Friday, July 29, 2011

Most guys I know have a so-called “bucket list” – the special things they want to do before kicking the bucket. I’ve got mine in my head and I keep it updated. As a big baseball fan, one thing on my list since its first edition has been to attend an All Star Game. I finally had the chance this summer in Phoenix as a guest of our good friends at Major League Baseball. They invited my son to join me as well, and they invited Allen Edmonds to award a pair of shoes to each All Star just before he made his way to the annual Parade before the game. Colin Hall (our SVP of marketing and international business) and Tom Kroepel and Nina Ward from our Phoenix store helped meet the players, fit their feet and award the shoes. It was a ton of fun to see the players (or in many cases their wives) pick out shoe styles from the more fashionable Strawfut (brown calf & Linen), to the recently introduced and trendy McTavish, to the uniquely casual baseball stitched shoe called the Infield.

The players were incredibly gracious and down-to-earth. I had an especially nice conversation with Curtis Granderson, the Yankee centerfielder, who told me that TV makes him look faster than he really is. (What a year he’s having!) I also had the chance to thank the Minnesota Twins’ Michael Cuddyer for his constant commitment to community service – he’s an exemplary guy on and off the field, as was again evident by his classy response to me. Without their caps and uniforms, however, it was hard to tell who many of the other players were. David Ortiz and Prince Fielder were easy to spot, but there were several I didn’t know. One unassuming guy had a friendly conversation with us but I still had no clue who he was. As he filled out a form so we could send the shoes in the right size to his him, I craned to see that he was writing… “C-L-I-F-F—L-E-E”.

My 15 year old son, Blake, had a memorable time, thanks especially to Howard Smith, Greg Sim and Mychal Bogee, our gracious MLB hosts. Howard asked Blake if he played ball (the answer is yes, the kid’s got a promising slider) and then presented Blake with the official All Star Game Oakley sunglasses, which really lit up Blake’s face. Greg and Mychal took us to Chase Field at 7 am on the morning of the Game, where we joined a group of other MLB licensees for a tour of the clubhouse and then headed out onto the field to shag flies, field grounders and take some BP – all off of Diamondback coaches. Blake hammered his first BP pitch into the outfield, breaking a batting slump he felt he was in this summer. (Back home, he would go on to hit a double to the wall and a three run triple in his last two at-bats of the season, so the All Star Game was transformational.) It’s hard to pick Blake’s biggest highlight of the trip, but this one might be it… While I was handing out shoes to players, Greg Sim took Blake over to where his favorite All Star Tim Lincecum was sitting and introduced Blake to him. Greg reported that they seemed equally shy for words – Blake: “You throw really good pitches.” Tim: “Thanks, I try." Yes he sure does.

It was a great couple of bucket list days.

Paul D. Grangaard
President & CEO
Allen Edmonds Shoe Corporation