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When designing your product, think Big Brother. Don’t just sit
potential customers in focus groups or make them fill out
questionnaires. Instead watch them and watch them good. And take a lot
A designer who closely and purposefully scrutinizes his customer’s
every move is sure to move a lot of product, says Scott S. Williams, a
former dramatist turned brand builder, now working for Starwood Hotels
& Resorts Worldwide. Williams is touting a concept he calls "empathic
design," which is behind a lot of improvements at Starwood’s
rebounding chains, including Sheraton, Westin, and W hotels.
Williams, Starwood’s chief creative officer, speaks about "Empathic
Design" at NJ CAMA’s day-long marketing expo on Thursday, June 10 at
9:15 a.m. at Sarnoff. The event, which begins at 8:15 a.m., is held in
conjunction with the Jersey Shore Public Relations and Advertising
Association. Cost: $95. Call 609-799-4900 for more information.
"Empathic design is, at its most basic, basing design on getting very
close to people," says Williams. "It’s getting inside their heads. The
resulting products are then tied to that behavior. For instance, if
you watch a customer’s behavior, you’re not listening to what they say
about the products, you’re actually observing how they react to them."
Williams, 45, spent a decade in the television marketing and
advertising industry prior to joining Starwood. He directed
advertising and marketing efforts at ESPN’s Classic Sports Network and
held various production positions at the CBS cable network Eye on
People, which was sold to Discovery Networks. Prior to TV he served as
producer and director at Chicago’s Steppenwolf Theater Company.
Williams, who has a master’s in fine arts from the American
Conservatory Theater in San Francisco and a bachelor’s in theater from
the University of Washington (Class of 1981), is married with three
children and lives in Greenwich, Connecticut.
His TV and theater background, he says, made for a seamless merger
into "experience marketing."
"I come from a television and theater background where the single most
important fact about the evening is that you want to create an
experience," he says. "That’s what we’re trying to do better than our
competitors in the hotel industry," he says. The basics of empathic
Observe, observe, observe. Williams told an industry magazine last
year that he spent quite a bit of time walking around Starwood hotels
with his camcorder taping customers to learn their habits. For
retailers he strongly advises shadowing customers – staying close to
them and noting how many times they touch a product and how they touch
Immerse yourself in the culture of your target audience. When
designing a car for an 18-to-30 year-old, don’t just think about their
driving habits. "Find out what music they listen to," says Williams.
Focus on emotions. "At the end of the day people don’t know why they
buy a product. It’s more psychological than anything else. It’s a
vibration; it’s an impression a product makes on them. It has so
little to do with reason," he says. Get psychologists, sociologists,
anthropologists – lots of different specialists from different
disciplines – on board to gain a better insight into your target
Make design king. "The single, biggest selling point is design now.
Manufacturers have figured that out. Designers are sitting on boards
now," says Williams. "When my wife got into her Lexus it wasn’t the
customer service," he recounts. "It wasn’t the handling, although it
helped. It was the positioning of the cup holders."
Optimally, function should be combined with form. Combining these two
with the aim of appealing to the customer’s psyche is at the heart of
Function is a commodity now, says Williams. "Room service was an
innovation once and the mini bar was a huge innovation," he says. "Now
that’s the cost of entry. So what makes you different? You have to
deliver a great experience for the most part. Experiences are
Attend to the little things that have a big psychological impact.
Westin introduced curved shower rods, which not only look nice, but
also give the customer extra space to move around while bathing,
without brushing against the curtain. The hotel chain also now covers
all of its beds with white sheets. The reason? Rampant fears of other
people’s germs. "Germophobes unite around shower curtains and dirty
bedspreads. Conventional wisdom said you hide your stains in the
floral patterns of these bedspreads. We reinvented that. Whether it’s
true or not, the impression is that the room is cleaner," says
Williams also helped get in-house programming aired on the default
channels on the TVs in the hotel rooms. This gives Starwood a huge
opportunity to spread its branding message to the vast majority of its
patrons, as some 96 percent of hotel patrons turn on the TV upon
entering a room.
Financially, Starwood is benefiting from a massive rebound in the
hospitality industry after an economic slowdown and fears of terrorism
dropped occupancy rates for several years. Starwood’s revenue per
available room jumped 11.6 percent worldwide and 9.4 percent
nationally compared to the same periods in 2003. "It’s pent-up
demand," says Williams. "Either they’ve been restricting their
personal budgets, or their corporate budgets have been restricted, and
now they’re back on the road doing business. People can communicate by
E-mail for only so long."
Potential customers are out there. It’s Williams’ job to make sure
they choose Starwood – again and again. So, like the government, he is
stepping up surveillance. What are his guests saying about the amount
of shade at the pool? The quality of steak in the restaurant? The loft
in the pillows? He intends to find out.
– Pete Mladineo
When Scottish men began playing their newly invented sport, they
placed a placard over the clubhouse doors: "Gentlemen Only: Ladies
Forbidden." And that is how "golf" got its name. Today, many women
complain that while the old G.O.L.F placard has come down from the
links, it has been firmly nailed above the mahogany doorways opening
into corporate board rooms. Citing a pitiful 13.6 percent female
representation on the boards of Fortune 500 companies, they claim that
this bastion of male chauvinism unjustly denies women this final
However, Donna Myers, 30-year veteran of the Gerber Life Insurance
board, approaches the problem from a different perspective. It’s a
waste of time to ask why not a woman?" Instead, counsels Myers,
prospective female board members have to ask themselves: "Do I have
the stuff that justifies board membership?" Formal qualifications,
along with intangible attributes, are discussed in the panel "Women on
Corporate Boards," on Friday, June 11, at 2:15 p.m. at the Marriott
Hotel at Glenpoint in Teaneck. Myers moderates and is joined by Lisa
Bailey, managing director of New York-based Raines International, and
by Meesha Rosa, senior associate at the executive search firm
This is one of several seminars presented at the New Jersey
Association of Women Business Owners (NJAWBO) 2004 Conference. The
conference takes place on Thursday and Friday, June 10 and 11. For
more information, visit ww.NJAWBO.com.
"Many women have been misled by the starry-eyed conception that if
they have run the PTA, they have proper qualifications to hold a board
position," says Myers. "Believe me, they don’t." Few business people
understand as well as Myers what it takes to be chosen and to be a
true contributor in the inner sanctum.
She certainly was not born into the role. Growing up in North Dakota,
her father was a railroad man, "who was about as anti-management as
you could get," laughs Myers. As the first of her family to attend
college, she graduated from North Dakota State University with a dual
major in home economics and communications.
Using both lines of her college training, Myers worked successively
for Best Foods, a major utility, and public relations giant
Burson-Marsteller. She then found a very congenial home in Gerber
Foods, where her understanding of customers brought her to the
attention of founder Dan Gerber. Today, in addition to her board
responsibilities with Gerber Life Insurance Company, she runs her own
company, the DHM Group, which specializes in marketing hearth, patio,
and barbecue furniture.
"Being on a board has lost a lot of its glamour recently," notes
Myers. Today the corporate veil of immunity has been pierced by a
multitude of legal spears. If a company is seen as deliberately
polluting, withholding tax funds, or involved in any financial
mismanagement, its board members may personally face serious fines and
jail time. The plush chairs have become hot seats, and board members
are selected less for gender and gentility than for lifesaving skills.
"Oh, undoubtedly there is still a glass ceiling," says Myers, "but as
a new generation of women are better trained, this will definitely
The glass ceiling. "Boards are very political and very cultural," says
Myers. "Most new members are chosen by the chairman, and he is looking
for someone who fits in with his thinking." This, more than anything,
creates the good old boy network. When Gerber was looking for another
board member, the choice was Tim Smucker, already CEO and board chair
of his family’s successful jam and jelly company. He had business
training and product knowledge. "I remember at the time thinking what
a logical selection that was," says Myers.
In short, board member is not a trainee position. Firms do not tend to
experiment with untried people at this level. But you can act locally
while aspiring to the big leagues. Many area mid-size companies have
board openings, and are open to people with the right skills.
What do you bring? It is a myth that board doors only swing wide for
those toting large money bags to heft onto the company table. Myers
notes that her own appointment came about because her board was
seeking a new member with customer and marketing expertise.
However, Myers admits that her path to the top was very atypical, and
says that the odds of filling the need for a specialized skill are
long. This is so, she says, because the board room is a temple for
thinkers, as opposed to doers. Boards are impressed by employees who
have achieved a lot, but they are more likely to elect a strategic
thinker – one who asks why before asking how.
Boards also look for members with a broad knowledge of the entire
corporation. They look for a deep understanding of all functions,
including manufacturing, marketing, distribution, and investments?
While it is important to know about products and processes, it is also
important to know people. Whom can you personally call on within the
firm to fix a problem swiftly, and how impressive is the list of
outside investors you can bring to table.
Financial wizards only. This is probably the biggest stumbling block
for women seeking to enter the inner circle. Boards of trustees, most
of all, allocate money. What is your opinion on off-shore investing in
this interest rate climate? Can you analyze this new division’s
budget? It may be impressive to have engineered the better mouse trap
that is making the firm millions, but unless you are as able an
investor as you are an inventor, you probably will (and should) remain
where you are.
"The problem for women of this generation," says Myers, "is that very
few businesswomen have gained full financial training as part of their
education." Today many boards are actually giving financial
examinations to prospective members, just to make sure they have the
ability to be a contributor. The Peter principle is no longer
acceptable, and seats on the board are seldom handed out as rewards.
Showwomanship. Gaining a seat on the board is not a job for which you
apply. You will not find "Board Members Wanted" in the classifieds.
Instead, you must promote yourself throughout your corporation and the
entire business community. Joining professional organizations,
becoming an officer, giving speeches, and writing for journals are all
part of the plan for those who aspire to the inner circle. The goal is
to gain a reputation as a resource. When people start saying "ask
Barbara, she knows all the right people" or "she has great expertise
in that area," Barbara is well on her way.
There are no short cuts to the board. Myers cites the NJ300 and
Boardroom Bound as companies that claim to guide women into corporate
board membership, but "when I ask them about their actual success
rates, they are always very elusive and vague," she says.
– Bart Jackson
Running a business or selling a business, just like managing life,
involves compromise. "You can’t have it all, and it’s rare that you’re
going to get everything that you think you deserve," says Betty Jagoda
Murphy, president of ReGenesis LLC.
Murphy, who lives in Cedar Grove, learned the ins and outs of selling
a business by stumbling through it first hand, and she shares her
experience on this topic at the New Jersey Association of Women
Business Owners 2004 Annual Conference on June 10 and June 11. See the
article above for full details on the event.
The title of Murphy’s workshop is "Winning the Gold: Cashing Out
Strategies for Your Business Plan."
Murphy, a Virginia native, never expected to own a business. She grew
up in Virginia, where her mother’s Ladino singing career influenced
her early ambitions. Ladino is the language the Jews spoke in Spain at
the time of the Spanish Inquisition. Murphy learned it from her
mother, and still performs with her brother and sister. Her early
experiences on the stage contributed to her decision to major in dance
at Adelphi University and to go on to earn a post-graduate
certification in Dance Therapy from New York Medical College.
While Murphy inherited a love of the arts – and of communication –
from her mother, she inherited business genes from her father, a
building contractor, who is still on the job at 90. Hired by product
development company Lehn & Fink Products (later acquired by Reckitt &
Coleman), she soon teamed up with Jim Smith, a colleague, in founding
Creative Products Resource (CPR) some 25 years ago. The company
subsequently produced Jet Dry and Carpet Fresh. CPR’s major product
was Custom Cleaner, the first product to dry clean clothes in a home
At the time that Murphy’s company was growing, she didn’t think about
selling, but she now urges others to insert a plan for selling their
companies when they draw up the first draft of their business plans.
Delegation. A company must be productive to be salable, and that means
rounding out the company with employees who can do what you cannot. It
is hard to give up control of the baby you grew from a spark of an
idea, but Murphy forced herself to do so by adding marketing and
financial personnel to her staff.
Support. Growing a company to the stage where it will be attractive to
buyers involves a huge time commitment. Women often face the struggle
and guilt of balancing career and family, but must be realistic.
Murphy was encouraged unconditionally by her husband, Greg, who
reassured her that her products were great and that she would succeed.
He even supported her in the days when CPR employees were paid but she
didn’t take a salary. The couple, realizing the demands the business
put on Murphy’s time and energy, decided to have only one child,
Capital. Murphy’s company raised $11 million over four years in a time
when dot.com companies were all the rage. Because she and her partner
raised money in stages – $2 million here, $4 million there – they
could only afford to grow it in stages, region by region. She urges
other entrepreneurs, where possible, to raise all of the cash they
will need early on, so that they can see their business plan to the
end. The need for more cash was the catalyst that led to the sale of
At the point that she was faced with raising another $11 million to
advertise nationally, Paine Webber approached CPR with client
companies looking to buy. She didn’t want to sell, but she recognized
that Proctor & Gamble’s Dryel product would hit the market soon, and
that her company didn’t have the finances to fight the expected
advertising blitz, and make its own home dry cleaning product
competitive. The decision was to sell.
The end game. The selling itself turned into a second full-time job of
meetings and paperwork. Murphy recalls customizing each presentation
because one company wanted to know the backgrounds of managers, while
another was more interested in the marketing research or sales data.
Once a buyer is interested, the negotiations begin. "You have to think
like they are thinking," Murphy says. What is this specific company
looking for? What are they asking for?
Through it all, there is an air of excitement. How best do you
describe your sales efforts to fit the culture of the buyer? Is a
company interested in the product or the potential of the product?
What’s the best way to sell yourself? Selling a business must be
win-win for you and the buyer. Some deals look good for future
financial gain, while some are good for the moment, with less chance
of future financial gain.
Murphy’s advice? "It sounds so crass, but take the deal that’s best
for your company now because you have no control over the product or
how it will be marketed once you’re sold." In the end, CPR was sold in
1999 to Dial/Henkel LLC, a global joint venture.
– D.W. Hirsch
You could call Sherrie Preische the "new broom" at the New Jersey
Commission on Science and Technology, and you could say she is
sweeping it clean, because she did replace all but one staff member
when she landed the top job.
Domestic metaphors, nevertheless, are not very appropriate for a woman
with her PhD in astrophysics. More apt are nautical metaphors that
show how the new executive director of the NJCST has set sail on a new
course. Preische is using a variety of skills – scientific, personal,
and political – to throw lifelines to the high tech industries in New
Jersey and help them link to the research institutions and government
With her science background and her passion for affecting public
policy, Preische intends to see how science can make New Jersey and
the world a better place. "Our mission is to promote the ties and the
links between the research universities and technology companies, to
bring ideas from university labs to the market and make sure that
these ideas are commercialized in New Jersey," she says.
"I’m optimistic about Sherrie," says Dick Woodbridge, of Synnestvedt,
Lechner, & Woodbridge at 112 Nassau Street. A patent attorney, he is
helping to promote the technology corridor called Einstein’s Alley.
"She’s smart, she worked in [Congressman Rush] Holt’s office so she
has political skills and contacts and she was the Governor’s
Scientific Advisor – so she should know the ins and outs of the
administration," says Woodbridge.
Preische will speak at the Einstein’s Alley Breakfast Series on
Friday, June 11, at 7:30 a.m. at the Sarnoff Corporation auditorium at
201 Washington Road. Limited free reservations are available by faxing
name, address, company affiliation, E-mail, and phone number to the
Princeton Chamber at 609-924-5776, or reserve online at
The granddaughter of a physics teacher, Preische (pronounced pry-sha)
majored in physics at Randolph-Macon Woman’s College in Lynchburg,
Virginia, and in 1995 she earned her PhD in plasma physics in the
astrophysical science department of Princeton University. Her thesis
title: Radially Localized Measurements of Superthermal Electrons Using
Oblique ECE. She did her research at the Princeton Plasma Physics
Laboratory, where she met Rush Holt, who was assistant director of the
lab at that time.
Once Holt was elected, she served on his staff, supporting his efforts
on science and research. She was also his New Jersey district
director. In 2001-’02 she went through the Leadership New Jersey
program for emerging leaders. Most recently Preische was a science and
technology policy advisor in Governor James E. McGreevey’s Office of
Management & Operations.
"I had spent several years back in New Jersey, and I wanted to get
back into science policy," she says. "I had worked with the research
universities from the Rush Holt perspective, and I wanted to be doing
the science policy more specifically."
"I could see that the governor had a real interest in science policy,
since he was talking about the life sciences industry and had
commissioned the Porter study," says Preische, speaking of the Harvard
study on how to take advantage of the state’s technology. "Even before
he took office, he had talked about the innovation between industry,
research, and government, and about links that could really help our
high tech industry. The governor understood that the New Jersey
economy is very much based on our technology industries. That is what
motivated him to talk about the restructuring the universities."
Restructuring the universities was a McGreevey idea that did not
succeed, perhaps because too many sacred cows were roaming the
campuses, and he gave it up gracefully. Preische, who worked hard on
that plan, does not admit total defeat. "The discussion over the
higher education reorganization plan really created a lot of new
connections," she has observed. "People who didn’t even know about
each other previously started talking, and the positive results of
that are clearly evident." She believes that the same goal –
cooperation between institutions – can be accomplished without the
hard feelings that the original plan prompted.
Preische replaced John Tesoriero, who had resigned last year. She
picked two staff members that she knew through her work with
Congressman Holt: Joshua Trojak, who majored in political science and
history at Rutgers, and Michelle Ruess, communications director, who
majored in journalism at the University of Missouri/Columbia.
Preische’s second-in-command is another woman scientist, Michel M.
Bitritto, associate director for business relations. Bitritto majored
in chemistry and math at Rutgers/Douglass, has a master’s degree in
chemistry from Polytechnic Institute of New York, and a PhD from the
University of Connecticut, and she went to the Stanford University
Executive Institute for Women and Leadership. Bitritto worked at
Celanese and Hoechst, where she pioneered in creating an engineering
plastics recycling business, and at a plastics company, Ticona, she
developed a lead tracking protocol and marketing database.
Preische needs to do more than bail out a weakened commission that had
nearly expired from lack of funding. She needs to reconstitute it.
It was early in McGreevey’s term when, in the throes of deep budget
cuts, he made noises about shutting the commission down and cutting
the money available for technology grants and loans.
Technology organizations lobbied the legislature, which responded by
restoring the commission’s funding. The much lauded Springboard Grants
have also been restored. Although they are reviewed by the
commission’s scientists, the fiduciary responsibilities for these
grants have been turned over to the NJEDA.
What is there left for the NJCST to do? Preische wants to concentrate
on the areas designated by the Porter report as vital to the state’s
health: life sciences, nano electronics and advanced materials, and
telecommunication and information technology. Some of her choices:
Supporting incubators. The incubators survived the first budget cuts.
Now most of the commission’s $8 million budget goes to support the
number incubators for high tech businesses, including the ones in
Trenton, Mount Laurel, and Newark.
Improving communication, which she labels now as being "informal and
haphazard," so that "everyone knows what is going on."
Establishing innovation zones. The governor’s soon-to-be unveiled
"innovation zones" are designated areas surrounding research
universities in Newark, New Brunswick, and Camden. These zones will
have special business incentives and programs to encourage
collaboration between private industry and research universities.
Encouraging federal grants. The governor has made a point of saying
that the amount of money that New Jersey gets from the National
Institutes of Health is grievously low. "For an economy that is so
life sciences based as we are in New Jersey – to be 24th in the
country in bringing in money from the NIH, that is pretty far down the
list," Preische says. "The NIH gives out research grants for good
research, especially medical/life sciences research. That’s what they
do. Having a greater quantity of that type of research will bring in
more federal dollars."
Supporting new centers, such as the $50 million stem cell institute, a
blend of university-based research and biotech companies that could
develop new therapies and new technologies. To be located in New
Brunswick, it will be operated by Rutgers University and the
University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey, and $6.5 million
has been proposed in the state budget for its construction.
The institute will be able to recruit top scientists, she believes,
because "what we have that other states don’t have is a law that
allows all kinds of stem cell research to be done here," she says.
"And we have the heart of the pharmaceutical and biotechnology
industry." Another potential center could be one for bioinformatics.
These ideas for centers came from the attempt to restructure the
"Our next steps are to review all the programs that the commission had
in place," says Preische. "There was a review of the effectiveness of
the commission a year and a half ago. We are going back to do our own
internal review, to see how the programs have been able to help the
technology business community, in order to figure out how we can be
Preische does not promise to announce any new programs at the June 11
meeting. She will say only that "the commission is taking a different
– Barbara Fox
When your kid yells "Take me out to the ball game!" he is expecting a
lot more than two teams in live action. He is envisioning the entire
legendary mystique of the stadium experience. For the past decade, the
Trenton Thunder and its 300-person support staff have seen to it that
their guests achieve that full experience – and more.
The AA minor league Thunder, farm team for the New York Yankees, is
now a major part of the central New Jersey entertainment culture. The
Thunder’s general manager, Rick Brenner, outlines the delicate process
of turning residents into home team fanatics in "Big League Customer
Service," a Princeton Chamber event taking place on Wednesday, June
16, at 7:30 a.m. at the Nassau Club in Princeton. Cost: $25. Call
609-924-1776 or visit www.PrincetonChamber.org. This Business Council
Breakfast is designed to present a host of customer service ideas
applicable to all sizes and types of business.
In the minor leagues, the general manager is part COO and part limited
monarch, answerable only to the owners. It is his spirit, even more
than the score board, that is the barometer for his staff.
Brenner, who fills that role with enthusiasm, was raised in
Pennington, and graduated from the Hun School before enrolling in the
Norwich Military Academy in Montpelier, Vermont. "I always loved
baseball," he recalls, "and what was fun about Norwich was that it was
the right size. I could play both soccer and baseball without
competing against those bound for professional careers." Majoring in
physical education at New Hampshire’s Plymouth State College, Brenner
went straight to the Thunder as intern in l994. Five years later, his
abilities and innovative ideas set him in the general manager’s seat,
where he has remained for the past five years.
"We are sports entertainers," Brenner explains. "We simply do not have
the luxury to dismiss customer service as a costly frill." The stadium
does not generate fans. And interestingly, neither does the
scoreboard. "In extreme cases of winning or losing streaks, a team
might see attendance change, but that’s not what makes the gate," says
Brenner says that his business needs to be a heavy hitter on three
counts: entertainment, convenience, and affordability. The evening has
to be fun. Fun on the field must be stimulated by mascot antics, a
host of games, contests, and announcements that touch kids and adults
Convenience is a demanding taskmaster. The Thunder frequently brings
in time-motion study experts to improve auto and foot traffic flow.
The organization is always on the look-out to improve placement of
vendors and facilities. Making a Thunder game a family-affordable
evening that can be repeated often, as opposed to a pricey, occasional
treat, entails constant juggling. The 6,000 fans that keep filling the
stadium are proof that Brenner and his crew have gotten it right.
Brenner laughingly refers to himself as a graduate of Disney
University. But he sees the Disney philosophy as no joke. The "Keys to
Excellence" seminar offered by Disney Corporation presents a proven
system of delivering a superior customer experience and outlines
attitudes that lead to improvement. "A few of their ideas were frankly
bad," Brenner says of the seminar, "but many of them were fabulous and
we have adopted them."
The Thunder’s goal is to exceed the expectations of its guests. For
general manager Brenner, it is a process that begins with the job
candidates, before any work is done.
Hiring right. Brenner is the first to admit that not everybody is
right for the Trenton Thunder. Whether tucked away in accounting,
cavorting on the field as the mascot, or helping out in the stands –
as 40 college interns do each year – everyone has to be gregarious,
friendly, and upbeat. Everyone on the staff is a public person.
"We have a standard of excellence and state to our people that they
are here to give the customers a better experience. If an employee
does not naturally embrace this goal, we suggest he seek a career
elsewhere," says Brenner. Embracing this core goal has led to clear
direction for the organization – and has improved employee loyalty.
Keeping in touch. Every game night, each employee sets aside a few
minutes to chat with one individual or family. He finds out where they
are from, what they liked about the evening, and how they think the
experience might be improved. The employee then thanks them for their
time. The results of each encounter are written down and reported at
the next staff meeting.
Fans who are not singled out for a one-on-one informal survey can
still convey any praise – or complaints. Brenner’s E-mail address
appears on the score board in foot-high, lighted letters frequently
throughout each game. All fans are invited to write him with their
Fielding suggestions. It has been said that the only truly stupid
suggestion is the one not made. Brenner says that managers must be
constantly drawing in ideas from their staff, but he adds that
managers must realize that these ideas do not come through just one
channel. "Some people want to make their suggestions quietly, even
anonymously," he observes. "Others want a public forum where their
idea can receive credit and praise." For that reason, he places idea
boxes all around the stadium for those staffers who do not want to
stand up publicly during the portion of each weekly meeting during
which ideas are solicited.
The team also runs mid-season and end-of-season focus groups to reel
in suggestions from those who sit in the stands.
Appreciating the athletes. When it comes to getting all the fans
rooting for the home team, the minor leagues have a real advantage. Up
close and personal, right in your own home town, you can watch
professionals play masterful baseball, and at the same time you can
root for your players’ careers. "Boy, did you see that hit!" fans can
exclaim. "This guy is going straight up to the Yankees. You just
Over the past 10 years Brenner estimates that more than 100 players
have made it to the majors. And when a former Thunder finally steps up
to a major league plate, you can bet that all central Jersey fans are
cheering for "their boy."
"They are all superlative athletes," says Brenner. All of these
players possess an exceptional athletic gift. Since childhood they
have been training and building that gift and honing themselves into
competitive machines. "What makes the difference here – what we see on
our field," says Brenner, "is the victory of mental toughness."
On the right day, any of these athletes could slam two home runs out
of a major league park. But the true star quality emerges when they
are asked to play in 142 games in 148 days. In addition to the
schedule, the sport itself is an emotional grind. Eighty percent of
the plays in baseball are failures. Even the top hitters, batting
.300, are failing 7 out of 10 times. "The one who will make it," says
Brenner, "is the one who can say 0-for-4 was yesterday. Today is
– Bart Jackson
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