In Part 1, we covered the major setup operations leading up to early Friday afternoon. When we left our heroes, we had fields and tents setup, with a couple of porta-johns in place. But, there were no chairs for the tables in the food tent.
After 7 hours of field setup, the four scorekeepers, Executive Producer Fifer and Commissioner Gallaway were due for a shower and a quick nap. We think everyone at least got a shower, but the naps didn’t happen.
Wall and Filides stayed at the fields to wait for additional equipment deliveries, while everyone else did a caravan of suburban drop offs at the Hampton Inn. Two of the three suburbans were for the two PWL teams, one for the London Nationals and one for the NWLA Nationals, who were arriving Friday afternoon via a US Airways flight. The third suburban was for the scorekeeping crew.
In addition to dropping off a suburban and grabbing a quick change of clothes at the Hampton Inn, Gallaway also had to swing by the Motel 6, to once again solve some problems on the group reservations. These problems ended up being solved by Gallaway leaving his credit card with the front desk manager with authorization to use it to “solve any problems” and then heading back to the fields.
While Gallaway was gone, some past due deliveries that were supposed to be in place before noon finally arrived. The two light towers, which were being repaired all morning, were finally delivered. In addition, the big weekend surprise, the jumbotron arrived, and the 10,000 pound unit was driven into place between the field and the food tent. These two sights were good to see as Gallaway and Fifer pulled into the parking lot, but where in the hell were the damn chairs?
Fifer immediately set to work organizing the jumbotron operation, and running the 100 foot cables to provide sound and video to the 9×12 foot screen and the speaker system. The operations center was setup at the red field, because all of the real time in game scoreboard screens were going to be used only on the red field. For the home run contest, the all star game, and the final three games of the tournament leading up to the championship. It all made perfect sense to run all the cables and setup the system at the red field.
Teams started to slowly arrive for their scheduled practice times. Gallaway put some finishing touches on the fields. Finishing up the painting of the pitchers circles and the half way marks. He also applied the NWLA stickers to the strike boards. Webster and Edwards returned from their short break and Wall and Filides were sent to the Motel 6. Though, had we all known Soccer First had shower facilities at that time, they might have just opted to stay there instead. Fifer had his command center setup…and it looked like Schiros was going to come through, as they started testing the in-game scoreboard operation. For some reason, at this point, the jumbotron guy decided to start blaring the worst possible music on the planet at a loud volume. But hey, he’s driving a jumbotron, he can get away with stuff like that.
Gallaway and Brian Meyers borrowed the jumbotron guy’s pickup to move the light towers into place for the night game. However, at that point, it became clear that the red field was not where we wanted to do the home run derby and all star game. The wind was still blowing in pretty strong. We made the decision to move to the green field, #2 for the festivities.
Of course, while this decision made sense…and ended up being good for the games…it came about two hours too late for jumbotron, speakers and command center operation. There wasn’t time to relocate all of that setup, nor did it make sense. This meant that the people operating the jumbotron and audio for these events would be flying blind, not able to see the field with the action. The walkie-talkies were powered up as a backup, so that we could radio from the green field over to the red field who was up to bat. Not only were we going to be using a brand new system we’d never tried before, we’d be doing it over walkie talkie communication and trying to do it in real time in the dark.
By 6 PM, the lights were setup, the jumbotron was running, the fields were full of teams practicing, and we started prepping for the welcome dinner and team draw. At this point, it became clear that despite filling an entire 14 foot uhual and a suburban with supplies, and using a very detailed packing checklist, that Gallaway had left the four microphones for the field PA systems in Washington, DC. This meant that all the walk-up music Fifer had prepared from all the teams, as well as the now batting announcements wouldn’t be happening. Webster and Edwards were dispatched to drive to every possible store to find replacement PA systems, microphones, or anything that would work. After striking out at Best Buy, WalMart, and who knows where else, they finally struck gold at HH Greg with some janky karaoke mics that would do the trick. Crisis averted, the music would go on.
The finishing touches were prepared for registration. The “team buckets” were put together with the rulebooks, maps, managers guides, and scorecards. The participant shirts were moved to the food tent, and finally…at long last…the chairs arrived. We’d be able to sit and eat afterall.
The welcome dinner and pool play draw went smoothly. The karaoke mic worked, and we got rolling. Because we’d setup all the jumbotron PA equipment for the red field, we had to stretch it as far as we could to work for the green field. This meant that for the home run derby and the awards presentation, the mic would only reach to about 40 feet from the 3rd base foul line and no farther. As a result, we had to have Carl Coffee and Sam Skibbe do their color commentary from that location. That worked out fine, but it was a little awkward for the awards presentations which would have been a little nicer visual at home plate rather than behind the dugout, but we made it work. Next year, we’ll pick the field for the derby BEFORE we setup all the equipment.
Fifer did real time, on the fly, updates of the home run derby slides, updating outs and home runs based on Skibbe and Coffee’s calls. Sitting all the way over at the red field in the dark (the lights were on the green field remember) he had to do it by listening, since he couldn’t see anything. The counts were actually updated and correct ALMOST all the time, despite the challenges. The biggest thing wrong on the jumbotron during the home run derby was the fact that two leagues changed their representative and didn’t tell anyone.
The real test would now come during the all star game. We were busting out the real time scoreboard for the first time. The scorekeepers would be sitting in GREEN field scorers tent, keeping the scorebook. The audio for the walkup music, as well as the now batting announcements were being run from the RED scorers tent where all the mics were. Fifer was also in RED scorers tent working the controls for the jumbotron. It became an all hands on deck operation, as literally jobs that could be done by two people, were now being done by five people over walkie-talkie.
We had two people in the green tent watching the game. One was keeping score, the other was using the walkie to tell the red tent, who was up to bat, and how many runs, hits, and errors were scored each inning. We had three people in the red tent. One was working the laptop with the walk-up music. One had the microphone to make the now batting announcements. The last was Fifer, sitting at the laptop, working the jumbotron.
So…as soon as at bat was over, the person sitting with the scorekeeper would walkie talkie “Ryan Bush is up to bat”. Then everyone in the red tent would spring into action. Fifer would change the batter picture to Bush, the announcer would say “now batting, Ryan Bush” and the person sitting at the other laptop would play the walkup music. It was a recipie for disaster, but it actually worked out pretty well for the fact that half those people were sitting in the dark and we’d planned for everyone to be in the same place rather than on walkie talkie.
It was Gallaway’s idea that the all star game would be “practice” for everyone on the scorekeeping team to learn the systems. So every inning people were going to rotate jobs. You’d score an inning, then you’re do announcements for an inning, then you’d play music for an inning. That way everyone was prepped for the long day Saturday and Sunday when they’d be doing EVERYTHING themselves, instead of in a team of four. We probably should have scrapped the rotation given all the logistical challenges, but we did it, and it got a little sloppy at times, but everyone got a chance to take their turn. In the middle of all of this, the fifth scorekeeper, two time NWLA Character of the Year, Tony Ragano arrived from the airport. He jumped in and took his turn.
For the most part, the scoreboard worked well. A glitch on the server side caused the runs per inning and score to be off for a couple of innings in the middle. We had to wipe the slate clean, and restart the inning by inning score a couple of times, but we figure it out and got it working. From a back end side…it was a mess, but we ended up feeling like it was a big success overall. And, despite the challenges, we left Friday night better prepared to tackle the tournament. The staff did a quick debrief meeting, then got dropped off at the Motel 6 for a little sleep.
Saturday’s wake up call came earlier than Friday’s. Staff reported to Soccer First at 7 AM. We did a quick briefing meeting and the four scorekeepers, Filides, Wall, Ragano and Edwards, started putting together their packets for each of their tents. That included two laptops, one for scoring, one for music, a PA system, brand new karaoke mics, game balls, extra lineup cards, pens, batteries, cameras, microphones and a tripod.
Webster was assigned to go to London to cover scorekeeping and video duties for the London Nationals for the day. In the first of many epic London disasters, he left the camera, laptops, and London supplies at Soccer First instead of taking them with him to his hotel that he was leaving directly for London from. So, the team went to London in the suburban and Webster commandeered the Uhaul to pickup supplies at Soccer First, then head to London after. He arrived with bats, balls, and the video camera about 15 minutes before their first game. Not included in what was packed in the uhaul was a tripod, so there are a bunch of hand held shaky cam videos from London this year for the PWL. In addition, he couldn’t score and hold the camera at the same time, so we had to score the London games from a shaky camera video after it was all over. Gallaway still has a headache from watching these.
Meanwhile, back in Dublin, we got rolling. As with anything, it took a bit for everyone to get in the groove, but with a pretty decent success rate, we met the deliverables we envisioned for the games. We had live scorekeeping on the computers, we had walk-up music, and we had now batting announcements. We had wifi connected on all the laptops, so once games were over, those stat files were moved to a server where Fifer grabbed them and got them posted on the website. The updated website also powered the rotating screen of stats and data that displayed on the jumbotron. It was a little slow at first as games started to come in, but in the end, we were very happy with the results, and hope everyone in attendance was too.
Because of the live stats updates and games on the website and jumbotron, seeding took less than a minute. Even before we announced teams and matchups, teams know where they were and who they were playing because everything had been updated as we went along. We waited for a final game, the PWL and HRL game to get over, but even before the final out everyone knew where they stood.
The real logistical issue with Saturday of course, was the rain. There wasn’t much we could do about it, other than react as quickly as we could and recover as well as possible. The first break was obviously very short lived, and was just a quick hard downpour. The second pass was a little more problematic, as the lightning storm caused a delay, even though the rain was soft enough at points to have kept playing.
The umpiring crew, who we’re not mentioning much in this behind the scenes article, were great through this also. They were a little more on the public side of things, rather than behind the scenes, but still deserve a shout out here. We had a 10 person crew for the weekend. Paul Drake, who is the Umpire-in-Chief of the Ohio Amateur Softball Association, arranged the crews for the second time this year. In 2012 we used a six man crew, but with longer days, having an extra crew to rotate in was necessary. The umpires were great, from the walk through Friday night where we went over rules and field setup to the fact that they used the all star game as a practice warm-up just like the scorekeeping staff did. Every umpire took turns working in that game to get used to how the play would go. Drake also worked closely with Gallaway once the second rain delay happened to make sure we could resume play as quickly and safely as possible. Once the lineup cards are exchange, until the final out, the umpires are in charge of the game; not the rules committee, not a tournament director, not a team manager, only the umpires. They worked closely with us to monitor the weather situation and get games back on track.
We ended up moving the last round of games to Sunday morning instead of Saturday night, so that we didn’t have to suspend any games for darkness. Though, looking back, we would have likely had plenty of time to get those late games in. It was better to not risk it, at least, probably for everyone except Griffleball.
The staff did another debrief, prepped for Sunday mornings games, and headed to the Motel 6. Gallaway was going directly to London to try to catch the end of the London Nationals run in the tournament. They had been a #2 seed, but the rain delay management had not been so good over there, and they didn’t even restart the single elimination tournament until late at night, playing most of the tournament games under the lights…really shitty and poorly placed lights. Unable to convince any of the scorekeepers or Fifer to join him, everyone else chilled at the hotel and Gallaway arrived just in time to see the final inning of the game in which the PWL team was eliminated in the round of 16.
The second DC Outback dinner took place late Saturday after the crews returned from London with both the staff and both the NWLA and the London team. Every single item on the appetizer menu was ordered, and two of the ahi tuna. Fifer and Filides chose sleep over steak, probably a good decision given another 7 AM staff meeting Sunday morning.
The pre-game setup and scorer’s tent operation went a little smoother Sunday morning. After a full day Saturday everyone was a little more ready. Ragano flew home Sunday, so Webster, now freed from the hell that was London, took his place as the fourth scorekeeper for the day. The weather was also better, and the schedule flew by.
We had some extra help Sunday too, as many of the folks who had gone to London Saturday were back Sunday. John Converse from NWLA even took over announcing duties throughout the day on a couple of fields before he started his long trek back to Massachusetts.
By noon, we were down to two fields. A smaller labor ready crew, just four people this time, started dismantling the fields as they were done being used. Take down is always much faster than setup, and this was no exception. Filides supervised tear down, while the rest of the scorekeeping crew worked together as a team for the final three games, which were the only ones going on and were all on the red field. For these games, in addition to the music and announcements, we did the live real time scoreboard again like we did for the all star game.
We also setup all four of the cameras at different angles to capture the action. Only the home plate cameras have been posted online, but we’ll work to edit the four camera feeds together to cut those last few games from better angles.
By the time the championship trophy was presented to TBW, everything else had already been torn down and loaded up into the U-haul. It took less than an hour to get all the final red field equipment loaded and ready for the drive back to DC. One of the Soccer First employees expressed shock, saying we were the only tournament that ever left without leaving a huge mess to clean up.
Of course, we weren’t done with the challenges. As we got ready to roll out in the U-haul we noticed it had a flat tire. So, we had to wait for the repair guy to fix the tire before we could get on the road to DC for a late night arrival. Filides and Fifer returned their suburbans and flew home. Wall and Gallaway once again manned the suburban leading the convoy with Edwards and Webster pounding red bulls in the Uhaul. Their adventure wasn’t over though, about 45 minutes outside of DC the U-haul got pulled over. How they missed the suburban which was in the lead, and going a lot faster, we have no idea. The guys got off with just a warning.
The suburban and Uhaul arrived back at Gallaway’s house, where the whole adventure started about 2 AM Monday morning. The unpacking and equipment return could wait until daylight.
A Final Word From Chris Gallaway
Certainly a lot of work went into hosting this tournament. And everyone who was a part of putting it on deserves a great thanks for their role in making it a success. From the individual people mentioned in this article so often, to all the labor ready guys we had, our jumbotron guy, the local photographer, the umpire crews, and the incredibly helpful staff of Soccer First, none of it would have been possible without everyone doing their part.
The feeback from the participants was that the tournament was a home run, and everyone covered in these two articles, and probably a few folks I forgot to mention are the reason why.
See you all in 2014!