Baseball is simultaneously America’s favorite pastime and America’s favorite sport to hate on. Games run long, the action is sporadic, and there are a million oddly convoluted statistics for everything. Despite all that, Corvallis has filled seats and found success on and off the baseball diamond this summer—and almost every summer—with the Corvallis Knights.
The Corvallis Knights are part of the West Coast League, a summer wood bat league composed entirely of college-eligible student-athletes from up and down the West Coast. Play is centered in the Pacific Northwest, with teams from as far north as Victoria, Canada and as far south as Medford, Oregon. Players are put through their paces in an effort to prepare them for professional ball, experiencing tough travel schedules and some of the best college talent in their areas.
Our Knights were founded in 1990, starting out as part of a recreational league in Beaverton before settling into the Portland City League in 1994. Thirteen years and a few league switches later, the team migrated to the place we call home and has been a staple of our community ever since.
Within the West Coast League, the Knights entered this season as the leaders in total wins with 320 regular-season victories. Those 320 wins come with eight divisional titles and three league championships, backed by over 151 players who’ve gone on to sign with MLB teams. To put it simply, the Knights aren’t a team to be messed with, something they share with the Oregon State baseball team.
With such storied success, the Knights’ 2015 season was a bit rocky in comparison. A slow start had the Knights’ record at nine wins and 14 losses after their first month of play. But a red hot July and August put the Knights back into playoff position, finishing with32 wins and 22 losses, good for the only wild card spot in the playoffs, where they would face their divisional opponents, the Bend Elks. The Elks proved to be too much to handle as they went on to sweep the two-game series and end the Knights’ season in the first round of the playoffs.
With the on-field disappointment, it can be easy to scratch this season off as a loss, but a number of behind-the-scenes changes have led to some huge, less noticeable successes.
The ones responsible for the hidden successes, both on and off the field, are the minds behind the team. General Manager Bre Miller and Senior VP of Operations Holly Jones are the two-headed dragon working frantically behind the scenes to make each and every home game entertaining for the fans.
Miller has been with the team for almost a decade now. She’s grown up with the team, starting as an intern in 2007, working her way all the way up to general manager in 2012. She was the first female general manager in the league and her extensive knowledge of the inner workings of the team made her uniquely qualified to take on almost all roles for the team.
“I am responsible for overseeing everything, marketing, advertising, promotions, hiring, firing, staying on budget, merchandise, ticketing, staff, etc.,” Miller said.
Jones, on the other hand, has been bouncing all over the map landing jobs everywhere. Since her few years as an assistant and intern with the Knights, Jones landed a job with the NBA, started another West Coast League team from scratch, the Victoria Harbourcats, and even spent some time with a professional minor league team, all before landing back home with the Knights. Jones utilizes her outside knowledge to perfectly complement Miller’s understanding of the team. The yin to Miller’s yang.
Miller and Jones used that harmony to great success this season, leading to great turnouts and happy fans.
“I am so thankful to have Holly on staff,” Miller said. “It is so nice to have another experienced professional on board our small front office team to bring new ideas and perspective. Both on and off the field this year was fantastic. On the field, we started off a little slow, but ended up making post season play—what an achievement. Off the field, we hit many goals and exceeded some as well. We finished the regular season with a total attendance figure of 48,466, far surpassing the team’s old record of 43,529 set in 2013. We averaged 1,514 per game over 32 dates, and 1,498 per game for WCL home games which was good for second best in the league—our highest ranking since being members in the WCL.”
It wasn’t just attendance numbers that Miller and Jones brought to the table in 2015. This year, the Knights introduced a new logo, redesigned mascots, and started a number of community engagement programs. Next year, Miller and Jones are looking to expand on their new ideas and celebrate a certain milestone.
“2016 is our 10th anniversary in Corvallis so we’re definitely doing something extra special next summer,” Miller stated. “We have the Reading Program that we launched late spring. We’re hoping to get that out earlier in the year so more schools and classes can participate. We also launched a Lil’ Knights Kids Club this year. Again, with a little more planning and time we hope to make both a lot better next year.”
Thanks to the powerful duo of ladies behind the scenes and the boys on the field, the Knights’ reputation is sterling and looks to remain that way. Knights games have become a summer staple in Corvallis and understandably so, as the experience both on and off the field promises to be worth the price of admission.
By Nathan Hermanson