While we mostly focus on the players and the game when discussing the TBirds, we are also fans. And as such, the experience around the game plays a big part in the enjoyment of it. Erin Saunders was a part of the team that put that experience together. For the last couple of seasons, she provided pre-game notes and participated in on-camera promotions and giveaways. She was also the Thunderbirds video reporter, interviewing players and showcasing TBird efforts in the community. She left the team for a position in Nevada with the Reno Aces. While it is the heart of the baseball season, she took some time to talk to us and catch up.
TBird Tidbits: Erin, first of all, thanks for doing this. How has it been going in Reno? You work with two teams, correct? The Aces AAA baseball team and the upcoming USL Reno team?
Erin Saunders: I do and it’s been good! Very busy right now with the baseball season being over half way done but I’ve learned a lot since being here.
TT: It must be quite a change to go from an indoor, winter sport in a rainy city to an outdoor, middle-of-the-summer sport in the heat. How has the adjustment been?
ES: It’s so weird to go from indoor to outdoor! The first month or so it was freezing and rainy so it was interesting to have to dress for the weather rather than just dressing. I will say that the sun in Reno is unbelievable…I never realized how much of a Seattlite I am! It hasn’t rained in months and I am the tannest I’ve ever been. To be honest, I miss the rain!
TT: When did you realize that you wanted to be involved in sports and specifically this side of it and have you had any other sports-related positions?
ES: Growing up I always loved watching sports with my dad so I knew that I wanted to be involved at a deeper level. My original plan was to go into sports broadcasting but once I started with the T-Birds (on the promo team), I fell in love with the energy of the crowd and the people in the office. I couldn’t imagine doing anything else with my life other than trying to entertain a crowd of 6,000! I haven’t had any other sports-related positions aside from the T-Birds and interning in the sports department for a couple of TV stations.
TT: Some people get involved in the business side of sports because they participated in their childhood. Did you play any sports growing up?
ES: I did! I played soccer and was figure skating for a while but decided not to further any of those sports once I hit high school.
TT: And did you grow up a hockey fan? If not, how did you develop an interest in the sport?
ES: Surprisingly, I didn’t grow up a hockey fan! I started getting interested in hockey when I was in high school and I remember being the only one in the house watching the Stanley Cup Finals. I was intrigued by the constant action and the strategy that the players displayed…I’m proud to say my family now watches hockey and loves going to T-Birds games!
TT: Getting to your time in Kent while with the Thunderbirds, what were some of your responsibilities?
ES: When I was with the team I helped plan the promotional schedule, acted as the video reporter, and handled all of our game day entertainment.
TT: During your final couple of seasons, there was a lot more on camera work with the team. Is that a direction you wanted to head in and is more on camera work in your future or do you prefer being behind the scenes?
ES: I was originally going to school for sports broadcasting so being in front of the camera was like a dream come true for me. I would love to continue to be able to be in front of the camera in whatever position I end up having…I’m not sure if that means making a transition to working for a television station or working for a sports team in that capacity.
TT: Because you were on camera a lot, you became one of the few non-player faces associated with the team. Did you get noticed by fans when you were away from the arena?
ES: Not a ton! There were a couple times when people would say hi to me by name and I would have no idea who they were (I felt so bad whenever that happened!) but it didn’t happen all that often.
TT: What was your favorite part of your time with the team?
ES: I love the people. The T-Birds staff and fans became my second family and helped me grow and develop both as a person and professionally.
TT: It seems the last couple of years or so, starting while you were here, the team has become much more interactive and fan-oriented. Did you find that effort repaid in the form of greater enjoyment and engagement from the crowd?
ES: I would like to think the fans had/have a lot of fun with what we did/do! I think with everything in the entertainment industry some things work and some things don’t and the challenge is trying to find what works and expanding on that. And then timing! I can’t even begin to describe how proud and excited you feel when the crowd has a huge, positive reaction to something you did. I just remember standing there and having a big smile on my face when it was obvious the crowd loved it.
TT: What did you learn with your time with the Thunderbirds that has helped you in your new position?
ES: I learned a lot from working with the ‘Birds…I learned how to be myself and be confident in what I can bring to the table; realizing that I will make mistakes (we all do!) but it’s how you fix that mistake that people will remember; to not be afraid to fail at something because at least you can say that you tried.
TT: What does your dream future job look like for you?
ES: Dream job….I think it would be working for a sports team in some capacity or maybe for a television company? I think you can make any job your dream job if you love it enough so as long as I love my job, I think I would consider that my dream job.
TT: What’s something that we as fans wouldn’t know about that comes along with the jobs you did? Any chuck-a–puck injuries?
ES: Surprisingly no chuck-a-puck injuries! You really got to work on your reflexes when you were out on the ice for that! Something fans wouldn’t know…maybe how much running I did on game day? When the season started I would say that I’m not in game shape yet because of how much walking/running I did during the game. By the end of the season I was in great shape so it ended up being a great workout for me!
TT: A couple non-sports related questions for you. First, I eat a peanut butter and jelly sandwich every day for lunch. If people don’t know, you’re a huge PB&J fan. So this question is simple: crunchy or creamy?
ES: I love this question! I have to go with crunchy. The only time I go with creamy is on French toast.
ES: Oh boy! I really owned that teddy bear toss demonstration video but I think I would go with the dancing on camera. Little back story: no one told me that, when a video would play, I was still live for those watching the game on TV. Therefore, I started the dancing because it was always a song that I liked. I actually had a couple people mention the dancing when I met them in person…I was so embarrassed!
TT: Finally, any messages for the fans in Kent? Will you be back again this season to visit?
ES: I will definitely be back this season to visit! And I’m counting on coming back to a barn full of the loudest fans in the Western Hockey League…it’s been so fun being a part of the TBirds organization and I’m so proud to come from a team where the fans and staff are like family. Couldn’t have asked for a better organization to get my start in sports with!
TT: We really appreciate you taking the time to do this, Erin. Best of luck the rest of the season.
ES: Thanks so much for this!