CEO Brian Wilhite and NFL legend Brett Favre talk sports and the future of Sqor

07/30/2014 4:57 AM - Devo

SQOR.jpgIn early July, I had the pleasure of speaking with Sqor CEO, Brian Wilhite, who discussed his new platform, Sqor, a site dedicated to enhacing the fan/athlete relationship. 

In my follow-up interview, I spoke with Brian on the future of the company and discussed the role NFL legend, Brett Favre plays in its growth.

The GM’s Perspective: What is next for Sqor and how can you see it expanding in the future?

Brian Wilhite: The next step is just to continue what we’re doing really. Continue blocking and tackling and staying focused on the business and game plan we have going forward: Meeting, delivering and giving the fans closer access to the athletes, and delivering a really rich platform. With that being said, we’re going to continue on a very aggressive product roadmap. That roadmap is a developmental process that will span over 15 months. From a fans perspective, it’s going to be focused on engagement and implementing and bringing back our Showdowns product.

Showdowns were simply the ability for a fan to go head-to-head with each other and select one team to beat the next team. We launched this last fall right around the college football season. There’s a tonne of passion around college football, (I went to LSU), and no matter who LSU was playing that weekend, I’m always finding friends or people that went to the opposing teams school, and we’re messing with each other. The idea was to be able to go head-to head: I’d pick the LSU Tigers to beat the Wisconsin Badgers. Drilling down even further allows us to dig deeper to the athlete level. I can select “LSU QB” who I think will throw for more passing yards than the opposing QB.

It makes it really fun and engaging so you can invite your friends and your opposing teams friends who want to go against you.

We’re launching that in time for the college football season, which happens to be LSU vs. Wisconsin Badgers in late August.

GMs: I know we talked briefly about how you both met, but how did you get Brett Favre on your Board of Directors?

BW: Brett and I met four years ago. I was introduced through his agent, Les Cook. I went down to Mississippi to sit down with Brett and talk to him about my vision and what I saw as an opportunity and how we were focused on the athlete. Brett liked it. We spent a couple hours talking and getting to know each other. He accepted my proposal and my offer to be on the Board and to be involved as an advocate as much as he possibly cared to be, in terms of talking about Sqor and representing the brand. That was four years ago and we’ve come a long way together with that. It’s starting to get fun cause we’re starting to see, as you’re on the platform, the number of athletes that we have creating content. It’s incredible and growing, literally, weekly. It’s fun for us together to be witnessing this brand and to see this product come to life that we originally talked about.

sqor football.png

GMs: So when you met Brian a few years ago and discussed this idea, what sold you on Sqor?

Brett Favre: I was at a point where my career was over and I’m part of the older generation of athletes where you used to write letters to people. Now, text messaging is part of everyday life, social media is new and expanding. By no means will I sit here and say that I was gung-ho with the social media thing because it's sort of unchartered territory for us older folk.

I really like Brian, first of all, and you’re right. Les and I get stuff that comes across the table all the time, you name it. And why they would want my involvement, I have no idea? Really, Brian is a good guy and that was the first thing that really, more than anything, sold me. I knew he was genuine, I liked his idea, but I like him even more. I have to admit; initially I thought this probably will be just like anything else. Any idea that actually comes to reality is hit or miss. You never really know. I thought this would be another passing fancy, but it hasn’t been. Brian doesn’t ask a lot of me, it’s painless, I don’t mind doing it. Whatever knowledge I can come to the table with is a bonus. I liked the idea, and I thought it had potential. I was probably more pessimistic maybe, but I’m sold on it. I think Brian had worked diligently, and I know on numerous occasions in the past couple of years he’s asked me to talk to different people he was trying to bring over to his company that would solidify his company even greater. He ended up getting those people to make this company even stronger.

I think that says a lot about Brian and the product he has. He’s driven. More important than anything, it was Brian that really sold me. He didn’t pay me an endorsement fee or anything. I plug the company and I want to see it succeed. I didn’t get my money and leave. I’ve done endorsements for different products before, and if they sell great, if not so be it. This is not one of those. I have a stake in this as well. I think it has tremendous upside, more so today than four years ago.

GMs: Businesses can be financially successful and whatnot, but what you’re saying about how Brian sold you on Sqor, shows the passion you both have to make this a successful endeavour.

BF: We need people like you to put the word out. I try to do my part, but it’s like anything, the more exposure the better. I think it will just continue to grow. Football is probably the one sport that is lacking with numbers (interaction). I think it’s a bigger entity to crack, but I think as players become more aware, I know during my last year of football I heard the word “Twitter”, it will. It wasn’t as big as it is now. Same thing with Sqor, I have so many people come up to me and ask me about it. Brian has sent me hats and t-shirts cause I’m a hat and t-shirt type of guy, but everyone is asking what Sqor is. I tell them if they’ve got an iPhone, download the app and play around with it. Word of mouth has been great and we need people like you to expand it.

GMs: You’ve been doing contests on Sqor such as, "Who do ya think can beat me in arm wrestling?" - winner gets Sqor headphones! I’ve read some of the comments and people have quite the imagination. What’s does it feel like, despite being retired for a few years now, that you can still draw all of these great responses? It has to feel pretty good to be able to interact with the fans after all these years?

Brett Favre.jpg

BF: It’s the way it is now. If you ask the younger generation about writing letters and mailing it to you grandmother, you’d get a blank stare. The older generation has to learn to adapt or you can’t communicate! It’s just the way it is. As I retired and got a little it more removed from the game, it has been refreshing. It’s always nice to know your still loved and still hated in some circles. The comments have been very good, funny and crazy. But that’s what Sqor is about. To be able to interact with the athletes and with the fans is the biggest selling point.

GMs: You just did a campaign with Fan Experience Dinner, where you can bid on a dinner with yourself, and your wife Deanna at the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Biloxi. All proceeds go to Favre4Hope.

That is really something special. I went on your site and read about all the charities you work with and the people that you reach with your kindness. That is very commendable and something you really can be proud of. Did you ever imagine that you would be able to touch so many lives?

BF: I guess I was no different than most kids when I was 13 or 14 years old. I dreamed of playing pro football and pro baseball. Honestly, I never thought about the money or the fame, or the Hall of Fame or MVP’s. What I thought about was playing the game I loved and how much fun that would be.

As a retired player, what a great experience to experience my dreams and then some, along with all the other stuff that’s come along with it. There’s been a tremendous amount of good and there’s been bad, but I think the way I was raised and my wife (who I started dating when I was 13 or 14) has always grounded me. My mother was a special education teacher and my dad was a driver’s ed. teacher and also a baseball and football coach. In Mississippi you don’t make a lot of money as teachers. So combined, they had four kids and we lived modestly to say the least. I learned at a young age that you treat people with respect regardless of status. To me it’s like gravy. Some people may give back because it’s almost expected or a chore rather than the right thing to do. God put me on this earth to excel at football, gave me the talents to achieve and I took it and ran with it. I thank Him for that. He also wants to see what I can do in return with the success that I’ve had. I believe in that wholeheartedly.

We’re not immune to hardships and trouble that everyone is exposed to. My wife had breast cancer and she turned a negative into a positive and has helped so many people. My father passed away and we set up an endowment/scholarship that we’ve been able to give to a student each year at my high school to go to college. We’ve given so much back to Wisconsin and the disadvantaged children there and we were able to donate money to St. Jude Hospital in Minnesota. Let me tell you, you go to these places where you get around people like the Make A Wish kids that I’ve been with for all these years, you talk about a humbling experience. Believe me, there’s so much satisfaction giving back, and especially at this time in my life where I’m not preoccupied with playing, you look forward to these things. It’s really a special experience.

GMs: Sqor athletes are showing their fans what their lives are like, on and off the field. I hear Sqor NFL ambassadors are Will Smith (Patriots), Kirk Morrison (NFL Analyst) - can you tell me more about how to become an ambassador?

BW: We have athletes in all divisions, MLB, MBA, retired athletes, amateurs. After you register with Sqor - Sqor will help you activate your account and set you up with ambassador

GMs: Are a lot of athletes joining Sqor? Some of your rookies are: Storm Johnson (Jacksonville Jaguars) & Jalen Saunders (NY Jets)

BW: A lot of young smart guys are joining with great social media presence. Over 1500 professional athletes have registered.

GMs: Honestly, this product is very different from everything out there. With over 1,500 athletes already signed-up it seems like it’s only the tip of the iceberg. The interaction between all parties is quite astonishing. Do you have athletes contacting you directly about Sqor and how they can get involved?

BW: We are getting a lot of inbound inquiries. In some cases the athletes directly or they’re going to the Sqor and signing up. We get a handful of inquiries a week from agents and/or their PR/Publicists who work with athletes. The word is definitely getting out there and the organic growth is really starting to show itself.

BF: I’m getting questions all the time from the general public. I’m not in the locker room everyday, or at minicamps, but I do have guys who I’ve played with and some younger generation athletes that workout here, who ask about it as well. In my opinion, Brian may have a different opinion, but I think it’s a potentially useful tool for the marketing side of the athlete. Some athletes don’t need exposure, but there are players who are leading the league in hitting or free thrown percentage, I use examples from other sports because most people know whose leading every category in football. But those guys that you don’t know anything about, but are tremendous players, this is a way for them to get their name out there. A way to get the exposure they’re not getting for whatever reason. I think, for an athlete, this is a great tool they will find out is there for them.

Sqor Eric Ebron.png

Devon is the Founder and Executive Director of The GM's Perspective. He is a former professional baseball player with the River City Rascals & Gateway Grizzlies. Currently, Devon is a Manager at a financial institution in Northern Ontario Canada, and can be reached at devon@thegmsperspective.com. You can follow The GM's Perspective on twitter and facebook. His full bio can be seen here.

Indy Ball Weekly Perspective: Twins get a Bum, ATL changes the rules

07/29/2014 5:26 AM - Devo

DEVONTEEPLEINDYPERSPECTIVE.jpgWelcome to the latest edition of the Indy Ball Weekly Perspective

Beach Bums' Johnson signs with Twins

D.J. Johnson of the Traverse City Beach Bums has been picked up by the Minnesota Twins. Johnson, in the midst of his fourth professional minor league season wowed the Beach Bums saving a career high 14 games and posting a 1.30 ERA in 24 games. Johnson is not stranger to the professional ranks. He's spent time within the Tampa Bay Rays and Arizona Diamondbacks organizations. In four seasons he's racked up six wins to go with 10 losses. His 9.8 SO/9 is very impressive as is his 2.69 career ERA in over 110 games and over 150 innings.

Diablos are out of the Pecos League

According to the Pecos League, the Douglas Diablos will not return for 2015. The league reports that the Diablos finished dead last in the league in attendance. Apparently tickets are $6 and fans still didn't come through the turnstile. Unfortunate that Douglas has become another casualty of the indy game.

Atlantic League want to speed things up, Tal Smith explains how

I interviewed Tal Smith of the Atlantic League's Pace of Play committee. Their objective is to make the game more enjoyable for the fans and enhance "watchability". Recently the league came out with six new rules to enhance the pace of the game. Please see below for the full list, courtesy of the Atlantic League.

  • ”Limited Time-Outs” Rule: The defensive team will be limited to three “time-outs” per game, in which mound visits or on-field conferences take place with the current pitcher.  Pitching changes will not be counted as “time-outs,” and in the case of extra innings, one additional “time-out” will be permitted at the start of the 10th inning and every three innings thereafter. Umpires will enforce a strict forty-five second time limit on said “time-outs.”  If the umpire’s warning is disregarded by the defensive team and play continues to be delayed, the umpire shall declare a “ball” for the batter at the plate.  This will limit the number of times play is interrupted by on-the-field conferences.
  • The “Substitute-Runner for the Catcher” Rule: When a catcher reaches base safely as a batter, the manager will immediately a substitute-runner who is not currently in the line-up to take the catcher’s place on base.  This ensures that the start of an inning is not delayed while waiting for the catcher to suit up.
  • Reduced Number of Warm-Up Pitches: Reduce the number of preparatory “warm-up” pitches at the beginning of an inning, or when a relief pitcher enters the game, from eight pitches to six, within 60 seconds. Timing is consistent with Rule 8.03 stating preparatory pitches shall not consume more than one minute of time.
  • Automatic Awarding of an Intentional Walk: When a manager or catcher on the defensive team indicates to the home plate umpire they wish to issue an intentional base on balls, the batter is to be automatically awarded first base without the need for the pitcher to deliver four balls.
  • Directing Umpires to Apply and Enforce Rule 6.02 and Rule 8.04: The Atlantic League office shall intensify its directives to the umpires and direct them to be more diligent applying and enforcing Rule 6.02 (restricting batters “stepping out” of the batter’s box) and Rule 8.04 (requiring the pitcher to deliver the ball within 12 seconds when the bases are unoccupied).
  • Directing Umpires to Control the Pace of Play: ALPB umpires shall be reminded that they control the pace of play and that they need to exercise that control and move the game along in a timely manner.  The umpires shall adhere to the entire strike zone as defined in Rule 2.00 and observe that definition when calling pitches balls or strikes.

Devon is the Founder and Executive Director of The GM's Perspective. He is a former professional baseball player with the River City Rascals & Gateway Grizzlies. Currently, Devon is a Manager at a financial institution in Northern Ontario Canada, and can be reached at devon@thegmsperspective.com. You can follow The GM's Perspective on twitter and facebook. His full bio can be seen here.

Tal Smith talks Atlantic League and Pace of Play Committee

07/25/2014 6:04 AM - Devo

Atlantic League.jpgThe Atlantic League has been working on a variety of ways to speed up the length of games. Over the course of the last year, they’ve been collecting data relevant to the cause and have now created the Pace of Play Committee. The panel consists of some of the greatest baseball minds the game has ever seen: Tal Smith, Roland Hemond, Pat Gillick, Joe Klein, Cecil Cooper, Bud Harrelson and Sparky Lyle. They will be taking suggestions from fans, media, baseball people from a variety of sources, and proposals from the committee, who will look for ways to enhance the "watchability" of the game while keeping the fundamental rules and integrity intact. It’s not just about speeding up independent league games, but enhancing the pace and increasing excitement for fans at every level.

The GM’s Perspective: I do a lot writing on the Independent Leagues, and I read about the Pace of Play Committee on the Atlantic League website. I did a brief summary recently on my weekly recap, “Indy Ball Weekly Perspective”.

I thought it would be a great time to catch up with the Atlantic League and learn more about this new initiative. It would also be a great follow-up to the interview I conducted with former ATL president, Peter Kirk last year.

Tal Smith: I’ve known Peter Kirk for a long time, from when he first got involved in baseball back in 1990 when he was operating affiliated clubs in Frederick and other areas (Baltimore affiliates). As you know, Peter is chairman of Opening Day Partners, Sugar Land Skeeters, and other teams in the Atlantic League. I do some consulting and advisory work for Opening Day Partners and Peter. Over the course of time, our baseball interests, like so many people in the game, have noticed and have become concerned with the games running exceedingly long. It’s fine if it’s a long game and it’s interesting, but there’s an awful lot of dead time that’s crept into our game. It’s something that we thought we could examine and initiate some ideas that would speed up the pace of the game and make it even more interesting and more attractive to the fans.

After a lot of discussion and exchange of ideas, the Atlantic League did create the committee you are aware of. The announcement was on the 26th of June.

GMs: If the readers aren’t aware, who makes up the committee?

TS: The committee is comprised of a couple long time managers and coaches; Sparky Lyle, and Bud Harrelson, both who have great Major League pedigrees, and obviously long service and familiarity with the Atlantic League. Joe Klein, of course, general manager for three Major League clubs and a long time executive director of the Atlantic League. We went out and got two of the legendary baseball figures in Pat Gillick and Roland Hemon. And we also have Cecil Cooper, a fine player in his own right, and a Major League manager to get another independent view. We’ve got a seven member committee, whether we expand on this or not, we’ll have to wait and see. You have to understand, we’re only in our few first weeks.

GMs: I know that you will proposing some items to the Executive Committee, but what sort of things have been tossed back and forth for review? 

TS: Many things come to mind. Two areas, which are of a big concern, are controlled by the umpires. They really control the pace of the game. From the standpoint of a strike zone, hitters take too much stepping out and the time it take pitchers to deliver the ball.  As you undoubtedly know there are, among official playing rules, specifically rule 6.02 that deal with hitters stepping out, rule 8.04 deals with the pitcher delivering the ball on a timely matter when the bases are unoccupied. We’ve talked about those sorts of things, but much of those are judgments calls and we hope to be able to get umpires to become more diligent in their focus and application of the existing rules. Beyond that, there are a lot of other things that have been discussed.

The deployment of pitchers today is different from what it used to be. Complete games are rare, and specialists are relied upon in certain situations i.e. left vs. right with the result being many more pitching changes. Every time there’s a pitching change it consumes five minutes and creates a stoppage or a delay in the action. Rules presently require that a relief pitcher coming into to face one batter. That lends itself to a lot of pitching changes. And today with the emphasis on analytics and the left/right match-ups to which I referred.

One of the other things we’ve kicked around for further evaluation and discussion is whether it would make sense to require a relief pitcher, who is coming in during the course of an inning, to face more than one hitter to get away from the constant left/right match-up where a relief pitcher comes in and faces one guy. The result is a delay in action and another guy comes in and so on.

There are a number of things such as the intentional walk. That’s a minor consideration, and doesn’t consume much time, but is it really necessary to deliver the four pitches outside before the batter is awarded first base?

We’ve talked at length about the delay in games if the catcher was on base or the final out. You have to wait on him to get his gear back on and come back to the field of play. Is there a way to remedy that, perhaps with a designated runner for the catcher? .

One of the principle areas we’re focusing on is the number of mound conferences during a game where the manager or the pitching coach or infielders or catcher come out to confer on the mound. Should there be a limit imposed there or time out? Baseball is the only team sport to my knowledge that doesn’t have some kind of a policy as to how many times you can stop or interrupt or delay play. Obviously if a manager makes a second trip to the mound with the same pitcher in the same inning he has to make a pitching change, but that doesn’t remedy all the other mound conferences. We’ve discussed and will probably recommend some limitation on the number of those mound visits that might be permitted.

We’ve met twice, that’s just the beginning stage of our work, and it’ll be an ongoing exercise.

GMs: Do you think Major League Baseball would adapt any of these proposed new rules?

TS: I think they might take a look at what we’re doing. I think the benefit the independent leagues, particularly the Atlantic League, has is the fact that they are independent and we can implement these things. They are up to the executive committee, which is principally the owners of the clubs and the league, it’s up to them, their prerogative.

I think that’s the benefits. It’s a lot easier for us (Atlantic League) to implement certain initiatives like the ones I’ve outlined, I think Major League Baseball would hopefully take a look at what we’re doing and evaluate it. I would hope these things prove beneficial. These proposed rules will be viewed on a trial basis. We may very well recommend, and once it’s adopted, and after it’s put to use for a year, we may find that it’s not beneficial.

Our intent is to not just benefit the Atlantic League, but benefit baseball. I think all of baseball is confronted as they face the same issues; the elapsed time and the pace of the game. The focus really has to be on the pace. There can be a lengthy game that is exciting because of the action. There can shorter games that are dull because the pace is still too slow.

 Devon is the Founder and Executive Director of The GM's Perspective. He is a former professional baseball player with the River City Rascals & Gateway Grizzlies. Currently, Devon is a Manager at a financial institution in Northern Ontario Canada, and can be reached at devon@thegmsperspective.com. You can follow The GM's Perspective on twitter and facebook. His full bio can be seen here.

Indy Ball Weekly Perspective: Tosoni leads Explorers, Hall gives Ducks a boost

07/22/2014 4:18 AM - Devo

DEVONTEEPLEINDYPERSPECTIVE.jpgWelcome to the latest edition of the Indy Ball Weekly Perspective

  • Canadian Rene Tosoni is quietly having a solid season for the American Association's Sioux City Explorer's. I spoke to Tosoni earlier this year about his experiences in the game and what he's doing right now shows the dedication he has to get back in affiliated baseball. After 63 games, Tosoni leads the team in hits (66), home runs (6), base on balls (29), doubles (17), tied for lead in triples (2), and second in RBI (34).
  • Aside from all the Tracy McGrady hoopla, there was still an All-Star Game going on, and the Sugar Land Skeeters took down the very best the Atlantic League had to offer. The Skeeters scored two runs in the bottom of seventh to break a 3-3 tie and held on to win 5-3.
  • Former big league veteran Bill Hall has signed with the Long Island Ducks. This marks his second stint with the Ducks. Hall has been around a long time and is best known for his eight years with the Milwaukee Brewers. That is obviously where he put up the best numbers of his 11-year career. Originally drafted by the Brewers in the 6th round of the 1998 amateur draft, the Ducks are adding someone that can play any infield position and anywhere in the outfield. Hall was an integral part of their 2013 championship run, and will no doubt contribute again this year according to Ducks president and general manager, Michael Pfaff. “He was an important piece of our championship team in 2013, and we look forward to having him back again this season.”
  • Journeyman Casper Wells has signed with the Bridgeport Bluefish. Wells has bounced around the bigs since 2010. Hall has four big league seasons under his belt spending time with the Detroit Tigers, Seattle Mariners, Oakland Athletics, Chicago White Sox, and Philadelphia Phillies. In 277 games, the former 14th round pick of the Tigers, is a career .230 hitter. He has 25 career home runs and 81 RBI.

 Devon is the Founder and Executive Director of The GM's Perspective. He is a former professional baseball player with the River City Rascals & Gateway Grizzlies. Currently, Devon is a Manager at a financial institution in Northern Ontario Canada, and can be reached at devon@thegmsperspective.com. You can follow The GM's Perspective on twitter and facebook. His full bio can be seen here.

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