RoughRiders Tap Rojas for President
RoughRiders Tap Rojas for President
Victor Rojas, the new President and General Manager of the Frisco RoughRiders, sat down with Hustle and Pro for a chat. We explored his journey so far in baseball, touching teams like our Texas Rangers, the Marlins, Diamondbacks, Newark Bears, and most recently, eleven years with the Angels. On the field, in the clubhouse, or behind the mic, Victor’s done it all and pulls all those experiences together to lead our Frisco RoughRiders into the 2021 season.
Enjoy this episode and other episodes of Hustle and Pro in our archives.
[00:22] Quick hits with Victor Rojas
[02:46] Victor’s career in baseball
[06:03] Baseball kid
[07:19] Arena Football & NHL
[14:00] RoughRiders culture & changes
[18:31] Big Fly Gear
Resources within this episode:
- Frisco RoughRiders: Website | Front Office Staff | Twitter | Instagram | Facebook
- Victor Rojas: Twitter | Instagram | Big Fly Gear
- Kelly Walker: Bio | Instagram @kelly_walkertexas | Twitter: @kelly_walker_TX
Connect with Lifestyle Frisco:
Welcome to Hustle & Pro, Season 2, talking sports and Frisco from youth to pro. Now here’s your host, Kelly Walker.
Welcome to this episode of Hustle & Pro. You all know that I love my baseball and my RoughRiders, so I’m thrilled to welcome the president and GM of the Frisco RoughRiders, Victor Rojas. Welcome. Thanks Kelly. Thanks for having me. Yeah, thanks for coming in and talking to us. All right. Off the top here, before we get talking about some things I always like to do some icebreakers and I want to know a couple of your sports preferences. So if you had to tell me who your favorite athlete was, who would that be?
Was, or still is? Uh, my favorite- well, my dad’s my favorite, my mentor, you know, having played 16 years in the big leagues, but as far as other players are concerned, Don Mattingly was probably when I was in college, had the most influence on me. I had the chance to meet him when my dad was managing the Angels in 1988. And, uh, from that point forward, he kind of became my guy. As a matter of fact, I named my daughter Mattingly after him. So, uh, yeah, he’s probably the one. And then Mike Trout now, currently, as far as current players is
Yeah, I gotta get your Angels guys in there. Uh, what about sports movies?
Uh, Field of Dreams, uh, is, is up there, but for me, The Natural is probably still Number 1. Uh, again, uh, I took, uh, Roy Hobbs’s name and I stuck it in my son’s middle name is Hobbs.
Oh my gosh. Wow. You really commit. Yeah. Field of Dreams is one of my favorites too. We, we recently talked about all of our favorite sports movies in baseball happened to be like my top five. All right. So I’m asking you, this is an old one that I asked in Season 1, but I’m curious because of your experience in clubhouses and all your time with baseball. So, uh, do you have any superstitions in sports, either you as a player or that you’ve seen that are interesting? Yeah.
I never liked to touching the foul line when I crossed onto the field or crossed off of it. Uh, that was always one that, uh, for whatever reason as a pitcher, when I was at the Angels system, I never, for whatever reason, I was a reliever and I never liked taking the baseball from the manager. And I got some strange looks. Uh, I would ask them to drop the baseball and I wouldn’t pick up the baseball until it stopped rolling. And so I picked it up there. And from that point forward, I would throw my first pitch. My first warm-up pitch was pretty much from the landing area. Then I would walk up to the rubber and then get my, uh, my next seven warm-up pitches. And, uh, I couldn’t tell you where that came from. It was just one of those things, idiosyncrasies that I just started in and kept doing it.
Something in your head, wanted the catcher to have you wanted the catcher to give it to you after you’d thrown a pitch?
Well, yeah, after that is fine. Yeah. Once, once I’ve thrown the ball,
I just mean you didn’t want to get it from the, from the manager’s hand.
Correct, skip, go ahead and drop it. And he’s looking at me like “what? Just drop it” and whenever it stopped rolling that’s when I picked it up.
That’s funny. Yeah, that’s a good one. All right. So it was just recently announced that you are taking over at the helm of the RoughRiders. And before that, I want to run down some things so that our audience kind of gets familiar with, with your history. Cause it’s a, it’s a good one. It’s a long one. It’s extensive, it’s extensive, but I’ll, I’ll be fast. So, um, you are a college player and then you jumped into coaching in ’93 in the Marlin system, and I’m not going to cover all of it, obviously there’s a lot, but then you started your play-by-play world in the minors, uh, for the Newark Bears. And you were also a GM there. Then you went to the Diamondbacks and you had five seasons here for our Rangers. And then, uh, you were host on the MLB Network then 11 seasons. So the most recent was 11 seasons with the Angels in Anaheim. Wow. So you do love baseball, right? Yeah.
A little bit of everything kind of grew up in it and, uh, fortunate to still be working in it. So, yeah, it’s one of those things where after playing it, after coaching a little bit, I thought the front office side was going to be my, my world and that kind of encompassed from ’95 to 2000 bouncing around from minor league baseball, arena football and National Hockey League. So I did a little bit of everything in front offices and in management as well. And then in 2000, when I had this wild hair to say, “I’m going to try broadcasting.” And I went, ended up going to through a friend of mine who was coaching up there, connected me with the owner of the team, Rick Cerone, former catcher for the Yankees oh and the Bears. And he brought me up there, made me the Assistant GM and color commentator, analyst on the radio broadcast
Simultaneously you’re Assistant GM?
So I was a independent ball, so I was responsible for the signing of players. And so an independent ball, you sign everybody. That was your responsibility. And so he wanted me because of my connection to baseball to do that, but he knew that I wanted to try the broadcasting side of things and we already had a play-by-play guy. Um, so I went up there in February of 2000. Our play-by-play guy quit like a month later. So before the season started, I became the default play-by-play guy with zero experience. And, um, I had signed a couple of former major league players that were friends of mine. Then I ended up signing. Jose Canseco and Jim Leyritz, Lance Johnson. So all of a sudden it became this big whoop-dee-do in Newark that we had all these major league players on our roster. And then a month into the season, our GM was let go. And then, you know, Rick just moved me over to the, uh, to the GM role. So I did both, which isn’t fun because when you’re doing play-by-play and your shortstop gets hurt on a 24-man roster, you stopped doing play-by-play in your head. And you’re thinking, how am I going to replace my shortstop for tomorrow
Yeah, you’d switch gears real fast. Open tryouts tomorrow. Or you’re also probably think you have to censor yourself of what, you know, what your, what your broadcast voice is saying versus what your manager mind is thinking. Man. So yeah. So the opening in the play-by-play booth really created a new career path for you that you didn’t plan on
No. And even, even that 2000 season with Newark, you know, getting a chance to, to sign players and deal with agents and so on and so forth, it kind of opened my eyes to that side of things I had, like I said, already kind of ventured into the front office side, more of a sales perspective, but from a baseball operation side. Yeah. I’m thinking, “well maybe, maybe this is what I was meant to do,” but I made a decision that off-season after my first year there, I ended up working with MLB Radio, which is now my mlb.com in its infancy. And that’s when I really said “I’m going to, I’m going to stick with broadcasting side of things.” And I’m glad I did. I spent one more year and then I eventually got hired by the Arizona Diamondbacks.
All right. So you mentioned your, your dad. So growing up as a kid of a major-league all-star, did you always know baseball’s where you wanted to be?
I knew that that’s the sport that I loved and I, and I had a true passion for, but I played all kinds of sports. I played, I did track, I did basketball. I played tennis, quite a bit of tennis, as a matter of fact, and dad never forced us one way or the other. He said, “play as many sports you want.” I grew up in Kansas city, so you’re limited anyways. Um, and it wasn’t this year round phenomenon that we have now in our, in our sports world. But I knew that I wanted to pursue baseball. Um, I played tennis my freshman year because my brother was a senior and I was a freshmen and I wanted to play varsity with him. And, uh. Tennis? No, no baseball baseball. And that was not going to come to fruition. Uh, just wasn’t going to make the varsity team. So I said, all right, I’ll go play varsity tennis instead. And so I did that my freshman year, and then I played baseball the rest of the time.
That’s what I did. I couldn’t play high school softball as a freshmen. I was moving school systems. And so I couldn’t have tried out in the spring, right? So I played varsity tennis as a freshmen and learned a new, a new skill. Yeah. Did that for a year while I earned my chance to try out and then continue playing softball
I was stubborn. I could have played JV baseball as a freshman. I just decided “no I’m going to play varsity tennis.” Varsity or bust, that’s it.
That’s funny. Yeah. Okay. So you mentioned that you also had some time working with the NHL and arena football and then like stadium operations or arena operations. I think you mentioned it. So I’m guessing that you can bring pieces of those jobs with you to baseball, even though they’re obviously completely different sports, but is there anything you can recall that you’ve learned from the hockey world or anything that you are bringing to your, to your baseball?
So this new role now? Well, I think you could definitely go back and pick up, you know, points in time, as far as your history is concerned and, and be able to pull the information. I think like everything else, nomenclatures maybe changed a little bit in the last 20 years since I’ve been doing the broadcasting thing. And since I was running the, the Bears organization, uh, but aside from that, it’s all essentially the same thing. We’re, we’re operators of a building. Uh, we’ve got tickets to sell, uh, we have events to book and, uh, unfortunate that, especially when I worked for leisure management. So when I left Florida Panthers from a sales perspective, I went into a sales role with the arena management side, um, their current facility, which was being built at the time. And I think that helped really kind of lay a foundation for what, uh, being an operator is and, uh, the different facets and the things that go into putting on an event and then profit and loss, margins, and statements and stuff like that. Um, that certainly has helped me. But again, it’s kind of getting back into it. And I so far it’s been, it’s been really a week since I’ve been doing it, uh, on a full-time basis. And it’s, it’s kind of like riding a bike, you know, and it’s just getting up to speed as to how things are done. Now, the context have certainly changed in the last 20 years. Um, but you definitely draw on experience. I think that’s what it’s all about.
Some of those things aren’t going to change, you know, P&Ls and how facilities are run. They’re, they’re run the way they’re always kind of, kind of been run, but maybe this ticket sales and, um, marketing side of things. I mean, that just, it’s hard to keep up when you’re in it every season. Right? Probably. So, I mean, I think the Roughriders do a great job of being able to connect with their audience. We have, I mean, I’m biased obviously, cause I’m a fan and a ticket holder, but we have such a great market here. Um, yet I still know that there’s, I’m baffled when I run into friends and family that still don’t know who the RoughRiders are and that they’re, they’re five minutes from my house. There’s really good AA baseball being played here. So, I mean, are, would you agree that keeping up and learning new marketing tactics is, is a big challenge and a learning curve for you right now?
Without a question. I mean, uh, it’s we didn’t have social media 20 years ago when we were trying to promote the Newark Bears. We, we leaned on the ESPNs of the world because of the big name guys that we had. So in essence, we were doing it, but at a different scale, uh, today it’s a lot different, especially in this marketplace. Uh, you know, for us, I think you look, uh, you know, across the parking lot is the, the Dallas Stars and you got the Legends, uh, just down the road, you got the FC Dallas, the Cowboys across the freeway. I mean, there’s a, there’s a number of different options and opportunities for folks to, to take in professional sports. And I think for us, the way I look at it is, uh, I think we belong in that conversation. I think we need to kind of, you know, maybe throw a little elbow here and there at the, at the big boy table and, and, and kind of let everybody know that we’re still here and especially in this market, considering how, uh, how it continues to grow, you know, for every person or per family that departs you maybe have two or three families coming back in and grow in the area. So it’s just amazing. So especially from a business perspective.
Yeah. I mean, so many transplants just on, on future fans that you can introduce the RoughRiders to that are coming here from other markets. And then yeah, from a business perspective, I mean, there’s an endless amount of sponsors, potential sponsors and sponsorship opportunities that makes sense with you guys. So yeah, it’s probably a challenge, but also one of the best opportunities you’ve have here to, to be successful because there’s, like I said, we’re a strong market with lots of, lots of good things happening here.
The question is, how do you, you know, you gotta be careful about it, right? Cause we’re coming, we’re still in the pandemic and how not pushy. I don’t like using that term, but how do, how aggressive are we in pursuing certain things? And I think that’s where you kind of have to find the balance.
Well, it is because you don’t know how your fans are sitting with their comfort levels of different things, right? So you guys have had to be, especially in this off season, y’all had to be very cognizant and communicating with fans. Here are your options: if you feel comfortable keeping this in case you can come into our ballpark, great. If not, let’s roll you over and you know, whatever your comfort level is, you guys are able to adapt to that, which has been right. So you don’t lose people, but at the same time, you don’t turn someone away. If, if you do have a game and you can come sit in the stadium. Yeah. All right. So I’m curious, working with so many different MLB teams over your career and playing and coaching and all of the different jobs that you’ve had – when you’re at home and baseball’s on TV, do you actually still enjoy watching or you have so many different like allegiances and things going on that is difficult for you to enjoy it as a sport?
No, I, I still watch it. I enjoy watching it. Uh, you know, perfect example is the playoffs. So especially with my son and my family, they like watching it as well. I, uh, I find myself, um, during the regular season, there are certain broadcasters that I like to listen to. I think, you know, it’s such a subjective business, uh, and industry, I think everyone kind of has a, a favorite broadcaster and someone that they’d like to crush. I mean, that’s just the nature of our industry.
You turn the volume down on that game and watch it and listen to the radio system/theater
In football, you kind of roll your eyes like, “Oh, I’m stuck with this guy this year, uh, this game.” But, um, you know, I get it. And, but I enjoy watching the game. I enjoy watching the nuances of the game. My, my family’s still stunned at times when I sit there and I’ll explain to them, uh, you know, “this, this is going to happen.” Or a broadcaster says something and I’ll say, “well, why is that, “you know, follow up with it. And, and I, and I give the reason, then they sit there and evidently look at me going like, “Oh yeah, you can kind of do this stuff, huh?” I said, yeah, I’ve got a little experience doing it, but I, I love the game. I love the game. I have a passion for the game of baseball. And, uh, that’s why I liked the, uh, the opportunity to Chuck presented me with, uh, coming to Frisco. Baseball at the minor league level, at the grassroots level – it’s, it’s, it’s so different than major league baseball and, and the, and the big stadiums and the atmosphere there. And that’s what I think I love the most. I’ve always enjoyed minor league baseball. I enjoyed playing it. I love being in Newark. Um, and now, um, I’m looking forward to this opportunity here in Frisco and kind of growing this, uh, this brand a little bit more.
Now that was something I was going to ask you in a few minutes, but since you brought it up, I’m going to go ahead and go there now. I love a lot of things about the RoughRiders, because, um, it’s just, you know, like I said, it’s our backyard. So there’s specific things that we love kind of being new to this ballpark. You you’re getting the feel for it now. And you know, you haven’t been here and experienced a season yet with us, but what are some of the things you’ve probably heard about that you’re most excited to jump into with the culture of the RoughRiders?
Really, it’s just the, uh, the fan base and how passionate they are about their team and, uh, the, the longtime season ticket holders, the Founder’s Club members, uh, and the memberships that come along with that and how many there are, and still to this day that we’re there day one in 2003, 2004, when, when Mandalay and Mr. Hicks owned the, the franchise and moved it here, uh, that’s amazing to me, which is fantastic that you still have that connection to what happened here, the inaugural season. And so I think that’s kind of cool. The ballpark is unique. There’s no question about, especially from an aesthetic standpoint, but as you start thinking about things, especially with this new partnership, with major league baseball and them overseeing the minor leagues, there’s going to be some things that we there’s gonna be an adjustment period. This is, this will, will be Year 1 of what we hope is a 10-year agreement with major league baseball and being the affiliate of the Texas Rangers. And so there’s, there’s going to be some adjustment period for us. There’s gonna be some adjustment periods for our fans. There’s going to be some new areas. Some, some areas that were there that may not be there and players are always changing. Right. Um, so I think for, especially from a social distancing standpoint, so I think it’s just the mindset of, you know, wrapping your head around it’s, we’re going to be back to baseball at some point. Uh, and the game itself is going to be the same, but how we handle our business and how we interact with our fans that might change a little bit, and there’s going to be some kid gloves. And that’s just the nature of it. That’s how everything has been. No doubt, no doubt.
You have to adjust to it. I think we’re different and better off today. Meaning all of us today than we were 12 months ago, you know, 12 months ago, life was normal, 10 months ago. All of a sudden everything you snap a finger and everything completely changed. And I think everybody’s been able to adapt. I think for the most part, everyone’s like an offensive lineman. I hate to use sports metaphors, but head on a swivel, you gotta, you gotta be able to be ready. Cause you don’t know what’s what’s happening and be able to adjust to it.
Don’t have all your weight too, no doubt, too much in one place ’cause you will get knocked over. Be able to pivot and be flexible. But you mentioned the partnership with MLB. So I mean, if anything, I don’t even know what some of the examples of that would be, but then I maybe think, “well then, okay, we adapt just more the things that look like the Rangers or some of the way that they do operations.” That’s not a bad thing. I mean, especially for people like us that are Rangers fans too, and maybe there’s even more overlap. One of the things we love most is seeing our players get called up, you know, developed up through the system and then we see them on the Rangers roster for years to come. We’re starting to lose some of that, those favorite players. Now I know they’re already kind of coming out of the system like rookie and those guys, but there’ll be more. Yeah, I know it seems like so long ago that Elvis was here, but, um, there’ll be more and it’ll keep going. But I would think that that’s only going to strengthen maybe as the, as the partnership changes a little bit with the way the majors are run, running the minor league
Yeah, no, ideally I think, I think that is a possibility for sure. And I, you know, having been with the Rangers, there’s still so many folks in that front office that are there today that were there when I was with Texas, uh, you know, 12, 13, 14 years ago. Yeah. Which is wonderful. And I think that’s what I like about the idea of still being a Rangers affiliate that I, I want to build that connection with them and continue that connection or even grow it to a certain extent so that we do have, I don’t mind the overlap. I think that’s great that we do have some overlap. Um, and I think we should exploit the fact that they are affiliate, they are our parent club. Um, and I want that old, that old school mindset of when you did back in the day, when it was a parent club, you always looked up to the parent club for the guidance and we’re still gonna do our own thing, but I love the idea of being able to work with them hand-in-hand.
Yeah. I mean, you can have your own personality, but I do, too. I think looking up to them to where it’s a, a bridge that is a seamless kind of back-and-forth and it all works together. I think the Legends and the Mavs do a good job of that. You can see seamless now they have these, they actually have roster spots that are two-way. So it’s a little different where players literally can go back and forth and they’re actually drafted by the Mavs and play back and forth throughout the season. So it is more seamless, but, um, they do a good job of that to where you use and look up to the structures that they’ve built, but you make your own, you know, your own personality and your own fans here in your local part of the market, um, fall in love with you, you know? Yeah. All right. So I want, wanna, I want to ask you about Big Fly Gear. I didn’t know anything about this until you, you came here to the RoughRiders. So I saw this in your bio. So tell me what this is: Big Fly Gear.
So a Big Fly is a term, it’s a baseball term for a home run. And it’s a, was my call for pretty much 20 years. I was in broadcasting for anybody hit a home run news, especially for our team. I didn’t call it for the visiting team, but, uh, it was a big fly in then the person’s name. And, uh, about three years ago, three and a half years ago, we decided that we wanted to start a business. We didn’t know what that business was going to be, but I knew that it was probably gonna be sports-related somehow. And that I liked the term Big Fly for the business, whether it’s Big Fly Barbecue Sauce or what, I just kind of rolled off the tongue for me. I just liked it. And, uh, so about two years, uh, ago, we came up with this concept two and a half years ago, we came up with this concept of apparel.
What we didn’t want to be is a, another licensee, another baseball apparel company. Cause they’re, they’re a dime a dozen. There’s a ton of ’em out there. And so I came up with this concept of creating unique graphics, unique art that tells stories since I was a storyteller as a broadcaster, I wanted to continue that relationship, uh, with our company. So we take a person place. And our moment in baseball history revolving around the home run. We create a, one of a kind graphic that doesn’t have a player’s name or player’s likeness to it. But the, the graphic itself kind of tells a story. You kind of have to dig a little bit, but we provide the story on every one of our pages that has the graphics. So you get an explanation of where the design came from or the inspiration for that design.
So we, you know, we’ve, we’ve done things for Hank Aaron, one. Unfortunately, since he passed away a couple of days ago, uh, we have 755, uh, graphic that’s up there. It’s, self-explanatory, that’s the number of career home runs that he hit. And that’s been obviously picking up here over the last couple of days. We’ve done The Hebrew Hammer, which is Hank Greenberg, the Hall of Famer Millville Meteor, which is Mike Trout. That’s his nickname. And with Mike’s case being a current player, I reached out to his representative. I know, obviously know Mike, but I went through his representative and asked him if he’d be cool, if we use the graphic and we’d be happy to make a donation to, uh, you know, one of his charities. And he said, absolutely, you can, you could use the graphic and we don’t keep it all to yourselves. You guys are fine. And so he’s the one current player that has given us his blessing, uh, and which is really cool. So we’ve done Babe Ruth, any number of guys that we’ve done Lou Gehrig as well as the Number 4 train. So it kind of makes you think a little bit. And, and the idea being from a storytelling perspective is that you like our graphic and you understand that. So you wear it and the hope is that someone else sees it, “Hey, what is, that’s kind of cool.” And now you are sharing that story of that moment or person or place. And that’s, that’s the whole premise behind. And we launched in February of 2019.
I love that. That’s really cool. Yeah. I’ll have to go look at it. Cause I do, I have a few shirts. There’s a little t-shirt company. I hate, they hate when I call them that probably because they’re much more than that, but Tumbleweed Textiles. And so there’s a few of their shirts that, because I know them, I know the story behind the design. Right. Um, and when I wear them, like, I just feel compelled when someone comments, “I like your shirt,” I feel compelled to like, not leave it at that, but to explain, “Oh yeah, you do well, did you know that, you know, uh, the guy that drew it, he’s an art teacher here in Frisco and that there, the word Texas is hidden right here.” Like I just like to, you know, overshare, overexplain stuff like that
We have things like the little Easter eggs, if you will, in our graphics as well. Not all of them, but there’s certain ones that, that we put little things in there. And we, sometimes we explain it. Sometimes we don’t. Um, I had a gentleman, uh, email me the a couple of weeks ago about one of our graphics saying, “did you realize this?” And I’m like, “that graphic’s been up for almost a year and a half. Yeah. We, we know what it is, but you’re the first person to, to actually to figure it out and catch it, which is cool.” Yeah. We’re family owned. We’re operated. We run it out of our house. Uh, we initially thought from a, um, from a cost perspective, when we launched it, we would be a drop-shipper and just load up our graphics. You go buy the shirt and they send it to you and print it. I didn’t, I didn’t trust the quality control of it, the quality assurance of it. And so we, we decided to make the commitment and we carry the inventory. My wife is the one that pretty much, now that I’m have a full-time job again, uh, she handles all the orders and processing, folds it up. She does the tissue paper, wraps it, bows it up. So it’s all, it’s the Rojas family.
Well, she’s making it and making it work. That’s cool. Well, thanks. I just wanted to check in, I didn’t, I didn’t go look at it yet, but I definitely will. Especially knowing – you’ll see some familiar looking faces. We’re all the models. Cool. Oh yeah. It’s cheaper that way. That’s great. That’s great. Very cool. Well, Victor, thank you for stopping by. I know that you are probably swamped taking on a new job like this, uh, right now when baseball season is upon us. And there’s so many questions that are being answered right now. So I appreciate your time today. And we are rooting for the RoughRiders and ready for baseball to come back. So, so we’ll be there when, whenever it is.
Fingers crossed that we get our boys back on the field sometime in May, early June. That’s the whole.
Yes, sir. That sounds good. Well, thank you for listening to this episode of Hustle & Pro make sure you subscribe wherever you listen to your podcasts and we will see you next week.