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Q and A with Power Owner Andrew Starke

May 24, 2011

I sat down today with my boss, owner of the Power, Andrew Starke. A Mercer University alum, Starke worked for the Tampa Bay Devil Rays, Orlando Magic, University of Central Florida, and the Long Beach Strikers before founding the Power. Last September he became an associate scout for the Philadelphia Phillies. Starke is the Commisioner of the SCCBL and the California Winter League and serves on the Palm Springs Parks and Recreation Commission and Chamber of Commerce. In June of 2007, the Chamber of Commerce and City of Palm Springs awarded him and the Power the Small Business of the Year award. A very hands-on owner, Starke loves his team and sees winning as an expectation, not a goal. Here’s the Q and A:

Kevin Seefried: So, tell me a little bit about how you started the Power here in Palm Springs.

Andrew Starke: In the late summer of 2003, I was looking to start my own business, searching for a market that could support a baseball franchise. I came out here and I met with the city manager, along with the Chamber of Commerce, and different business leaders within the community. I spoke with them about whether they thought this community could support a team, if the team would be successful. They wanted a team out here. They asked me questions about my background and putting an organization out here and I came to the conclusion that this was the best market for us. Half-a-million people are full-time residents, they have their own TV and media market, and for the last seven and a half seasons, I’ve been really glad I came out here.

KS: What differentiates the Power from other collegiate programs in the area?

AS: Here in Southern California there are so many other entertainment opportunities that there aren’t really any other communities that can support a team like ours—a summer collegiate team—because either there’s a major league team, there’s a minor league team, or there’s an independent pro team. This is a market that many groups would like to get into, but the fact that we have a lease agreement with the city, we’ve had success over the years, we’ve been able to maintain our relationship with the city, we can draw fans, we can broadcast our games, we can sell concessions–all that stuff–differentiates us from the other summer collegiate teams that have very competitive teams and play great games but don’t have the ambiance that we have. The ambiance is the big differentiator.

KS: Obviously, we’re getting close to the season, any names you’re particularly excited about on this year’s roster? Any players to look out for?

AS: Well, I think our three returning players: Zach Haley, Marcus Romero, and Chett Zeise. All three are very strong defensively and offensively out there on the field. They’re pretty versatile. Marcus can play anywhere in the outfield. Zach and Chet both can play second, short, and third. So, the versatility that they give us will be really nice. I think Nick Baker, a local guy who just finished his freshman year at Chico State who graduated from Palm Desert High School, is going to have a very successful season for us here in Palm Springs. He just went 9-2 for Chico State and had a very successful freshman year for Chico State.

KS: How do you go about scouting and recruiting players for the team?

AS: A lot of it is relationships that I’ve developed over the years with their college coaches, being able to rely on what they say–that it’s accurate–knowing that they’re going to send me a quality ballplayer to come out here and participate on our team. Coaches over the years have sent me quality ballplayers, hence the reason why we’ve had so much winning success. I’ve figured out what schools are going to send me good guys and what schools might not, so I stick with the guys that are going to send me better players.

KS: I know that you’re an associate scout for the Phillies, how do you differentiate between trying to scout for the Phillies and scouting for the Power?

AS: For the Phillies, it’s all about “Can a guy get to the big leagues?” and “Is he projectable in the future, a couple years down the road?” For the Power, it’s great to have someone that’s projectable, but I need somebody that can go four-for-four tonight. I need somebody who can go out there and give me six quality innings on the mound. It’s not about what they can do in a couple years. An example might be: a player comes out, has all the tools, but doesn’t perform as well for us.  But, they’re drafted because they’re physically big, they’re strong, they’re fast, and they can maybe light up a radar gun with their arm. They’re somebody who might have more long-term success versus having the immediate success. For the Power, I need someone who can help us out tonight—7 o’clock. Not three, four years down the road.

KS: Eight former Power players were taken in last year’s MLB draft. Have you heard from any of them about their success so far in the minors?

AS: I haven’t lately. Typically, what I get are text messages from the guys. They’ll let me know this update, that update. I know that a guy who got drafted two years ago, Kent Walton, hit for the cycle earlier this year and then that very next day he got moved from high-A to double-A. You know, when big things like that happen they’ll give me a call, they’ll send me a text message, they’ll stay in touch. But, they’re very busy—as am I—dealing with our day-to-day tasks.

KS: P.J. Jimenez was obviously a fan favorite as a player for the Power and now he’ll be a coach. What are you expecting from him in this new role? Obviously, you’ve seen him as a captain. You’ve seen him as a player. How do you think that his past work here will translate into his new role as a coach?

AS: I think it’s going to be interesting to watch him. Knowing his character, I think there are going to be points when he wants to get out there on the field and do it himself. But, I think that his leadership and his experience being out here, knowing not only what I expect but what coach Gurley expects out of players, he can relate to them in a different way. One, he’s very similar in age. But, two: he’s been asked to do the same things that he’s asking them to do. It’s not like it’d be out of the realm of possibilities that they should be able to accomplish or succeed at what he’s asking them to do. Then, also, he can physically get out there and show them exactly what he’s talking about.

KS: There looks like a full docket of intriguing promotional nights this year. What’s your favorite promo night? Are there any we should be looking out for?

AS: Personally, I love Bark in the Ballpark. I’m a dog owner, dog lover. I like seeing a bunch of pooches at the ballpark. Another promotional night that I certainly think can be fun is the July 4th Fireworks show. It’s an all-American day. I don’t think there’s really one out there I don’t  like, but I think those two are my favorites.

KS: Well, another one of those promo nights id Dollar Beer Tuesdays. Is that just a specific beer or what’s the deal?

AS: All the products that we sell from a beer standpoint are distributed by Heinmark distribution, which has exclusive rights through the Budweiser line and some microbreweries. The one dollar beers are exclusive to Budweiser and Bud Light 12 ounce draft beers. We still will have everything else for sale, but the dollar beer is one dollar Bud and Bud light 12 ounce drafts.

Thanks to Andrew for taking the time to chat with me. Keep checking back for more Q and A’s with various members of the Power over the coming months.

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