Posted December 22, 2015 by Ashley Hoffmann, Ecwid Team

Driving Home Run Sales with the Valley Center Baseball Club

To celebrate the season of giving, we held a contest to win a full year of service in our Venture plan. Ten lucky Ecwid customers won the prize. The Venture plan lets merchants sell up to 100 items, and includes a host of features that help customers grow their online businesses and manage their stores on the go.

One of the winners was the Valley Center Baseball Club, located in Valley Center, California. The club is a non-profit organization, so the Free plan was an ideal fit for their budget, but the 10 item product limit held them back from reaching their full sales potential. We caught up with them to discuss the contest, the baseball club, the future of the club, and where they see their online presence going.

A vision of year-round baseball

Rob Baranowski started the club a little over three years ago with one simple goal: to provide baseball opportunities for the youth in Valley Center year round. As his own son approached high school, he realized that many incoming freshmen were not ready for the pressure, level of commitment, and skills needed to play baseball at the high school level. There were youth leagues and little leagues, of course, but there was a gap for middle school aged kids in the area.

This is when Valley Center Baseball Club, home of the Jaguars, was born. Through a network of minor league players and retired pro players looking to give back to the community, the Valley Center Baseball Club was started to give kids valuable experience on the baseball field. In the bigger picture, being a Jaguar also shows kids that hard work, dedication, and discipline can help them accomplish goals both on and off the playing field.

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Valley Center Baseball Club team members

One of the first people to jump on board with the Club was longtime baseball pro and World Series MVP Dave Stewart. Stewart is now the General Manager for the Arizona Diamondbacks. With Stewart’s support and contacts, Baranowski knew they were onto something special. Stewart had a network of players and coaches come out and teach the kids the finer points of the game. After Stewart moved on to the Diamondbacks, the club started working with a new network of minor league players.

Jeremy Rodriguez, then catcher for the Lake Elsinore Storm, was the first minor league player to sign on, driving more than two hours every other week to help the kids out. Rodriguez, whose natural coaching talent and ability to connect with young players shines with the Club, was promoted to Manager for the San Diego Padres Dominican League last spring. Even with his international schedule, Rodriguez is still a vital force in the club today. With a solid foundation in place, the professional network grew. Now, at least one minor league player attends every practice as a way of “giving back” to the community and spreading their love of the game to the next generation.

As word of mouth got around, more kids and minor league players joined the program. With a focus on “9u” and “13u” (9 years old and younger and 13 and under, respectively), the Club now has two teams (a 7th/8th grade team and a JV team) and over 30 regular players.

E-commerce meets baseball camp

The Valley Center Baseball Club is a traveling, non-profit organization located in a lower socioeconomic area of Southern California. Travel teams can be pretty expensive to run and participate in. Considering that keeping the costs low to enable the kids to participate is their top priority, money can be tight keeping the lights on and the field maintained.

To help close the gap, the organization’s online store brings in extra income from the sale of baseball camps, clothing, and accessories. The Club can’t afford to have these funds eaten away by service charges and transaction fees. That’s one reason Ecwid appealed to them. “Obviously we are a non-profit and our focus is not the store, and it’s not even the website, so we were looking for something that we could just drop into the site and easily set up,” said Baranowski.

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Valley Center Baseball Club members

Ecwid is not the only program the club uses to facilitate their site. Baranowski also uses TeamSnap for many of the team’s needs. It lets them keep up with player stats and practice schedules, and even allows the Club to collect team dues. Essentially, it’s a full-featured baseball team management app, and requires a private invitation to the group—it was not practical for selling camps, events and general merchandise items.

Rob stumbled across Ecwid after a simple Google search. He needed e-commerce software that could accomplish two things: easy integration with Joomla! and a low price of entry. He found both with Ecwid. They were already using PayPal with TeamSnap, so being able to accept payments through PayPal was a huge plus for them, as well.

The Ecwid solution was perfect for our needs, allowing us to quickly set up a store, maintain items for sale, and to quickly get reports on sales and customers.

Being a non-profit, the Valley Center Baseball Club didn’t have budget for web design. Thanks to Joomla!’s simple drag and drop method for modules, Baranowski and his team were able to drag, drop, and enter their Ecwid store ID where they needed, no design or programming required. While they wanted a dedicated page for their shopping cart, they also wanted to insert certain items into sidebar modules—Ecwid has dedicated items in its plugins that let users easily insert the necessary items into the sidebars.

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Valley Center Baseball Club Pro Camp

Baranowski has some big ideas for Valley Center Baseball’s new, Venture-level plan. They’re going to use the extra space (100 items vs. 10 items) to expand their shop and sell more hats, t-shirts, and baseball gear. The team has previously sold raffle tickets to win Disneyland tickets, and cash prizes, but ticket sales were limited to practices and in-person pickup. Now, they’re also going to look into selling raffle and event tickets directly through the website store. While they had some success the old way, being able to sell these tickets online will drastically increase the reach of sales and improve cash flow for the Club.

They also use their shop to sell signups for baseball camps and team events, now they won’t have to compromise merchandise sales to add the seasonal items when needed, which will come in handy for the upcoming 2016 events.

Next at bat…

With the Valley Center Baseball Club winning the free year of Venture, it has a new unofficial sponsorship from Ecwid for 2016. With attendance constantly growing, they’ll be kicking off their first camp of 2016 on January 10th. Boys and girls ages 8 to 18 can take part in a multitude of camps that specialize in pitching, catching, infield skills, outfield skills, and batting practice. There will also be a special photograph and autograph session for devout baseball fans to rub elbows with the bigs, from teams like the Padres, Blue Jays, Red Sox, and the Tampa Bay Rays.

Ecwid is robust tool that is built to accommodate a rapidly growing organization’s e-commerce needs. It’s the secret ingredient to making the Valley Center Baseball Club’s website a source of revenue, that helps facilitate the operations of the entire organization.

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