WENATCHEE — The tale of how Jose Oglesby bought the Wenatchee AppleSox starts more than a year ago with a Sunday sports page.
The former Microsoft manager was sitting at home reading the paper when he saw an item about Seahawks punter Jon Ryan investing in the Portland Pickles, a summer collegiate wood-bat team in the West Coast League.
“I thought, ‘If Jon Ryan is doing it, how unsafe can it be?’ ” Oglesby said of the business investment. “So I thought I’d look into it.”
Oglesby, 61, had grown up in Colombia and the Panama Canal Zone listening to Major League Baseball radio broadcasts.
The baseball bug stayed with him after he moved the United States, where he attended hundreds of major and minor league games over the years.
He was drawn by the numbers, the statistics and the analytics that helped make him a successful software developer, a career that started in 1978.
“I spent many years writing computer software for a living,” he said, including 26 years at Microsoft. He moved to Seattle in 1990, where he and his wife, Lauren Feaux, still live.
He didn’t know much about the business of baseball, but liked the idea of owning a franchise.
News of Jon Ryan’s baseball club investment prompted Oglesby to email to a sports franchise broker, which led him to the Wenatchee AppleSox.
He purchased the team from founder Jim Corcoran in May, about two weeks before the June 1 start of the club’s 19th season.
Ken Osborne, assistant general manager and co-owner, took on the role of general manager, with Corcoran agreeing to spend the next year in an advisory capacity.
The Wenatchee World sat down with Oglesby last week to find out more about what was behind his jump into the business of baseball.
Wenatchee World: What did you know about the baseball business before buying the AppleSox?
Jose Oglesby: After I found out the AppleSox was for sale, I spent a lot of time researching the West Coast League and summer collegiate baseball, figuring out what’s involved in running a business like this.
I had to figure out what skills are required. What is the revenue model? How do we market? How do we sell? Who are our customers? All of that I had to understand and wrap my head around.
I had to figure out whether my skill set was going to be a good fit and what’s required to move this business forward.
It took me a while to do all that. In the late fall or early winter, I started taking it seriously. I got the lawyers involved and other advisers involved to help me close the deal.
WW: In that research process, what stood out?
Oglesby: In my initial meetings with Jim (Corcoran), we talked about what it is we do. He explained that this franchise operates with sponsors. The sponsorships are really huge, which means our business is in a network with all the other businesses in Wenatchee. That tremendous support from the business community makes it possible for us to continue to do business and stay in operation.
WW: How does your career experience transfer to owning a baseball club?
Oglesby: My background is basically technical, in engineering. So, on one hand, I am a numbers-oriented person. The statistics part of baseball is definitely dear to my heart. That translates into looking at a spreadsheet and seeing what’s here and how it should work.
I would say I need development in the people part of the business. I need to establish personal relationships with sponsors, players, host families, partners. Keeping all the contacts organized is a skill I need to learn.
In engineering, we tend to focus on one task. Here you have 10,000 tasks. We’re fortunate that Ken agreed to stay on. He has a grasp for the day-to-day operation. He is strong in that area, so that made it easier for me to decide to go ahead with the purchase.
WW: Are you planning to move to Wenatchee?
Oglesby: The plan is to get a house here and then I will split my time between Wenatchee and Seattle. Until then, we have a AirBnB rental in Peshastin. But we are looking.
WW: How long do you think it will take to feel comfortable in the ownership role?
Oglesby: By mid-season next year I will probably feel pretty comfortable. Jim is staying around for the transition period. He is invaluable in helping explain the AppleSox way. For the most part, we’ve adopted all the same processes.
I am moving the team to the cloud-based Office 365. It makes sense for me. I’m going to be in Seattle part of the time, so I need it to be in the cloud so I can access the information when I need it. We’re also transitioning to Quickbooks online.
There’s a lot of pain associated with that. Switching software systems, there’s always a learning curve.
WW: How many employees do you have?
Oglesby: During the off-season, we’ll have a staff of three people. We’ve hired my niece to work as my assistant.
During the season we have the whole guest services crew of about seven people. They greet people at the park, run the inning promotions, help people to their seats, clean up and set up — all the things you would expect would happen when you go to an event.
We also have some people who have been with the AppleSox for years, kindly volunteering their services. And we have a lot of host families where our players stay. Those people are all part of the team. It’s not just the front office. There’s a whole bunch of support that goes into producing this.
WW: What is the long-term plan?
Oglesby: There is a really strong foundation. If you come to our games, it feels like a community, family affair. I want to keep that emphasis. I think we can try to reach out beyond our core base to other audiences in the area. So, basically, reaching new audiences is our challenge, and keeping our current audience satisfied, keeping them coming back.
WW: Are you considering other business opportunities?
Oglesby: I’m looking around for opportunities to extend the brand to things we could do throughout the year. I’m open to suggestions.
WW: At one time, there was talk about building a new stadium. Is that in the plan?
Oglesby: We will entertain ideas. We have a very strong partner at Wenatchee Valley College. The venue suits us and meshes well. So while we’re open to possibilities, it would have to be really strong to make changes there. We have no plans to do that at the moment.
WW: Is it what you expected so far?
Oglesby: Yes, it’s fun. I’ve had some challenges. We’re trying to do some livestreaming, so I get to learn about that. But I enjoy learning about new things, so that part is fun.
WW: Do you get to watch the games?
Oglesby: Oh, I do. What I am looking forward to this season is visiting all of the other league teams. I want to see all the venues so I can get a sense of how the other franchises do things.
Basically, I’m in learning mode.