Closing In On The Finish Line

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April 20th, 2017

Later today, hopefully, I’ll be resubmitting my Galley Proof (version 2) of “Bats, Balls, & Burnouts” to Outskirts Press and all of the “wordy” stuff will be done. No more writing, no more editing, no more proofreading. The page count will be finalized, the cover will be completed, and off we’ll go. When will I have the first printed copy in my hands? I’m not totally sure yet, but it’s a matter of weeks, not months. And once that happens, it will be available for everybody to either purchase or download. And I’ll start going to some races to help promote it. That’s how close we are. I’ll try to remember to keep you posted once things like availability and on-sale dates are set in stone, because you know, I might just forget about little details like that. Not.

So that’s where we stand. I still have at least today, if not part of tomorrow, to finalize all of this (knowing, for sure, that it won’t be 100% perfect and I’ve surely missed something) and then we move on to the next phase. There will be more waiting, of course, and some additional paperwork like photo releases and copyright approvals, but once all that is done and books begin to be published, I’ll be moving on to the promotional end of this process. That will be fun, and I have one of the best PR people in the history of drag racing lined up to represent me, but it will also be something I’ve never done before. For 20 years I did all I could to get my drivers as much ink and coverage as possible. Now I have to promote myself.

That being said, I’ll admit I was never afraid to be “out front” and recognizable in the sport. A lot of PR people (most, actually) would not have taken on an NHRA blog as themselves. They prefer to stay in the background and out of sight. Being visible never bothered me, but it wasn’t like I was pitching stories or interviews with myself. I did that for my drivers, and my own visible profile helped make that publicity easier to get. Now, I’ll be the one wanting to get on the air or in print. That’s why I need a PR rep, because it’s almost impossible to do that effectively for yourself. It will be yet another new adventure.

The Kickstarter campaign went a long way in getting me over the trepidation I felt about self-promoting. At first, I was hesitant to do stuff like that, but I realized quickly that if I was going to hit my Kickstarter target I couldn’t be shy about it. And part of that was understanding that social media is a fleeting thing, and you’re only hitting a slice of your target market with each post or tweet. So… You have to go back again and again, spreading the word and asking others to spread it for you. Del Worsham, Ron Capps, and Antron Brown were spectacular, in that regard. They dove in and “shared” or “retweeted” my posts regularly, to their enormous base of followers. That was much appreciated, but I really kind of expected that from those three class acts.

We’re putting a PR plan in place, to reach out to the media in a wide variety of markets. The book follows my life, and through baseball, soccer, drag racing, and everything else I’ve done, there are plenty of markets to hit. I also have a few book signings hanging out there, waiting for a date to be set up. My neighbors and friends have been awesome about wanting to do that. It will be an interesting new phase of my life. Again, kind of a “great unknown” but not totally. I’ll just be on the other side of the PR fence. Maybe we’ll sell a few books, too.

On top of all that, the book continues to re-open doors that have been long closed, in terms of connecting to people I worked with, played with, or knew in all of my various pursuits. Today was yet another one.

I worked for Converse Shoes twice. The first time I worked in the state of Illinois right after my baseball career was over. I sold shoes to sporting goods stores and worked with teams and coaches to promote the brand. The second time, in 1990, my former boss brought me back to the company to be a Regional Promotions Director in the southwestern part of the country. I lived in Dana Point, Calif. and traveled six states to sign professional athletes and college coaches to contracts. It was a very challenging job that stressed me out more than anything I’d ever done, and I wrote about it honestly and openly in that chapter.

All around good guy (Click to enlarge)

In terms of football, one of my teams was the L.A. Raiders, and I needed to have six players in Converse to hit my bonus target. I had the five starters on the offensive line (I did not have the tight end or any receivers) and a back-up running back and kick returner named Vance Mueller. All of those guys were great to me, and very appreciative of the shoes and apparel I provided. I found it pretty fascinating, because the Raiders openly promoted being tough guys, but the linemen were all really kind and polite. Gentle giants, as it were.

Vance was pretty special in that regard. He was drafted out of Occidental College, which is not exactly known as a football factory, and he was a bit undersized for the NFL. When I started working with him, he was in his fourth year with the Raiders, and he’d been there that long because he outworked everyone who tried to take his job. He was absolutely determined. It was impressive.

He was also one of the nicest guys I worked with in that job. The first day we met he invited me to dinner. He treated me with nothing but respect and class. Frankly, most of the pro athletes I worked with, including Magic Johnson, treated me with respect and class. They were a good bunch of people. But, Vance was one of my favorites.

After editing that chapter yesterday, I looked for him on the internet and saw that he was on LinkedIn, a networking site I’m part of. I sent him a note and when I got up this morning I had a reply. 27 years after I last put a pair of Converse football shoes on Vance, we were reconnected. Good guy. Really a good guy.

These reconnections have been a great, and totally unexpected, benefit. I just dove into writing and told tales of some really unique individuals, and lo & behold I’ve found a bunch of them. It’s a different age and a different era, and I’m glad I’m part of it.

Speaking of different eras, here’s another example. On Facebook, the other day, I posted a photo of a new card that will go in my wallet and it’s truly a product we couldn’t have dreamed of a decade ago. We bought Minnesota Twins season tickets the second summer we lived here, and they arrived at the house every year in printed form, just like tickets have looked forever.

Later in the decade, we switched to a “Flex Plan” so that we could decide which games we attended, instead of having to pick a plan that locked us in. Again, in the mail, we received 20 coupons that could be redeemed for printed tickets at the ballpark. Still handing those printed tickets to the usher as we walked in.

The digital age for season tickets!

Now that we’re back, I wanted to get another 20-ticket Flex Plan, so I signed up for that just a few days ago. This card is what I got in the mail.

After I filled out the online form and submitted my payment, I downloaded a special app to my iPhone. And I got this card in the mail just a couple of days later. The card won’t get us in the gate; it’s just an ID and a way to get the season ticket holder discount on merchandise. My iPhone will get us in the gate.

When we want to go to a game, we can select it right up until the first pitch is thrown, and the bar code for admission will show up on my phone just like a boarding pass for a Delta flight. When we get to Target Field, it will scan just like a digital boarding pass at the gate. No paper whatsoever.

The only downside to that is a complete lack of ticket stubs. I used to collect ticket stubs, from cool events I attended, and at one point had about 100 of them framed while I kept on collecting more. When we moved back here from Spokane, the souvenir cup I always put them in was stuffed full again, and it was my plan to have the new group framed as well. Lots of very cool event tickets in that bunch, but I haven’t gotten around to doing it. Yet. Maybe someday soon, and then that will probably be the last of it. I can’t see traditional tickets lasting much longer in this new era. Even today, there are very few traditional hard tickets on heavy stock paper. If a ticket is on paper, you’re probably printing it at home. It’s convenient, and I love the technology of the new Twins app, but there’s something nostalgic about having an actual ticket stub in your hand when the event is over. The times, they are a changing… Time to move on.


And then there’s this photo. Buster was not exactly, technically, really, very pleased with me when I woke him up just to take this, a few seconds ago. That’s a grumpy looking Big Fella right there, but he’s also been a real snuggle bunny lately. The last few days have been kind of chilly and very rainy, and I’ve kept the thermostat down pretty low. I spend each night with both Buster and Boofus on me or next to me, and this morning woke up with Buster snuggled under one of my arms. It was a good night for sleeping, with the rain falling and the room nice and cool. He’s got the look that tells me he thinks it’s going to be a great day for sleeping, as well. He’s a pro.

Here’s hoping the forecast for Friday works out as planned. It’s supposed to be 61 degrees with clear skies, and that would be great for our first-ever night in the Champion’s Club seats at Target Field, for a Twins game.

The Champion’s Club is pretty much out of our price range, if by “pretty much” you mean “totally” out of our price range. It’s just a few sections of box seats, right behind home plate, and right down by the backstop. The best seats in the house. The seats themselves are extra large and padded, and with our tickets we’ll have exclusive access to a private club/restaurant located right behind the section, under the grandstand. It’s all-inclusive. As is the special Valet Parking pass we have, which will put us just a few steps from a private entrance reserved for Champion’s Club members.

How’d we pull this off? We bought a car. Lexus of Maplewood, here in the Twin Cities, usually has a promotion or two going with local teams. When Barbara bought her previous Lexus, you might remember we got a full set of Timberwolves season tickets, in row seven by one of the baskets. That was pretty amazing, as were the nights the Timberwolves upgraded us to seats on the floor.

When we moved back here last year, Barb traded that 2010 Lexus in on a new one, and the dealership gave us great seats to another Wolves game. We picked the night they played the Sacramento Kings so we could go down early and say hello to Gary Gerould before he did the play-by-play for Kings radio. And, they let us pick a Twins game for the Champion’s Club. If we had bought these tickets, for just one game, it would’ve been about as much as my Flex Plan season tickets, which will get the two of us into 10 games in great field-level box seats further down the line in right field. But, here’s the rub. We couldn’t have bought these Champion’s Club tickets from the Twins. The entire block is Sold Out for the season and they are only available as full season tickets, so we would’ve needed to buy them on the secondary market and there’s no telling what they would have cost, if we could find them.

Photos will be taken on Friday night. You’ll see them next week. Huge thanks to Matt Koehnen, the General Sales Manager at the Lexus dealership, for taking such great care of us!

Now, it’s time to get back to the book and finish this project. Almost time to ship it off for the final time… The clock is ticking.

Oh, and remember: If you read this blog, and liked what you read, please hit the “Like” button at the top. The more “Likes” the merrier!

Bob Wilber, at your service and still missing ticket stubs.

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