General Manager Michael Wood is one of the four original members of the Hooks front office staff. He came to Corpus Christi in 2004 from the Texas Rangers, where he served as director of ticket operations, and was promoted to Hooks GM in 2007. Wood, who was named the '07 Texas League Executive of the Year, talked with CCHooks.com about the upcoming 10th year of Hooks baseball and what exactly goes on in the front office after the season's final out is recorded.
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What goes on in the Hooks office during the first months of the off-season?
We take the first few weeks to rest up a little bit and recover from the season, then we start the planning process for the next year. There's budgets to be set; there's sponsors to be renewed; the season ticket holder process is underway. A lot of people think we don't do anything once the gates are closed, but as (director of communications) Matt Rogers says, "If we're not playing, we're planning," and that's what we're doing right now, is planning for next year.
Is it fair to say there might even be MORE work on the sales side during the off-season?
The sales season really is in the off-season, you want to get everybody in place as quickly as you can for the start of the year. The most important relationships that we have are all really managed during this time with the season ticket holders, the big sponsors, things like that.
The ownership transaction from Ryan-Sanders to the Astros was completed at the beginning of October. What kind of changes will we see at Whataburger Field between now and opening day?
I don't think there will be a whole lot of visible changes. There will be some more Astros branding outside the ballpark and around the ballpark to highlight that relationship. It's likely that we'll have some promotions here and there highlighting the fact that we're now owned by our parent club. Most of the changes that are taking place will be behind the scenes, creative stuff. A lot of the changes that (fans) will see will not be because of ownership, but because of the upcoming 10th season.
With season number 10 coming up, what are some of the differences that you've noticed since you arrived in 2004?
It's been a great experience to be a part of it from the very beginning. I remember answering telephones after our press conference when we announced the team name as the Hooks and how many people called me and were mad; just couldn't stand the name and hated it. I think what I told them at that time has come true, which was, "Hang in there. This is going to be your team, it's going to grow on you, and you're going to love the name." I really do believe that we've been embraced by Corpus Christi and it's become Corpus Christi's team.
What were some of the other options for a team name that fans called about?
I think a lot of people wanted to look back at the past and look at maybe the Barracudas or SeaGulls, some of the team names that (the city) has had in the past. In general, those first few phone calls, I got more people not liking the name Hooks, rather than having an alternative suggestion. Like a lot of things, you might not like it the first time you see it, but as you see it more and more it grows on you. I think it's become part of the community here.
What type of 10th season merchandise will be available before the season starts?
We're going to have a commemorative logo that we'll have out there, we'll probably have some t-shirts, it will be placed on some hats, so we've got big plans for announcing that and we'll be unveiling (the logo) within the next couple months.
How else will the Hooks' 10th season be commemorative?
We're going to use our start times to point to the (10th season), instead of doing a 7:05, 2:05 or 6:05 start all of our games will start at 10 after the hour: 7:10, 2:10, 6:10. We've got a couple of other 10th year related promotion-type things. We'll be announcing a 10th year Hooks team and that'll be a fun process to go through and weigh all the great players that have been here.
Who are some of your "can't miss" guys on the 10-year team?
I think that gets harder and harder as you go on. One of the guys that sticks out in my mind is Josh Anderson, who is such a popular player, centerfielder the first two years of the team. He was on the championship team as well as being on the inaugural team, but then George Springer comes along last year and has an unbelievable minor league season and we were lucky to have him for the 70-plus games that we had him. So, it's hard to come up with those no-brainers and there will be different categories. Some guys will be on there because they're fan favorites like Jimmy VanOstrand or Wladimir Sutil. Other guys will be on there because of their fond memories from the championship team like Josh Bonifay or Mark Saccomanno. And other guys will be on there because they were absolutely awesome players while they were here, I think Springer and Hunter Pence would fall into that category. So (picking the team) is actually a harder process than you might think because people like players for different reasons.
After a decade, why does Hooks baseball seem to resonate with South Texas?
First of all, people here are so passionate about baseball to begin with. We've got year-round travel baseball teams and the youth circles. We've got great high school level baseball being played down here, I think we've had seven or eight Texas high school state champs in the time that we've been down here, which is just incredible. Baseball itself resonates with folks and the Hooks have done a good job of making ourselves available to the community, making people feel warm and welcome at the ballpark, and giving everyone an opportunity to enjoy this place.
Do you have a most memorable Hooks moment?
I'll say two. The obvious one is the championship game (in 2006), and we hope that we'll be able to repeat that soon. For us to win Game Four in the '06 Texas League Championship Series in 14 innings was unbelievable. You had extra innings, you had a dramatic sliding catch to preserve the tie in one of those innings, the Hooks turned a triple play in the top of the ninth inning - runners on first and second with nobody out and the best player in Minor League Baseball at-bat, Alex Gordon who's now with the Royals. He hit into a triple play in that game, so just some incredible stuff. And then to be able to win in walk-off fashion and see everybody run around the field, the players running with goggles on to protect their eyes from the champagne. It was a great moment. The other thing that resonates with me, because I was so involved in it, is the Texas League All-Star Game, which we had in 2007. I thought that was a really special event to showcase Whataburger Field and the city of Corpus Christi. We know we're going to be able to do that again in a couple years. In 2015 we'll be hosting that again.