships around to keep me grounded. Things were going very well early 2007. Then I was reminded that this life is not easy.
I had just gotten back from my first GM conference when we had to deal with two major issues at the hotel with employees. I will not get into details here as that is not the important part of things. Two employees had to be let go and it was my first time doing this in my life. I had known others who had been let go and heard of others firing people. However, firing two people in 48 hours was gut check time for a rookie GM. I remember sitting there on a Sunday morning after it all went down and I was in shock. My assistant GM came in a few minutes after the employee left and must have thought someone died in my life. In a way, something did die in me.
When I say that, it is not a bad thing. I think what died in me that day was the idea of innocence. During my stints at jobs up to this point (bagger, cashier, camp director, student activities and baseball), it was always someone else who had to handle these things with the trouble employees. Never did I think I was going to have to be in that position. That is for grown-ups, not Travis. Now, I was one of these grown-ups.
If you asked my parents, when I was growing up and that term is used very loosely, I wanted to be an adult ASAP. Heck, my grades in college were not the greatest but when it came to working, I could hold my own. But now, I was the one making these personal decisions, not someone else.
As well as having these issues coming up at the hotel, a friend of mine and myself encountered a major issue in our lives. FYI: all of these challenges came up in a 10 day span of each other. A few of you know what happened and those are the people that need to know exactly what happened. It was s struggle I faced for a few months and my friend faced for over a year. I was trying to figure out what was going on and how I could have been on top of the world and things were crashing in on me. Then I got my daily verse right in the middle of all of these things going on.
James 1:2-5 "2Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. 4Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. 5If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him." NIV
WOW. We always seem to complain when we go through trials. "Why God? How could you let this happen? Where are you God?" I was always one of those people who would get frustrated with God when "bad" things happened.
However, how could this be God's fault since He is perfect and has this CRAZY love for his children?? Go back to a comment a made a few paragraphs ago: I was trying to figure out what was going on and how I could have been on top of the world and things were crashing in on me. I am not the one who is on top of the world. God is that one. God's love is what gets us through these trials that we, as sinners, create. God did not choose for each situation I was going through to happen. He knew that it was going to break me and man alive did it!
I am never of fan of letting associates go, especially good associates; however, I started to become a seasoned pro at it. The difference I realize now though is there are bigger challenges out there that I will be facing in life and to understand that He is always there to hold me tight. What an awesome Father we are blessed to praise!
Phoenix Part 7: Washington DC, a special trip to St. Louis, and wildest weekend of my life up to that point!
So just over a week after the wedding, Stephanie and myself went out on a "date" at a very classy and upscale restaurant in the Glendale/Peoria area, Olive Garden. I will always remember that dinner as one of the most nervous dates of my life. Probably had something to what it led to a few years later.
We had previously had dinner before but we knew this was to see if we were going to start dating. Not sure if it now came up since we were both in the same wedding and had been talking more than we ever had. We were trying to get to know each other a little more. We scratched the surface on what our plans were and where we saw ourselves going. We both did agree on one thing, if we were meant to start dating, we would let God take control of that situation.
We left that night as I was ready to start dating and Stephanie left it is as "okay, I need to think about it." OH COME ON!!!! So for two days I sat at the edge of my seat and had no idea what was going to happen. There was a good reason for this as I found out later on in our relationship. She let me know on Wednesday afternoon for me to stop by after work as she had a decision. She decided that she was feeling the same and so, we started dating.
Just before we had been dating for a month, I got an email from Stephanie that would temporarily freak me out. I was in the process of trying to plan what to do for the one month anniversary. (Remember those times? Now we just look at years, thankfully because that gets costly!) The email consisted of her ideal engagement ring. I will take a moment now and let that sink in to your thoughts, as I had to do at the time. I was a little shocked and sat in my apartment in a little bit of shock. I had not thought of us in that type of scenario quite yet. Again, I was looking to CELEBRATE being together for a month. I thought that was an accomplishment for me, let alone looking at rings.
So after breathing heavily into a brown bag for a few seconds, I gathered my thoughts and tried to relax. I just told myself, "This is not that big of a deal. She is just voicing the IDEAL ring for her." That did not work so well. Back to the brown bag.
I look back on that email and I laugh now. Stephanie knew long before I did that we were meant to be. Probably because she fully trusted God when it came to us long before I did. We had both said we would give it up to God; however, it feels like I was trying to control as much of the pace of the relationship as possible. There were some things I needed to learn and understand what God was teaching me. I think I always envisioned that I would move back to Missouri, meet someone and that would be it. What WE have in mind is usually quite different of what HE has in mind. I always believed that I knew how to handle situations. Heck, I moved to Phoenix had to get a new job on my own and I could find the right woman and control when I am ready for that next HUGE step. What I failed to realize is that none of the things I accomplished in life were on me, God had carried me and got me to that point. He cried with me through the toughest times and smiled when great things happened. Most importantly He was and is ALWAYS there!
Another instance where I knew He was there was when my family came to Phoenix for Christmas and the families would have a chance to meet. Back to the brown bag for breathing techniques. We were invited over to Stephanie's father's house for dinner for Christmas. I think everyone was nervous just because this usually is another big step in relationships and I was trying to figure out what milestones in relationships were next before, well THAT step occurred. The dinner ended up being not a big deal at all. It was very relaxing and very good too. My folks and Stephanie's father and step-mom just talked for several hours while my brother, Stephanie and me watched Christmas specials. It was a relaxing evening and also a relaxing trip with my family. I think my dad really enjoyed that Phoenix December as he was able to go out biking a few times on the Arizona Canal. Mom got to do some shopping in Scottsdale and my brother Andrew and I got to hang out.
So during this time of parents meeting and a few instances that took a couple of trees to ease my breathing back to normal, I received an email from my General Manager Sheri. She asked me to help her out with Disneyland passes. A buddy of mine was in the military and he had discounts for friends and family on those types of things. I brought the passes to her house and we stood outside talking for a bit. It was at that time I found out she was going to be leaving and she was going to recommend me for the GM job. I had just slid into an AGM/Sales role with the company and was getting those things down when this got brought up. Again, God had a plan, although it felt crazy at the time.
I went in for an interview with the CEO of the company. I prayed about it for a few days and got the call that I was going to be taking over. What a challenge God had placed for me. I was taking over a hotel that was doing very well in revenue as well as a great staff. Some say, "How is this challenging? This is easy for you." I have experienced both coming in from a GM leaving on her own accord and also on the company's accord. You have a lot to live up to in a successful business. You will be immediately compared to your previous GM. I tried to do as much her style as I could. I emailed her that first month at least once a day. She never had an issue talking with me or assisting me. I will always be grateful to Sheri for what I have learned from her. One important lesson I learned: I was not Sheri. I was Travis and my style was going to be different. I had to give the staff time to adjust as well.
With the staff I had come to consider as family, I was not worried about them adjusting. I was worried about myself adjusting. For my first General Manager experience, I was blessed with a great staff. However, with a great staff, problems will still arise. It is how you react to those issues that people will remember. Isn't that the same in life? Life might be going great and the something rocks your world that YOU try to fix and we forget that God is still there wanting to help out.
Phoenix Part 6: Time to react to some problems. WOW!
When it comes to trying to go the extra mile for my wife, I learned an important lesson from my father. Go that extra mile, and keep sprinting!
Back in 2008, I finally woke up and proposed to my wife Stephanie. I did not even have a chance to ask the question and she saw the M+M's I got her specially made and what they said on them, she said yes and then was on the phone for a few hours with friends and family. We started going through the whole wedding process and yes, I said WE!
A situation arose in May that allowed the following event to happen. It just goes to show how God's grace is always there even in the darkest hours. Through a string of events, Stephanie's father had planned on not attending the wedding. It was a devastating blow to both of us, but more for Stephanie. So this is where the planning came in to play.
A year before we were dating, I heard this song on Yahoo Music by a band I had never heard of before. The name of the band was Radial Angel and the song was entitled "She." I thought this was such a cool song talking about the importance of what a woman means to a man. Again, Stephanie and myself were not dating at the time I heard this in my office of the Surprise Fightin' Falcons.
During our dating period, I gave her a mixed CD and this was the lead song. Stephanie had never heard it before but loved it!
Fast forward to June 2008. I sent an email to the band just asking what the cost would be to fly them out to the wedding and perform the song. I did not explain the circumstances as that was not my focus. A few weeks later, an email came back from the band and the lead singer Jared said he would be open to it.
I was floored. I responded back within seconds I believe. We ended up working out the details and he said for the cost of his flight and lodging and some food, he would do it at no additional cost. So after picking myself up off the floor another time, I said let's do it.
Now we had a budget for wedding presents for each other and I had to try and get within that budget. I ended up getting a free flight with Southwest after a roundtrip flight to St. Louis in October (Thanks Kristi and Matt). I booked his flight, which was free and his hotel stay (he stayed for a decent rate at a certain hotel in Glendale, AZ where I knew the GM) and got him a gift card for grub and the plan was set.
The week before the wedding, I was working the night audit shift at the hotel and printed out the lyrics to the song.
She, by Radial Angel
she is my inspiration she is my destination and i want her, to hold my heart in her hands and she is the one, that holds my life in her heart right from the start
when will i see her again when will i see her
she is the one who brings life to my heart but i find myself in doubt thinking all this is my fault but i know that she loves me
but i always questioned why and she thinks that love comes from the stars but i know she's right but i, i need her she's mine, all i need is what i need
when will i see her again when will i see her
(chorus) she, she's a lot things she, she's my everything
she, she's the little things she, she's my everything that I ever wanted
she is my, she's my everything she is my, she's my everything
It really hit me at that moment what was happening. I was getting married to THIS woman. What a huge blessing God had given me in Stephanie. Simply amazing.
Jared was coming to the wedding so he became my cousin from my second Aunt Brenda. My cousin josh did a great job playing along with it too. Man, he got thrown into that with very little time to react!
Jared arrived on a Friday and he got his favorite In 'N Out Burger (gag.) but everyone else loves it. I dropped him off at the hotel about 15 minutes before Stephanie and her family showed up to drop stuff off (phew).
I changed the order of the first dance's to accommodate everything and everyone. We had Katrina and Stephen sing our first dance song, When God Made You and they were amazing! Then the moment came. Stephanie sat in her chair and it all happened. The video of it is on my facebook page at the links below.
So I have started a new job and loving it. I worked through Spring Training, which is BIG in Phoenix so I got enough of baseball while working at the SpringHill Suites. I was learning more and more about the hotel business. It was quite an exciting time.
What made it better working for a hotel, I discovered things like discounts to hotel rooms. In my tenure with Marriott, I am fairly sure my parents took advantage of the discounts more than I did. But I still got some pretty sweet deals. I finally took advantage of a hotel stay when I went to Seattle to visit friends of mine Greg and Melissa Milford and their newborn.
I flew in on a Friday afternoon and we grabbed lunch and hung out and caught up. I had not seen Greg in quite a few years and this was the guy that helped to start the day of not moving and watching football (Erik, we perfected it with college basketball). We relaxed that evening to some fresh seafood and good conversation.
The next day we did the RedHook Ale Tour. Their tour is a little different than Anheuser Busch Tour. They give you more beer and it is a LOT heavier than A/B. Also, you are in one room and not doing any touring. So after waiting an hour to just relax before heading back to Greg's house, we did head back. We got some dinner that night and then I just went back to the hotel room.
A little bit later on I called that Bible study leader talked about previously and we started talking as we had not talked or seen each other in awhile. I think we ended up talking about everything in our life as we were on the phone for a few hours. We talked about catching up when I got back but also new we would see each other at Erik and Ginny's wedding in a few weeks. So we planned on catching up then as we were both in the wedding.
So I got back from Seattle and the next few weeks were spent working and then heading to Erik and Ginny's wedding. They had a rehearsal dinner on a Friday evening and I only knew a few people from the wedding party. I did catch up to that Bible Study leader and we talked for a few minutes. She was more heavily involved in the wedding than I was as she was a maid of honor so she was pulled in a few directions.
The next morning, I gave my buddy Erik a call to see how he was doing. During that conversation, I revealed something to him that I am not sure my wife to this day is unaware of. Erik and I were joking over a few things as I had to keep the mood light as it is a big change for the man too!!! I told him that I would probably end up getting married to that Bible Study Leader in a few years. We both laughed and he asked when and I told him to give me a few years.
Now to this point, there was no talking of this Bible Study leader (Stephanie) and myself dating. All we did was just talk on the phone for a few hours while I was in Seattle. Weird thing to say, to say the least but it was a feeling.
The wedding went on as planned and was a great evening. The one thing I remember was right before the wedding, Stephanie tracked me down and gave me a gift. This was a few hours after that phone conversation with Erik. WEIRD! It was a flask with a Russian emblem on it. I accepted and thanked her for it.
After the wedding, I met Stephanie and her friend at church that night and I was still in my tux. best dressed attendee ever on a Saturday evening service there! We all went out to dinner after church and just relaxed from the day's activities. Little did I know there was little time for relaxing!
Phoenix Part 5: Olive Garden, a new job and a certain email I WILL NEVER FORGET!
The 2005 baseball season ended in early September and we went on trying to get sponsors to renew as well as dealing with issues from the past season. In early November, they announced that the 2006 Surprise Fightin' Falcons season was being suspended. Everyone was let go immediately except for myself to pack everything up and ship it to Reno. The Mesa team was suspended too and I packed their stuff up as well. They asked me to move to a few other teams and I looked at one; however, there was a strong pull to stay in Surprise (I was not sure at the time why). I decided I needed to check out new avenues for a "career." I had no idea what I wanted to do but was completely burnt out on baseball!
I had a few interviews in a range of areas. It ranged from a car salesman to a parks and recreation assistant to a ticketing company. I turned down the Car Salesman job. That was not a rode I wanted to head down. Nothing was really working out and then a job with an insurance company was available. The position was to be trained for a Insurance salesmen. My grandfather held the position for many years after WWII and I thought it would be a nice change of pace for me.
I arrived for the interview and there was a typing test. At this point, I should have known something was up. Why on Earth would there care how fast I typed for selling insurance?? Anyway, I went through a few screens and they offered me the job. I accepted and started on Martin Luther King Day 2006. I started at 12:45pm on that Monday. That first day was a little confusing as I was understanding that on the following Wednesday I was to take a test that was needed for insurance sales. It made sense to learn the product you were selling so I started to look things over after work that night and the next morning. I started to question things on that second day there when I learned that I would be an insurance OPERATOR for at LEAST the first year. If you know me, I am NOT someone that sits still easy. I kept going back and forth the rest of the day and at the end of the day, I made my decision. That place was NOT for me. I told the leader of our insurance class and he recommended me to sleep on it. I told him I would but my decision would more than likely not be changing. I drove him and kept going back and forth on if I was doing the decision. It felt as though that God was telling me that I needed to wait and not rush for a job. That seemed a little tougher as money was definitely needed at the time. I will admit I rushed into that job and who knows what would have happened if I would have stayed on there.
In the meantime, I had started to get back involved in a Bible Study at the church I had tried to attend. The leader of the group and I talked on the phone several times about things that had been going on in the group as well as what had been going on with my job situation. I started to attend and thought it was time to really get involved in the group a little more. I started talking to a few people there but never really talked to many people or plan to hang out with any of them. I talked to a guy named Erik and thought he was a good guy to meet up with and chat about life and God and watch plenty of sports. I was randomly talking to the Bible Study leader and she encouraged me to keep coming back even though connections were not being made. I told her I would and went on through my birthday. Erik was also looking to leave the group and did a few weeks before I did. I still talked to the leader of the group after that. There were times Erik and his girlfriend (now wife) myself and the leader would head to dinner and just hang out. It was nice to hang out and relax with friends as the job situation was still in flux.
I emailed a sales director at a hotel we had worked with while at the baseball team. He said he was actually going to be putting in his notice and asked if I would be interested. I, of course, said yea. It seemed like a good fit, especially only looking at 45 hours a week and the pay was better than I ever had previously. I sat down for an interview on a few different days and got offered the job. I felt a HUGE WEIGHT lifted off the shoulders and started to understand what God was talking about with me being patient with His plan. There are so many times that we rush into a decision simply because we THINK it works out for us; however, He KNOWS what is right for us and is teaching us through the process as well.
Right after I started my job at the hotel, I left the bible study I was attending for a few months. I let the leader know and she was not too thrilled with me. I was not growing with the group and was looking for a few different opportunities to get involved with other groups at church. We would stay in contact at church and hang out in groups we were sure.
We were right, in a way...............
Phoenix Part 4: When a phone call from Seattle and a friend's wedding combine to lead to a future.
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
So just over five years ago in October of 2004, I was working for the River City Rascals minor league baseball team in O'Fallon, MO. We had a great core of workers and had worked together for a few years at that point. It was the day after the Cardinals were swept in the World Series by a certain team from Boston and was still recovering from the series when my boss pulled us together mid morning and told us he was leaving the organization for a team in the Golden Baseball League.
Over the next few weeks, we were talking about who would take over or if any of us would go. I was a single man at the time and was a perfect candidate to go as well. However, a few issues came about. 1. I had not been asked (yet) to go. 2. I was a Missouri boy. Born and raised in the great St. Louis, a graduate of the University of Missouri and my family and friends were here. How could I leave here?!?!
I had talked to my my boss who was leaving, Matt Jones and he was working out the budget and would let me know if there would be a spot for me. Just after Thanksgiving, he mentioned that he wanted me to go out there with the team. I was grateful to be asked but leaning towards staying. I had never been to Phoenix and just associated Phoenix with snakes and if you know Travis, snakes are NOT friends of mine!!
My mom wanted me to stay and of course kept mentioning the snakes to keep me here. I talked to several people through the process of this. I finally sat down and just prayed and felt God saying GO!!
So I was going. I told my folks and friends and got a mixed reaction. "Going to Phoenix? You know it is HOT there???" "The winters there are gorgeous!" Both of these I verified while living there!
I spent the last few weeks doing going away parties for those of us leaving, relaxing with family and preparing for a life changing event! I stayed with my folks on my last night in St. Louis and the next morning, had breakfast and stood in the kitchen I grew up in and caused a lot of chaos. I did not know what to do and lost it. I hugged my father and mother. Before my little brother left for school I hugged him too. I got into the car and drove away from home to a place I had never been.
Who knew that I had been doing that all my life? How many times do little decisions end up changing your life forever? Do we realize these changes? From changing majors in college from business management to sports management and recreation led to the River City Rascals, which led to moving to Phoenix which led to...
Oh we will see what it led to.
Next up: Phoenix Part 2: How do we react outside of our comfort zone??