Chuck McGill: Mueller handles transition, busy slate
CHARLESTON, W.Va. - West Virginia Power General Manager Tim Mueller sat in the Legends Club suite overlooking Appalachian Power Park on Tuesday afternoon.
Pitt-Johnstown and the University of Charleston were in the early innings of a baseball game as Pittsburgh Pirates farmhands trickled in for the Power's Media Day festivities.
Mueller has carried his share of burdens since the December departure of Andy Milovich, the team's vice president, but managing the plethora of games during the East End ballpark's ninth season is Mueller's primary challenge.
"It is, quite honestly, my biggest concern going into the season," he said as the Power prepares to open its regular season at home this Thursday against Asheville.
"We're basically the home field for four different baseball programs. I don't have four staffs, though."
Charleston baseball fans will have no shortage of opportunities to settle into the 4,500-seat ballpark this spring. Weather permitting, there will be a game played on 50 of 69 days starting with UC's home game Tuesday. During the next 10 weekends there is baseball scheduled to be played at Power Park, which is the home field for the Power, WVU, Marshall and UC.
WVU has seven more games scheduled at Power Park, Marshall six and UC five. Three of the Herd's remaining games are this weekend, overlapping with the Power's seven-game homestand to start the regular season.
The high school state baseball tournament will be played there on the penultimate weekend of that 10-week stretch (May 30-June 1), which will also conclude a 13-day stretch without a break for the ballpark.
The sure-to-be worn field gets two days of respite after that before a six-game Power homestand runs from June 4-9.
Then, maybe, Mueller and his hard-working staff can breathe.
"It's our one staff working with different coaching staffs, promotions staffs, athletic directors, ticket departments ... so there is an adjustment we have to make each time someone different is here," Mueller said. "My concern is burnout."
Mueller will tell you, however, that busy beats the alternative. The Power's transition of, well, power has been smooth. The responsibilities left behind by Milovich, who is now with the Myrtle Beach Pelicans, has been divvied up behind a staff mentored for years by Milovich.
"I don't know if there was another staff in the country that was as well-equipped to handle such a transition," Mueller said. "A number of folks have taken on more responsibility, which they were all ready for."
Mueller said his front office will remain a "very promotionally active team." Last summer's first-ever "Redneck Night" won a Golden Bobblehead Award for Best Theme Night at the annual Minor League Baseball Promotional Seminar. That promotion returns, as well as NBA Night (with an appearance by the Laker Girls) and NFL Night (with the Dallas Cowboys cheerleaders).
The Big 12 promotion is also back and Mueller said his staff will take those 12 marquee nights and "pull out all the stops."
"We check and make sure we're not competing with anything huge, such as FestivALL," he said. "We want to do multiple promotions on those nights and really blow the doors off."
And then, on those few nights where the lights aren't on, catch a little bit of shuteye.
"You'd be surprised what an extra hour of sleep will do," Mueller said. "The thing is, I've got a very passionate crew. There's times I tell them to go home and they won't. Just go home and get some rest.
"But we're all a little bit crazy to do this."
* * *
WORD IS THE Jamestown (N.Y.) Jammers - the Pirates' short-season team in the New York-Penn League - are considered a fit for the proposed new minor league team in Morgantown.
Mueller's not involved in those discussions, but he keeps his ears open.
The fit makes sense for myriad reasons and could benefit the Power, which has a four-year player development contract with the Pirates that runs through the end of the 2014 season.
A short-season club within a couple hours of the organization's low-Class A team could help with branding, Mueller said.
"I don't think it will have an impact on us other than WVU is ultimately going to have a home field," he added. "It's going to benefit the Pirates probably more than anybody. It's going to help develop the Pirates brand."
Jamestown and the Pirates signed a two-year PDC last September. Establishing roots in Morgantown could portend a long relationship between the Power and Pirates, too.
Contact sports editor Chuck McGill at firstname.lastname@example.org or 304-348-7949. Follow him on Twitter @chuckmcgill.