As The Master’s University Athletic Director Steve Waldeck described making travel arrangements for a team that hadn’t yet punched its ticket to the NAIA World Series, a superstitious baseball reference only seemed appropriate.
“I joked in the office and said I want to make sure I’m not stepping on the third-base line as I’m going out to the mound or counting our chickens before they hatch,” he said. “But we had contingency plans.”
Waldeck and Kristy Comparini, the school’s athletic operations coordinator, made those plans before TMU finished off Georgia Gwinnett College, 9-1, on May 17 to advance to its second straight World Series.
By the time pitcher Jason Karkenny induced a fly out to end it, Comparini had booked two flights from Burbank to Spokane, Washington; a charter bus to drive the team two hours to host Lewiston, Idaho; and rental vehicles for local travel.
It marked the second time in seven days that Comparini and Waldeck had to forge an itinerary on short notice, playing a game of preemptive strategy not so unlike the one played between the lines.
“The early bird gets the worm,” Waldeck said.
That’s why, on May 10, before TMU put the finishing touches on a remarkable run through the Golden State Athletic Conference tournament, Waldeck was planning for the squad’s next step.
As TMU inched closer to a comfortable, 7-1, win over Hope International in the title game in Redwood City, Waldeck communicated from the field with Comparini, who was back on campus.
Comparini sent Waldeck the names of close to 10 players for whom she didn’t have flight manifest info in case the Mustangs won, clinching a trip to the NAIA Opening Round and necessitating travel by plane.
Waldeck rounded up the players shortly after the final out, collected the info and sent it off to her.
The school also requested a courtesy heads-up from the NAIA as to where the Mustangs would be flying for the opening round, set to begin five days later.
The NAIA obliged within an hour and a half of the final pitch: Atlanta.
Within three hours, Comparini had booked three flights through Phoenix, Houston and Dallas, respectively.
She made sure each Mustang group had a driver in it because they would land and depart for the hotel at different times. She also confirmed that a rental vehicle was waiting with the right number of seats for each group.
Seven days and four wins later, Comparini and Waldeck repeated the process, arranging for Wednesday’s trip to the Pacific Northwest — sending one pack of Mustangs through Las Vegas and the other through Oakland.
Timeliness is everything.
“Within a day, you can hardly get a flight up there,” Waldeck said.
The Mustangs open against the University of Science and Arts of Oklahoma on Friday.
“These are some of the best times of these college athletes’ lives to date whether they realize it now or not,” Waldeck said. “We want them to look back fondly.”
In step with that goal, Waldeck said, TMU budgets for its teams to earn trips to national tournaments, which can cost the school tens of thousands of dollars in travel, food and lodging each trip.
Blocks of hotel rooms are secured by tournament organizers in advance, Waldeck said.
As the GSAC has expanded its footprint into Arizona and Northern California, coordinating travel has taken on greater importance for TMU. The school first employed an athletic operations coordinator three years ago, and Comparini has held the position for close to a year.