A Woodland Hills business owner has made it to a coveted spot as an umpire for this summer’s Little League Softball World Series.
Garth Sanders owns the Minuteman Press franchise in Woodland Hills and for years as volunteered as a Little League Softball umpire. Recently, Sanders was selected to join the umpiring crew of the 2017 Little League Softball World Series in one of seven tournaments, this one being played in Portland, Oregon from August 9-16.
According to the littleleague.org website, “The selection process to become a World Series umpire is lengthy and rigorous. Appointment as a member of the umpiring crew for a World Series is the highest honor that Little League can bestow on a volunteer umpire.”
Here’s what Sanders had to say about owning a franchise business, being an umpire, and getting the rare opportunity to participate on the grandest stage that any umpire could hope for.
Tell us about your business and what you do for a living.
Garth Sanders: I am co-owner of the Minuteman Press franchise with my brother Craig Sanders. Prior to opening the franchise, I worked as a part of my family’s business of 75 years in the coin operated amusement industry. Due to the many changes in that industry, the family felt it was time to call it quits. After a brief work hiatus, I began to look into different ideas on what I might be interested in pursuing. After examining many options, I met with Dan Byers, Minuteman Press International Regional Vice President for Southern California, and the rest is history.
What was it about Minuteman Press?
Sanders: My research showed Minuteman to be a successful franchise. The print industry was something completely new for me, so it was important to have a successful model to follow. Thinking back, I believe that Minuteman being a business to business franchise with Monday through Friday hours was one of the main factors in choosing Minuteman. As a husband and father of three, it was important for me to still be able to have time for them, as well as still being able to stick to my commitment as an active board member of my local little league, and a member of our District Staff. The local support staff, Dan Byers, Steve Szymanski and previously Jack Panzer, as well as the people back at corporate, have always been there to help without being too intrusive. Their interest in us as people, not just business owners is one of the best parts of being a Minuteman franchise owner.
When did you first start volunteering with the local Little League and where?
Sanders: I have been a member of Little League for over 40 years and come from a family of life-long Little League volunteers. My father was not only District administrator of California District 40 for over 20 years, he was also the public address announcer at Western Region and the Little League World Series in Williamsport. My mother was a member of District staff in excess of 30 years and a volunteer on the tournament committee at Western Region as well. One of my other brothers was a member of District 40 staff, has since moved to Nevada, where he is a volunteer on the District 2 Nevada staff and is a Regional Tournament volunteer to this day. My current involvement is with Canyon Country Little League, located in Santa Clarita, California. I joined the league, first as a coach when my son started playing t-ball in 2002. I joined the Board in 2006 and am the current UIC (Umpire-in-Chief) for the league.
What made you want to become an umpire?
Sanders: I jokingly tell people when I have been asked this, that it is the one time in my life I get to be right…even when I’m wrong! Actually, Little League is a volunteer based organization and I did so because I had umpire experience, being that I actually umpired as a Little League volunteer in my early twenties. After doing this on a limited volunteer basis, I realized I enjoyed being part of the game, and we often say, it truly is the best seat in the house.
Explain how you worked your way up from being a local umpire to being invited to the Little League Softball World Series.
Sanders: I began by volunteering to do a few games on a part time basis at our local little league in Canyon Country. I eventually became a regular volunteer as one of the local league umpires. Shortly after, I became member of the District 40 umpire staff as a volunteer umpire in which I began by working the district level tournament. This is the first step for teams trying to make it to the Little League World Series. Eventually, my district staff recommended me and I worked deeper into the tournament at section and division games. In 2012, I received the honor of working the Little League Softball Western Regional Tournament in San Bernardino. The appointment came as a result of a recommendation coming from the District 40 staff. Once I worked the regional tournament, based on my performance, I was evaluated as to be ready for World Series assignment. Each year since I worked the regional tournament, my name was submitted to Little League and I was blessed to receive my “Golden Ticket” this year.
What was your reaction when you received the invitation to the Little League Softball World Series?
Sanders: I was sitting at my desk at Minuteman Press when I received a call from my wife Cindy. She had a question about one thing or another, and off-handedly mentioned that there was something in the mail from Little League Headquarters. I receive literature all the time from them, but I also was aware it was the time of year that assignments were being made, so I asked her to open it. When she read it to me, it took a second for it to sink in, but then I remember how the excitement in me began to build. I stopped short of standing up and doing a ridiculous victory dance, but I do admit it was very difficult to remain focused on work. After receiving congratulations from her and hanging up the phone, I took a few minutes to reflect on hearing the words she read to me on the other end of the phone. A sense of pride, accomplishment and joy went through me, and I remember saying, “This is incredible!!!”
The Little League Softball World Series will be held in Portland, Oregon at Alpenrose Stadium from August 9-16, 2017. What are you most excited about?
Sanders: As I have had a few weeks to enjoy this incredible honor, I am looking forward to the entire experience. More than anything, though, will be that I will have the opportunity to work with umpires from all over the world.
How do you think becoming so involved as an umpire in your community has helped your business?
Sanders: It is like any of the networking we do. Social networking is just as important as business networking. As chief umpire of our league, and being a member of the board, I am in constant communication with many people and the discussion of what we do for a living comes up. Because I do not just umpire at my local league, as a member of District staff, I also umpire with volunteers from other leagues as well, so this too has helped our business’ exposure.
Minuteman Press is a business to business operation. How has that helped you manage your work/life balance and enable you to pursue your volunteer work and passion for umpiring?
Sanders: I tend to lead a very busy schedule, especially when the Little League season is upon us. Owning my own business, and one that is a Monday through Friday, 8:30 to 5:30 operation, has enabled me to continue to donate my time to Little League, enjoy my other activities like bowling and bike riding and still be home with my wife Cindy, my son, Casey and my daughters Hayley and Shelby.
What are one or two pieces of advice you would give to aspiring business owners or current owners who want to strike that balance and give back to their communities?
Sanders: It is great to be driven to succeed at work. However, in my mind there needs to be a balance. Life is too short to just be focused on one thing. For me, volunteering and giving back to my community through the wonderful organization of Little League is a way for me to achieve that balance. I would suggest for all business owners to find whatever it is that you enjoy to do and make time to do it.
Garth and Craig Sanders’ Minuteman Press franchise is located at 20648 Ventura Blvd.; Woodland Hills, CA 91364. For more information, visit their website: www.woodlandhills-ca.minutemanpress.com