Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Q&A with Yamhill HighFlyers GM Eric Bailey

In case you haven't noticed, we are sort of humongous fans of IBL basketball around these parts, particularly regarding the Yamhill HighFlyers. The team will conclude their initial "branding year" with a home game this Friday at Patton Middle School in McMinville, tip-off at 7:15. The opportunity to pester Eric Bailey, GM of the new IBL franchise, with some email Q&A was too tempting to pass up. Go forth and be merry.

Firstly, what is the back story that lead to the creation of this franchise and your post as General Manager?
I've been working in sports for several years now. The majority of my experience has been with the Portland Timbers and Portland Beavers. I began doing some work for the IBL about two years ago now. The idea of a new IBL franchise came about after several discussions with the league commissioner. I thought long and hard about what would be the ideal market for this type of team. All signs point towards Yamhill County, and specifically McMinnville. We couldn't be happier with the response so far.
Teams in the IBL have pretty diverse rosters and the High Flyers are no exception. How do players from so many different places come to the IBL? Are you out there finding guys you think will work and contacting them, or is it done more through basketball networking?
The league has four tryouts that they run each year (two in Portland and two in Chicago). All players who think they are good enough to play professionally are welcome to attend. The HighFlyers got the majority of our players this year from this process. We also have several players each week sending in inquiries, asking about roster spots, and a couple players did land on the roster this way. The last couple players were signed through networking.
I love that the IBL business model banks on the idea that local communities can sustain a professional sports team. It feels like grassroots basketball. The bigger corporate driven leagues want to connect with a community to show they can still care. The IBL needs a more personal connection with locals in order to survive. How has the progress been in building these close relationships with local businesses and consumers?
The response from the community has been great. We have 10 great sponsors, which is amazing for a first year franchise. And we received a solid home crowd for our first game. We hope that this is just the starting point for bigger and better things. And we hope that all of Yamhill County--from Newberg to Sheridan--rally around the team and make it their own.
You're coming up on the last game of the introduction season played by new IBL franchises. What types of things do you focus on from now until the beginning of next season? Are the High Flyers likely to be around, or is the viability of the team still being assessed?
We learned a lot, and I'm very pleased with the "branding year" process. From now till the beginning of next season, our main priorities are community involvement and continuing to make sure we work on branding--making sure everyone in Yamhill County knows who the Yamhill HighFlyers are. And yes, we've already pre-paid league dues for 2010, so we're definitely going to be around next year. We're committed to this community and hope to be here for many years to come.
Thanks to Eric Bailey for taking some time out to indulge us. Check out the official Yamhill HighFlyers site here and the IBL site here for more information. More to come.

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