Tagged: Baseball

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

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. 

TP08: Chatter Box – First Edition

I’ve come to the conclusion that the two most important
things in life are good friends and a good bullpen.  ~Bob Lemon, 1981

Since Jackie Robinson Day Thursday and a tough weekend against the Angels, quite a bit has happened in and around the Blue Jays club. A new edition to the team and trends setting in early on in the season, a response from Blue Jays President Paul Beeston to an article published in Chicago about baseball in Toronto, and the first Jr. Jays Saturday (a chance for young fans to take part in game day activities). Since it’s Monday, let me catch you up to speed.

Let’s Talk About Fred Lewis

The Outfielder made his MLB debut in 2006 in San Francisco and played in 326 games for the Giants. In his three seasons in San Francisco he made 931 plate appearances holding a batting average of .277 with 53 doubles, 16 triples, 16 home runs and recorded 34 stolen bases. Lewis was placed on the Disabled List earlier in the month for a strained oblique muscle and rehabilitated in the Pacific Coast League. Upon reactivation last Thursday April 15th he was traded to Toronto in return for Future Considerations to the Giants. The trade was made official late Thursday night by the Toronto Blue Jays.

According to Lewis, he’s looking forward to playing in Toronto despite the initial trouble he had crossing the boarder. Canadian Customs Officials did not believe the 29-year-old that he was in fact a professional baseball player who had just been traded to the Toronto Blue Jays. “It took me almost an hour [to clear customs],” said Lewis to a reporter quoted in an article on bluejays.com. “I had to find a website that had something to do with me in it and had to show them that. I had my passport there but that wasn’t enough. It was kind of a long day.”

After a day of traveling back to Mississippi before flying to Toronto Friday, Manager Cito Gaston chose to leave Lewis out of the lineup Friday. Saturday, Lewis did make a plate appearance at the bottom of the ninth, pinch-hitting for Catcher Jose Molina. Unfortunately he was unsuccessful; Lewis struck out swinging against Angels RHP Fernando Rodney in his plate debut for the Jays, Saturday.

However, Lewis started in left-field and batted first Sunday in the final game of the three-game series against the Angels. Lewis rectified first impressions when he doubled in the 3rd and promptly stole third base, marking the 35th time in his career he has successfully stolen a base. Though no run was scored and his other three at-bats were not as victorious for the Jays, the 3rd inning was a glimpse of Lewis’ potential.

No doubt it’s tough to up and move but he’s excited to go to bat for the Jays as often as possible. After the Jays were swept by the Angels over the weekend, despite a notable appearance from Ricky Romero on the mound Sunday, the Jays are looking to come back against the Royals who are in Toronto for a three-game series beginning tonight. Obviously, the signing of Fred Lewis will not be a key factor in the turnaround, but rather it will be a team effort and could aid the momentum to break the offensive trends that have been surfacing early on in the season.

Jays in Toronto: Here to stay for good, as confirmed by Jays President Paul Beeston

Twitter had never seen such an outcry from angry Blue Jay fans over the past weekend, after an article was published in a Chicago newspaper stating that due to a multitude of factors (according to this particular writer) including poor attendance after the Home Opener in Toronto, that the MLB did not belong in Toronto or in Canada for that matter. Game attendance decreases naturally after the Home Opener which makes sense, but this writer had a lot more than just attendance to comment about. Confused fans on Twitter took to their updates to express their feelings on the aforementioned article though the fire died down after about a day of responses and angry comments on the article, which by then, Toronto papers had picked up on and summarized for the city to see.

Blue Jays President Paul Beeston commented on the article and the thoughts of the writer Saturday, which promptly halted the discussion, “The Blue Jays will be in Toronto longer than the writer will work for his paper.” That was the end of that. If you haven’t been out to a game yet, you should really go – there’s nothing quite like live baseball on a Saturday afternoon and here’s a fun fact: The roof on Rogers Centre was open last Thursday night (April 15th, 2010), which set a new record for the earliest date the roof has ever been open. The previous date was April 16th, 2002. You know what that means? Spring is in the air, the Jays are 13 games into their season, and summer baseball is soon to be thriving.

The First Jr. Jays Saturday of the 2010 Season

I tried to recall what it was like going to baseball games as a kid and only vaguely remembered a few visits to Rogers Centre (then SkyDome). This past Saturday marked the first Saturday in which kids had the opportunity to participate in aspects of the game including the starting lineup and the in-game announcer. If I could tell you how many times I said “Awww” in regards to one of the kids – that would be remarkable – because unfortunately it happened so often that I quickly lost count. Kids aged five to ten were selected randomly prior to the game Saturday and given a spot in the starting lineup, where they had the chance to run on the field alongside a Jays player in the starting lineup.

I don’t think I’ve ever met smarter kids who told me about why they didn’t like certain players no longer with the team and how they got traded, how many home runs Vernon Wells has hit or when Aaron Hill will be back. It’s remarkable to speak to kids who are so knowledgeable because I often forget how much information they can retain, like I did at their age. I quickly made friends with Jarrett, 6, and Crystal, 5, who were both jumping up and down with excitement over the chance to simply run on the field. It doesn’t seem like a big deal to some, but to them, it was huge. I captured some of the best moments of the afternoon, so take a peek at the pictures below but watch the video of the starting lineup [click here]. I promise, it will make you smile.

jr. JaysSix-year-old Jarrett is greeted by Members of JForce
Thumbnail image for jarrett.jpgAll 10 Jr. Jays for April 17th, 2010 – Watch the video for introductions
Thumbnail image for DSC02106.JPG
Ten-year-old Stephen poses with ACE before the lineups are announced
DSC02114.JPGDuring the Anthem, Alex Gonzalez stands with ACE and the Jr. Jays

The First: An Introduction

When you think about the Blue Jays, what’s the first thought that comes to mind? My Toronto roots bring me back to summer afternoons in the mid-90’s sitting with my Papa listening to the games on his old radio outside or sitting on his lap watching them on T.V. He wore a denim Jays jacket and yelled at the TV set in his thick Scottish accent, which always made me laugh. The Jays to me are a part of this city, of my childhood, and a reflection of the way sports culture effects our lives every day. So the next time you think about the Jays, think about why you’re a fan or what it is that you love about the team, through the years and in the present.

With that, let me introduce myself! My name is Megan Robinson and I’m a baseball fan. It’s nice to meet you. I’m a Radio and Television Arts student at Ryerson University and will graduate next spring. I have interned around Toronto for the past five years in various media outlets having a chance to write, report, blog, interview, and really get a grasp on media and sports in Toronto. I grew up playing baseball and to this day, playing catch is one of my all-time favourite ways to pass the time. I started playing baseball when I was three years old at Corvette Park in Scarborough, Ontario. My uncle sponsored a team which his two sons, my two eldest cousins, played on. They needed a couple girls on the team to be co-ed and I was lucky enough one of them, using my black Rawlings glove with neon green stitching. I loved the in-field and played third base but at the age of three, got tired quickly and chose to sit on the base during the game. Little did I know, that would be my introduction to one of my favourite games. Since then, I’ve played in all kinds of leagues and on school teams and have quite a few memories to remember it all. I have watched and listened to baseball in a few other cities and there’s nothing quite like it. The sport itself has so much history behind it and brings people together for so many great reasons.

It’s simple: I love baseball.

I associate seasons with different aspects of the game: Spring is of course Spring Training – the hope and passion that enlivens the upcoming season is invaluable. It’s a fresh start and a chance once more to display talent and endure the season eager for October baseball; Summer reminds me of social butterflies – How many times have you caught up with an old friend at a baseball game, catching a glimpse of a few plays or doing the seventh-inning stretch all the while enjoying each others’ company with the ambient noises of baseball? Summer is fantastic for that, when the Rogers Centre is open and the city is illuminated at night or on a Sunday afternoon as the sun shines brightly over the first-base line; And of course, there’s Fall – October baseball is what the whole season comes down to. Most players start the beginning of the season with a clear vision of playoffs in mind. After all, they play to win and to win, most importantly, in the post-season. By late October when the leaves have fallen and the air becomes cooler, baseball is the last chance at summer before the snow falls in Canada but to all baseball players, October baseball is what they live for.

If you’re like me and see baseball as anything but a bore and look forward to the six month season then you’d understand why I want to be a baseball writer and work for a professional ball club. Mid-way through my first year at University my dreams of becoming solely a sports reporter shifted when I realized that the people who knew the game the best were the writers who spent their days at the field, getting to know the players and coaches and living every day looking for a fresh angle to say something about the team or a player. I decided a couple years ago that I wanted to learn professional sports inside and out and that every aspect of a club would be an asset to my writing and in turn my career in baseball or sports in general, so you can imagine my excitement when I got hired as an intern with the Blue Jays for the summer!

Getting hired was nerve wracking but I was excited throughout the process. I was initially selected for a phone interview which happened to be while I was on a family vacation in Mexico. After being given the green light, I had arranged that I would call Toronto from Mexico as I didn’t know how I would be accessible while out of the country. You’d think making a phone call to Canada from Mexico wouldn’t be hard, right? Wrong. After three days of looking for a phone that would accept my calling cards, I resorted to using reverse collect calling and after a few test calls finally managed to have the brief interview from my room. I had met my superiors while working at the FAN590 as an intern on the Morning Show last summer, so it was neat that they already had some idea of who I was and what I was about. I was contacted for a in-office interview the following week once I had returned from my seaside vacation and asked to prepare some ideas on contesting and promotions for the upcoming home opener (it’s a MONDAY, so the promotional concepts weren’t exactly limitless). Walking to the Rogers Centre for me is like putting my game face on. Every time I go there, as a fan or a reporter, I always travel the same way – through the Skywalk from Union station and slowly down the path, past the CN Tower. I wasn’t nervous going into the interview, I was eager to meet them and to answer their questions. It went well and I went off to leave the short-list in their hands to determine the successful candidate (read: the wait and see game is excruciating when you’re excited).
That was a Thursday so when a missed call and a voice mail from ‘BLUE JAYS’ appeared on my phone the following Tuesday, two days before I had expected to hear anything at all, I couldn’t concentrate on anything. I got it. I would be (officially) the Promotions Intern for the 2010 Season for the Toronto Blue Jays. A Pro ball club! The opportunity to learn this side of the business is going to be an amazing way to spend my summer and soak in as much as possible from the people around me on a daily basis.

When they asked me to blog I thought a lot about what I would want to say, every day for six months. How many people do you know that work for a professional team? I realized that the insight I would gain from the start to the end of the season was reason enough for a blog. Every day tasks and game day duties are all things that will be a part of my job this season and I’m excited to be able to share that with you! Since the blog is entitled Triple Play I will be sharing three major points of interest – Jays news, stories from around the league, or something that happened in my day. As well, weekly features and updates on the Jays Triple A team the Las Vegas 51s, interviews and videos as well as contests and current Jays Promotions will be part of Triple Play. Make sure you check in as often as you can because I’ll be posting daily entries and videos about my daily encounters and notable mentions.

 Stay tuned for my next post including my thoughts on the Grapefruit league and the Jays in Spring Training!