The group of wanderers
Meet the folks who help make championships more fan-friendly
OKLAHOMA CITY – Those who follow college athletics, especially the championships from sport to sport, have probably heard of the Capital One Cup. Go to www.capitalonecup.com and an explanation gives the details of an award given annually to the top men's and women's programs in Division I where points are earned and tracked throughout the year based on final standings of NCAA championships.
Throughout the fall and spring and into the early summer, the competitions travel across the United States. At every championship venue, Capital One and the NCAA work together to provide an enhanced environment for fans outside the stadiums, fields, and arenas.
There are tents. There are games. There are small inflatable batting cages. There are vendors hawking sporting goods. In other words, there is something for everyone.
Who puts it all together? The small village outside the stadiums does not just magically appear. It requires staff.
They might be compared to a traveling circus or a group of wanderers slowly moving across the country. There is a forensic science major from Virginia; a member of the Navy and his wife, a graduate of Richmond in Virginia; and Brandi Moral and Austin Zamarripa.
Spencer Keil, a member of the Navy who is stationed at Tinker Air Force Base in Oklahoma City and his wife Mallory are working the Women's College World Series this week, her first foray into this traveling band.
"I thought it might be a lot of sitting around, but you stay busy most of the time. It's been really fun to be a part of something like this," said Mallory in between watching kids attempt to shoot with a lacrosse stick and thirty-somethings trying to hit 100 miles per hour on the speed gun with a bright yellow softball.
This bunch is led by Dave Mathey, founder of KD, a company that specializes in event production and staffing.
"I guess you could compare it to being a circus carney," Mathey said outside Hall of Fame Stadium and the WCWS.
Working as an emcee around the maze of entertainment options, Mathey, a veteran for 20 years, has the process down to a well-oiled machine. Fans arrive at venues where NCAA championships are held across the country, partake in the fun activities and never really think about who and when all this was put together.
There is a very quick turnover, especially this time of year.
On Monday, most of the group tore down their equipment following the men's lacrosse championships in Baltimore. A flight to Oklahoma City on Tuesday and immediately back to work, re-building the same Capital One Cup apparatus that was taken apart less than 48 hours earlier.
A little rain on Tuesday night slowed things down, but by the time the WCWS kicked off at 11 a.m. (CT) Thursday, everything was ready to go.
Part of the Baltimore to OKC group was Moral, a graduate of Barclay College in Haviland, Kan. She has been involved in the "traveling circus" for four years. Moral saw an advertisement on Facebook four years ago looking for workers for the WCWS. Since, she's traveled the country.
"I really enjoyed it and thought my boyfriend at the time might like it," Moral said during a short break on Thursday.
That boyfriend at the time is Austin Zamarripa, now the fiancé. After joining Brandi in OKC, the two worked the College World Series in Omaha that same year and since, as they might say in Hollywood one day, everything's been great. The two will be married in Great Bend on Aug. 9 of this year.
Moral, Zamarripa, and Mathey work more than just NCAA championships; the trio has started KTD, another event staffing company that, as you might expect, takes them around the country.
"I really enjoy this," Moral said. "The travel is great and it really is a cool brand to represent because of all the things Capital One does; there is a great scholarship program and working with the NCAA and the championships … it's just fun."
Fun also can be work.
For Zamarripa, since January he's been to the Capital One Bowl in Florida, the NCAA Wrestling Championships in Oklahoma City, the Final Four in Dallas, the Frozen Four in Philadelphia, this week in OKC for softball, and will be heading to Omaha for baseball a few days after softball ends.
Following the exchange of vows, there will be no immediate honeymoon.
"I think I'm back on the road the 12th [of August]," Austin said. "It's great being able to travel with Brandi, but with what we do, there are plenty of times when we are at different events."