TP10: 10 Questions With…

…Holly Purdon, Manager of Player Relations & Fan Loyalty

Off the field, the majority of the Toronto Blue Jays have just as hectic a schedule as they do while preparing and playing the better part of 162 games during the regular season. From the time Spring Training begins in March, players focus on their game and training to make sure their performance is at the level they’re capable of, so when appearances and events are added to the mix, you can only imagine how much busier the players become. That’s where Holly Purdon, Manager of Player Relations and Fan Loyalty comes in. Having been around the Jays since 2003 Holly has spent a considerable amount of time getting to know every player and their families, as she coordinates their schedules, ensuring they’re at the right place at the right time. In addition to the players, Holly plays an key role in the lives of committed and true Blue Jays fans as the Manager of Fan Loyalty. I had the chance to chat with Holly after the first homestand of the season to discuss her role with the club and her day-to-day life during the season.

Below: Holly Purdon and Intern, Chris Traynor
Holly.JPG


Megan Robinson: How long have you been the Manager of Player Relations and Fan Loyalty?

Holly Purdon: I actually just assumed the role last Fall (November 2009). Prior to this role, I had been the Manager, Community Relations for a few years, Coordinator Community Relations prior to that and began with the Club as the Community Relations Intern right out of University in April 2003.

MR: Wow, so you’ve been around the Jays Organization a long time. What is your main objective as the Manager of Player Relations?

HP: The Player Relations component of my job is really threefold as I also assist in facilitating programs and requests for our Blue Jays Alumni and our Player’s Family Programming… so for example: Alumni Weekend, the Lady Jays Food Drive, etc. I would say that my main objective is to uphold respect for all parties involved (whether it be their schedule, requirements, etc.) while facilitating and creating opportunities that provide a clear line of communication between our Players and Alumni with the Organization, our Staff, our Partners, our Fans and our Community.

MR: They definitely keep you busy. Have there ever been any crazy, Diva-like requests from Players or Wives (without naming names)?
 
HP: HA. You would think so, but I can’t say that I’ve actually had any requests that would be considered ‘diva-like’. There have definitely been some interesting requests but I think that is more a reflection of the interests and personalities of our players who represent such an array of regions from, primarily, across North America – but by no means anything we couldn’t handle. I think one of the cutest requests I received this year was when I was down at Spring Training and asked some of the player’s children what kind of snacks they would like for their lounge here at Rogers Centre. Their response: “Canadian” Iced Tea.

MR: Okay, so aside from taking their requests, you’ve probably witnessed a lot of players give back to the community and to fans. Can you recall the nicest or most notable thing you’ve ever witnessed a Blue Jay player do off the field?

HP: That is a tough one. We have so many amazing players that take the time to go out of their way for others once off the playing field. It is very difficult to hear our players being ridiculed at times for their lack of emotion or community involvement when I’m aware of some of the great work that they do. With the marathon of what is the Major League baseball schedule it obviously does not permit for a lot of ‘free’ time between games, workouts, travel and time with their own families – but just because it may not be headline news, doesn’t mean our players are not out when they can be and making a difference. Many of them prefer to do so out of the lights of the camera. To name just a couple of the things that some of our players are doing that has even further raised the amount of respect that I have for them, here’s two examples off the top of my head. John McDonald – What can I say? He’s one of the most popular Blue Jays for a reason. One of the nicest men I’ve ever met, John repeatedly goes out of his way to ensure that he can help put a smile on someone else’s face. John has met so many children here at the ballpark through the various Wish Granting organizations in the city – but there are many that he continues to communicate with outside of the game. He emails and calls to check-up on them, invites them back to the ballpark as his guests and he has even taken the time to drive his family North of Toronto to see one such child participate in his own baseball game. Vernon Wells – For all of the struggles he has had the previous couple of seasons – and this year seem to be gone; knock on wood – Vernon has been doing some amazing work in the community both here and back home in Texas through his new charitable organization, the Vernon Wells Perfect 10 Foundation. Just a couple of weeks ago the Foundation broke ground on their first major project which will be two buildings that will house underprivileged families, specifically, to help single mothers in need. Throughout his tenure as a Blue Jay, Wells has also served as the Honourary Commissioner of the Jays Care Foundation Rookie League Program which is funded by a portion of Wells’ $1M donation to the Foundation.

MR: Explain your role as the Manager of Fan Loyalty.

HP: The Fan Loyalty component of my role is actually quite complex and I’m looking forward to this new role and the challenge that it presents. Essentially, I need to understand exactly ‘who’ is a Blue Jays fan. Their interests, likes and dislikes, what makes them happy, sad – maybe mad;  their depth of knowledge of the game of baseball and if it extends to our active roster or right through the players in our minor league system, and so much more. It’s about educating our fans and community about the game of baseball and the Blue Jays and understanding how our fans and the community need and want these messages relayed to them. All of this information is important to building what is otherwise known as our “Fan Club” and “Jr. Jays Club”. Finding ways to create new Blue Jays fans is one thing but ensuring that we keep these fans engaged, is another.

MR: I heard the Fan Club has changed this year. What’s different from previous years?

HP: The two most notables changes for this year’s Fan Club is the re-vamped Baseball 101 Sessions and the addition of the Fan Club Road Trip! On June 24th and August 26th we are going to be hosting Post-Game Baseball 101 Sessions in the HSBC ClubVIP here at the Stadium and invite Fan Club Members who can ask questions and  mingle with select Members from the Blue Jays team. The biggest addition to the line-up of Fan Club events is the Road Trip to Detroit at the end of July (July 24th – July 25th). It is at an additional cost but is an exclusive offer to official Fan Club Members only. We have a luxury coach bus that is scheduled to leave Rogers Centre early on the Saturday morning, with various pick-up locations on the Westbound 401 en route to Detroit, and then participants will get tickets to the game on Saturday night and Sunday afternoon at Comerica Park to see the Jays play the Tigers. They will have one night accommodation and full breakfast Sunday m
orning and an opportunity to attend a Meet & Greet with a Blue Jays player while they’re in Detroit!

MR: That sounds like it would be a great weekend. Can anyone become a Fan Club Member and why should someone join?

HP: Definitely! Although, for fans that are 14 and under we do have our Jr. Jays Club which is catered a bit more to their needs and those of Mom & Dad’s. The Fan Club is there to provide our Fans with exclusive opportunities to get up close and personal with our players and, where the schedule permits, our alumni as well. Fan Club Members will have the opportunity to attend two autograph sessions with Blue Jays players, two pre-game Batting Practice visits, two Baseball 101 Sessions and the chance to participate in the Detroit Road Trip at the end of July. They will receive vouchers and discounts for concessions and merchandise here at Rogers Centre. They will also receive the new Fan Club E-Newsletter with up-to-date information on the team and the opportunity to submit questions that you have for some of your favourite players. Question is, if you’re a Blue Jays fan, why wouldn’t you join!?

MR: Managing Fan Loyalty, you’ve no doubt come across some passionate Jays fans. What has been the most memorable of them all?
 
HP: For sure – there are some very big supporters of the Blue Jays out there. If I had to name one though – I think the most memorable Jays fan that I had the pleasure of meeting was Amersia Thompson. She had such a kind soul and everyday was here at the ballpark to wave to the players as they arrived and then again as they left following the game. She had such a love for the game and this team. Haha… I smile when thinking about her and how much she inherently adopted aspects of my role as she would explain the players schedules and when they would be available/unavailable to other fans that surrounded her. Sadly, Amersia passed away in January 2008. To this day, friends and fans ensure that there are flowers always atop of the ramp to the parking garage where Amersia would stand to wave welcome and bid farewell to her beloved Blue Jays.

MR:  Describe a typical day during a home stand.

HP: In a nutshell, it starts early and ends late! A typical homestand day is definitely a long day but they are by far the most exciting; they’re what you spend the entire year working and preparing for. When I arrive in the morning – around 8-9am – I check my messages, look at the to-do lists for the day and spend the day planning out a variety of items related to our Fan Club and Jr. Jays Club programs. I ensure that my Intern Chris Traynor is equipped with resources he needs for the day. Chris has been a machine, keeping up to date with the Fan Club and Jr. Jays Club inquiries and I couldn’t do this without him! I double-check with co-workers in other Departments as to what upcoming ‘player needs’ they have so I know which player to speak with and about what. Mid-afternoon I head downstairs to deliver any memos or reminders to the players for upcoming appearances and meet with them about these requests until they are ready to go start their pre-game ‘BP’ [batting practice] at roughly 4:30pm. Following BP I bring players to and from autograph sessions and appearances that sometimes go until around 6:15pm. After that, it’s back down to the field to assist our Game Entertainment Crew in ensuring that we have the right players in the right places for any pre-game presentations, first pitches, etc. Once the game starts at 7pm our player’s families are usually in the building so I’m with them checking-in, answering any questions or updating them on any of the upcoming events that they are assisting with. Actually, you can watch for our Lady Jays assisting with the Jays Care Foundation Broadcast Auction this Monday, April 26th! Typically around 8pm I’m back at my desk trying to get caught up on some of the emails and calls I’ve missed since being away from my desk. I’m usually in my car on the way home about half an hour after the game ends, unless there is more player appearances or autograph sessions to take the players to post-game!

MR: Again, wow. That’s a really long day. Final question: what is your favourite Blue Jays moment?

HP: Growing up in Kingston, Ontario I never really was here at the ballpark in Toronto to witness some of the amazing moments in Blue Jays history. I will never forget my first year with the organization in 2003 and being at the game on September 27th when Roy Halladay recorded his 22 Win of the season; the atmosphere in the crowd was amazing. We just knew that he had to win the CY that year, and we all know now what happened.

The next time you consider the job of the Blue Jays remember the one person who coordinates the appearance and event schedules and day-to-day requests of all of the players. She works day in and day out to ensure all players are where they have to be and most importantly, that they are keeping up with appearances. Along with so many other people in the Jays organization, Holly Purdon plays a key role in the daily lives of most people involved in the club. Not only does she work year round to coordinate the season but she is especially dedicated for six months of the year, 162 regular season games, and 15 hours days during homestands but the most noticeable thing about her is that she does it all with a smile on her face. 

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