He’s way too busy to entertain the peripheral stuff that doesn’t matter much, but when it was suggested to Ed Salas that his new job combines two of his favorite things, soccer and the Spanish language, he shrugged.
“Yeah, I guess so, it’s all worked out pretty well, hasn’t it?”
As the vice president for operations and communications of the Valley’s new pro soccer team, Bravos FC, Salas has been a one-man tornado for the past six months, in preparations for the team’s inaugural season in the USL Premier Development League. Finally, after a delay due to the Swine Flu, he was set to help send the team out onto the field for its opening home game of the year, at Valley View High School Saturday.
On Tuesday, as he readied last-minute promotions and worked on media credential lists and ticket sales, Salas realized that the transition he’s made in the past year has been nothing short of fantastic.
Once a sports reporter for La Frontera, the Spanish-language edition of The Monitor, Salas was on the verge of being downsized out of the business in 2007. As the news business flagged badly, the graduate of The University of Texas-Pan American was feeling the pinch as the newsroom chairs emptied one by one, like in an Agatha Christie murder novel.
But just as the music stopped, Salas jumped aboard with the Bravos FC and never missed a beat, combining his love for the language with equal ardor for the sport. For years a fixture on the sidelines at the big Valley high school matches, Salas was now putting all his skills onto the table, including those learned as sports editor of his college paper. Jumping to the PR side of the media has been a snap, more or less.
“There are a lot of similarities, and since I had worked in the media for awhile, I sort of knew what people in this role were doing,” said Salas, 38, who was born in Mexico City and spent some years in Cleveland, Ohio, before coming back south to attend UTPA. “But promotion is something that takes a lot of work, and time. I do a lot of things for the team, writing press releases, coordinating promotions, and it has gone real well so far. Lots of work, but we are excited because we think we have a product that people in the Valley are going to embrace.”
He has always been a huge soccer fan, has written hundreds of articles on it, and even did a stint on local Spanish-language television as a futbol analyst. Now, Salas has his most important task, selling the Bravos to an area that should be hot for the product; in the past, however, it’s been off and on when it comes to supporting pro sports.
That’s where the Swine Flu delay comes in. The Bravos were supposed to start the season May 2 with a home game on the blue turf at Valley View. But the health scare postponed most area sporting events, the pro soccer debut included. The team got a few more weeks to practice, and Salas gained some more time to push the PR and marketing campaign.
Paired with Miguel Puente, an energetic McAllen Rowe grad with a business and marketing background, he’s been getting the message out through various media, including Mexican outlets and those in the Valley.
“I think the delay has created some drama and suspense about the team,” said Salas, as he pointed toward home games May 23 and 25. “We have gotten a lot of play in El Manana, which is a Mexican paper read widely in the Valley. On the other hand, we have had to reschedule a bunch of promotions. But it’s been a good period for us, we are getting the word out and we think we can get maybe 2,500 or 3,000 to the opener.”
Salas admits he’s had to learn multiple lessons on the fly, despite his impressive resume. Dealing with the investors bankrolling the team has been an experience.
“They know about the game, but not so much about what it takes to put the whole show on,” he explained. “You have to keep the investors happy, doing the things they want, but getting the things done isn’t as easy as it may seem. We have a good niche market here though, soccer is big in the Valley. So it’s really coming together.”
Season ticket sales and sponsorships have come in bunches so far, for the games to be played at Valley View, located near Pharr at the juncture of Jackson and Hi-Line roads. The organization originally sought the use of Edinburg Baseball Stadium so it could sell alcohol at games, but for now the Bravos family is are pleased with the facility they have.
Before Saturday’s Valley debut, the team lost one and tied one on the road, and all reports are that the roster - which includes Hidalgo star Jesus Mireles, who led the Pirates to the high school state championship in 2008-09 - is solid. As the home blastoff neared, Salas was upbeat, if a little tired.
“We busted our humps to get ready for May 2 and it didn’t happen,” he noted. “But it ended up being a blessing because we had more time to prepare. We got to travel to see how they ran operations in West Texas and El Paso, and we are putting into play all the things we learned by observing.”