The Inland Empire 66ers are a minor league baseball team that play in the California League. They are the single-A affiliate of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim and have the distinction of being one of the few teams in organized baseball to field a dance team.
On Saturday, the Inland Empire 66ers held open auditions for their dance team. More than 20 hopefuls came out to showcase their skills before a panel of judges that included Byron Marquez, the Director of Business Relations and Kevin Shaw, the Vice President of Marketing. To have the Director of Business Relations and the VP of Marketing in attendance clearly indicates what the dance team means to the marketing of the organization as a whole. They are not just dancers, they are ambassadors to the community and for many fans, the face of the organization.
At 10:00 am, the girls began arriving at the stadium for registration. There were several roster spots open as many of last year’s dance team retired. Four returning veterans were in attendance, as they were required to re-audition for a spot on the 2011 squad.
After registration, Amber Cash, the 66ers dance team manager, gave a brief tour of the facilities. Arrowhead Credit Union Park is a beautiful facility located in San Bernardino, California and was designed by the renowned architectural design firm HOK, the architects responsible for Baltimore’s Camden Yards and Coors Field in Denver. Originally opened in 1996, Arrowhead Credit Union Park is an intimate and fan friendly park with all the amenities of a MLB stadium. It’s great place to watch baseball and the Inland Empire 66ers dance team.
At 11:00 am the girls were directed to the player’s locker room where the tryouts were to be held. Byron Marquez gave an overview of the organization, its new affiliation with the Angels, and described the role and responsibilities of the dance team. If he was a bit stern in his description of dedication required, it was to underscore the role the dancers play in promoting the 66ers in the community. This is a position that involves more than just being a great dancer. They are an integral part of the organization and must represent 66ers, the Angels and the community in a positive and respectful manner.
After Byron’s introduction, the girls were led through a series of stretching exercises by Karina Vitelli, the choreographer of the audition routine and a former Inland Empire 66ers dance team member.
At precisely 11:15 am, Karina began teaching the audition routine by introducing separate eight count segments to the girls. I must say the intimate confines of the locker room made it a tad difficult for me to get clean shooting angles and I can imagine it was a similar challenge for the dancers.
But as the auditions progressed, one could begin to get a sense of those dancers that had the talent and promise to become an Inland Empire 66ers dance team member. Throughout this process, Byron and his staff studied the candidates and made notations in their notebooks.
Several rounds of cuts ensued whereby the initial pool of candidates was whittled down to the 9 finalists. They were then interviewed to ascertain their commitment level.
Though the baseball team’s season ends in September, the dance team’s contract runs through December and that is because a significant part of their responsibilities is the marketing and promotion of the team. Therefore it was imperative for Byron and his staff to ensure that each girl selected not only possess dance ability, but the dedication and commitment required to represent the organization throughout the year.
At the end of the day, 9 girls were selected to represent the organization…introducing the 2011 Inland Empire 66ers Dance Team.
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My thanks to Byron, Kevin, Amber and Kela for allowing me access to cover the 2011 Inland Empire 66ers dance team auditions.