Note: This post is going to mix startup concepts with baseball concepts. I am incredibly new to both. You’ve been warned.
Imagine a completely empty baseball stadium. Look all around, see the field and dugouts sans players, the stands without fans, the control room abandoned. Breathe in the air, and listen to the quiet. It’s November 2013, so the roof of the Rogers Centre is closed.
Two people walk out. That’s Kirk and I. We take positions: Kirk as pitcher (#43, R.A. Dickey, one of only two knuckleball pitchers across the major league), I as catcher (#55, Russell Martin, also swings a mean bat and grows a mean beard). We don’t really know what we’re doing, but we start throwing the ball around, back and forth. Sometimes we miss completely. We don’t yet have a notion of what game we’re going to be playing, let alone how to win. It’s OK – there is a scoreboard, but it isn’t lit up. There’s no sign of the other team.
Fast forward to April 2014. The roof is now open, and we’ve got a few more players on the field; all but one are free agents. We still don’t know whether baseball is the game we’re warming up for, but we decide that we’re going to warm up really hard. We do that through the summer. In August, we realize that parts of the team are actually warming up really hard for a croquet match. There’s a scuffle on the field, most players leave, but our non-free-agent sticks around (we signed him back in June). That’s Brett, our all-ends developer (#20, Josh Donaldson, American League MVP that can hit game-winning homers and run incredible defence). We play our first game in September 2014. Nobody comes to see it, save for our friends and families.
We decide at this juncture that the best thing for us to undoubtedly do would be to get new jerseys. Over the winter and the beginning of 2015, we play slightly longer lob ball games that we’re not sure are any better, but we do it on a monthly-ish cadence, and in increasingly better-looking outfits. We work with a few more free agents. We also decide we’re going to try selling season tickets, mainly because we look so nice, and can offer them free concessions in return. Yes, inspired by The Grid, we actually try crowdfunding. About 40 people (completely coincidentally, mostly our friends and family again) become full season ticket holders. But even after shelling out for those, because the games still somewhat suck, the majority get bored and leave.
Around the same time we start looking for a general manager. Maybe they could tell us what game we’re supposed to play. Turns out our potential general managers either don’t have a clue about baseball, or, this being Canada, naturally want us to play hockey. This fruitless search takes a ton of our time.
It’s now April 2015 (Aprils are big for us, it turns out!). We serendipitously meet an ex-baseballer who tried playing before, but never made it to the majors. Through exchanging tales of the good old days, we realize that we can throw and catch fast balls, and it turns out we’re pretty damn good at that. Starting in June, we mostly abandon our GM search (except at one last presentation, we meet a great guy named Alan who takes a liking to us, so we stay in touch), develop our own score card, and start playing with this new pitch. We grow our audience deliberately now, and the fans start slowly trickling in, though we invite most of them personally. They only take seats on one side of the stadium. In the same month, we sign a player we brought up from the minors over the winter – Nicole, our social media maven slash content crafter extraordinaire (#15, Chris Collabello, incredible home run hitter who is entirely unafraid to play unfamiliar positions in the field).
By the end of August, we’ve grown our fan base by 26% week over week. We’re really getting into a groove now, even putting occasional runs on the board. Alan connects us with a potential GM in China, and, after a single pitch (get it?), Tony comes on board. Kirk and I take a trip to Beijing for an unconventional off-season fall training session. Brett and Nicole hold down the games marvellously.
So, as 2015 rolls to a close, I can say with confidence: we’ve had an incredible year, and we’re poised for a fantastic 2016. We’re looking to slowly fill out our roster. We’re going to figure out how to fill the seats on the other side of the stadium. We’re definitely going to make our uniforms fit and function better, not just appear prettier.
We’re going to hone our game. We’re playing to win.