Category Archives: Interviews

MikeHinman_InterFT

WCPPL Celebrates 5 Year Anniversary- 5 Questions With Mike Hinman

WCPPL Event #1 went down last weekend at Camp Pendleton Paintball Park in sunny SoCal.  We posted up an article yesterday with the results and a sample gallery from Stretch at 1904 Photography. To keep the hype up on celebrating the WCPPL’s 5th season, PROpaintball.com has 5 questions for league owner Mike Hinman.

MikeHinman_InterFT

PROpb: Let’s talk about the creation of the league five long years ago. What factors were in play that drove you to create the West Coast Paintball Players League? What was it about the SoCal local paintball scene that inspired you to develop a regional tournament series and how did you maintain the drive to follow through with your vision?

Hinman: Well, five years ago the West Coast lost its national tournament presence when the NPPL folded, and its regional when the XPSL went under. At that point I thought I could do a better job than they were doing anyway–so I put my money where my mouth was. I have always had the drive to build a competitive regional league in Southern California due to the fact that’s where I’m from. I believe there are a lot of great young players that simply need a chance. So, we set fourth and built a league that has produced a decent amount of pro players.

PROpb: What has been the most rewarding thing about running the WCPPL? What has been the most trying?

Hinman: It’s always rewarding to see teams that deserve to win, win. I was saying this week to some of the guys that work for me that it’s like being a fan of any sport, but you get to run your own league, and you get front row seats to every game. It’s great. As for the trying times, it’s tough to see a team get a tough call and feel like they have been screwed intentionally. As a player that’s a horrible feeling. However, I’ve also come to the conclusion that you can’t make all the people happy all the time–but I will always try.

PROpb: The level of player talent in the WCPPL has always been high. A trend has developed where standout local players come up through the league then get cherry-picked by D1 and Pro PSP and NPPL teams. What do you think of this phenomenon? Any names come to mind you’d like to shoutout?

Hinman: It’s cool to see guys get their shot, and also teams. Royalty won our overall Open RaceTo-X series last season, and now they’ve been invited into the PSP’s Challengers division. I’m happy for them and I’m interested to see what they make of their opportunity. As for individual players, Mike Mesa made a name for himself during WCPPL’s first season and Aftermath picked him up. I said last season multiple times that Blake Yarborough was the most polished player in the “Open” class and now he’s on Dynasty. So ya, it’s cool to think that I have helped some people get to the door of the professional division. They have capitalized on that opportunity and walked through the door themselves.

PROpb: Any improvements or new perks you debuted at Event #1? Anything you’d like to tease about Event #2 at Vegas Xtreme Paintball Park?

Hinman: As for perks, we are still giving away more money than any other regional league–but it’s business as usual for us. We set the bar high when we built this league so it’s tough to top what we’ve done. We are in the process of finalizing some sponsorship deals that will allow us to give away 8k for our “Open” division at our final event this season in Vegas. We would like to turn it into our showcase event every year.

PROpb: Where do you see the league in another five years? How do you see it growing in relation to the sport as a whole? This would be the place to hit us with any final thoughts too.

Hinman: All I can hope for is that we have grown and are still in business. When it comes to leagues, what you did yesterday doesn’t mean much; it’s what your going to do tomorrow that matters. I’ve seen a lot of leagues come and go in my 16 years with this sport, and it seems like the leagues that become complacent and stop listening to the players are the ones destined for failure. I have to hope we have a resurgence in this sport, and maybe this time around we do it better than the last time. Paintball is still fun and will always be fun. As long as we keep that in mind we should have a bright future ahead. I would like to say thank you to EVERY player that has played in our league. I often get players thanking me at the events for all that I do. I’m really flattered, and to be honest I’m just as thankful that they have chosen to support what I’ve done. So again, thank you!

[END]

Big thank you from PROpaintball.com, Mike. I think everyone can agree you’re a selfless dude and an invaluable asset to the sport of paintball.

We’ve got an article here with all the 2013 WCPPL season information. TO NOTE: REGISTRATION IS NOW OPEN FOR EVENT #2 THROUGH THE APPA SYSTEM.

Raney_title

Interview: Raney Stanczak Discusses Move to Tampa Bay Damage

Pro Paintball caught up with Raney Stanczak for some insight on his recent move to Tampa Bay Damage.

PPB: So the parameters have been made clear, the fine print has been read, and the ink has dried.. Is it a relief to have your plans for 2013 locked down and “in the books”? What kind of a timespan are we talking from proposition to payday? Paint a picture of the process for all the ballers out in internet land who aren’t familiar with working out Pro contracts.

Raney: It’s definitely stressful transitioning from one team to another. Considering and weighing all of your options takes time. It’s a trying process. It’s not a decision you make overnight, so I’m relieved to have everything settled to be locked in with Damage for ’13. I was talking with Mouse during this whole ordeal, getting advice and what not, working towards making my mind up. In the end, I just feel that Tampa Bay is a better fit for me.

PPB: Anybody with an interest in pro sports knows that the golden dollar is the only incentive needed to pull a franchise athlete away from his beloved organization. Unfortunately, Pro paintball players have more to consider than just the size of the check. How big of an influence was your time playing with TBD at NPPL Vegas ’12 in your decision to flip? Did the hiring of Skinny K away from Ironmen seal the deal?

Raney: I actually played two NPPL events with Tampa Bay Damage last season (DC and Vegas), which played a huge part in my decision. I didn’t have to worry about how it would be playing with this group of guys; I knew exactly what I was getting myself into. I feel like those two events went well, even though we didn’t win either of them. I felt like it was easy to play with them and everything just flowed smoothly. I did hurt my knee in Vegas and didn’t play most of the event, but I still felt things went well on a camaraderie level. The hiring of Kevin Bredthauer “SK” was definitely a positive factor influencing my decision to go to Tampa Bay Damage. SK is an extremely intelligent person and a very good coach. SK has a great paintball mind, and has won many tournaments himself as a player. This was just another aspect that made my decision that much easier about jumping to Damage; there were no unknowns I had to worry about.

PPB: As a veteran presence in and recognized face of the SoCal paintball scene, I think a lot of people were shocked to see you walk away from the infamous “Aftermath” line of Ironmen, especially with Mike Hinman as the latest addition to the vintage “equation”. Any trials or tribulations with this aspect of the trade you want to air out?

Raney: Mike Hinman is another great coach that I’ve had the opportunity to play for. I’ve had the pleasure of playing for many great paintball minds and Mike is one of the tops. Mike has helped me a lot in my paintball career and I’m extremely grateful for everything he has done for me. For everyone who knows me, this isn’t my first time leaving the Aftermath “camp”. When I made my first run with Ironmen in 2007, I came from Aftermath along with several other teammates, then shortly after that I quit and went back to Aftermath. These types of things happen; it’s just part of the game.

PPB: Tampa Bay Damage finished 2nd overall in both the PSP and the NPPL in 2012, with plenty of podium finishes between the two leagues. In a recent offseason sound-bite, TBD manager Joey Blute was quoted as saying, “After what we consider a bad season […]” when discussing the 2012 campaign. What kind of pressure to perform do you feel after seeing expectations set at this height? How do you plan to prepare for the remainder of the offseason to meet this challenge for perfection?

Raney: I know Joey holds this team at such high regards, which makes playing for this team that much better. It’s almost like how the Yankee’s expect to win the World Series every year; Tampa Bay Damage expects to win every event. I feel that same way every time I step onto the paintball field.  Pressure can draw the best or the worst out of someone, and I feel like I get the best out of me in these moments. I am super excited and motivated about playing this season. I’ve been doing my part on a personal level to get ready, whether it’s doing drills at Camp Pendleton Paintball Park or riding my cross country bike. I am also flying out to Florida for 2 weekends before the event to practice with the team.

PPB: With all of the recent trade activity around the league, and the implementation of an event-by-event promotion relegation system for the Pro division, there have been rumblings about a potential locked roster regulation being put into effect to prevent mid-season “jumps” by star players who get demoted after a poor team performance. What opinion do you have on this issue as a whole? What kind of new functional responsibilities do you think the [Pro] players would expect from the PSP before submitting to this sort of ruling?

Raney: I know back in the days of the NXL they had rules in place about players leaving and joining other teams. I remember the lower ranked teams would get the first opportunity to pick up these players. Pretty similar to how the NFL has its waiver system . I’m not sure how well this worked, but they [NXL] did have it. I think it is too difficult for paintball to lock rosters. I understand teams don’t want their high profile players jumping ship if they drop down to the Challengers division, or to just leave after a few events because they are struggling. However, in baseball we see this happen all the time. Teams not in contention of making the playoffs will typically trade a talented player to a team in contention, but they do have a trade deadline to abide by. For the league [PSP] to implement a rule of such, I think it would end up causing more headaches and would just hinder the ability of players to play paintball. I could see our young sport eventually making this rule sometime in the future, but right now it just wouldn’t work. Take what happend at World Cup ’12 with Scott Kemp as an example. If a rule of such sort would have been in effect, he would not have been able to even play the event in the Pro Division. Ironmen staff designated him as the 11th guy on the team, basically making him an inactive player. Infamous had a hole in their roster due to the injury of Brad McCurley, so it just made sense for Infamous to fill that gap with another talented player [Skemp].

PPB: Let’s end it with some fun. With such an expansive list of “alumni”, who do you think is the most iconic player to ever pass through the Ironmen program? Who are you most amped to play alongside with on the TBD roster?

Raney: Shane Pestana is a pretty iconic Ironman. Though I didn’t get to watch Shane play in his glory days, I did have the pleasure of being coached by him for a short period of time. When I think of legendary Ironmen, two names come to mind immediately: Billy Wing and Brandon Short. For as long as I can remember, Billy Wing has been on the Ironmen holding it down for them and rocking his famous [mask] visor. Brandon Short is a classic face of the franchise. I know he is on Dynasty now, but I still feel he is iconic Ironmen player.

I’m really looking forward to playing with everyone on Tampa Bay Damage again. Everyone is super talented and extremely good at paintball. They make playing the game really easy and a lot of fun, which is the most important thing for me.

[END]

 

Respect due to Raney for giving ProPaintball the official scoop on the trade. Lots of anticipation to see the final “Damage” product gel on the field and make a run at the season title. What’s everybody thinking? Sound-off and be heard!

Pro Paintball Interview: Nico Perry, Seattle Thunder

Michael Borenstein recently sat down with PRO paintball player Nico Perry of Seattle Thunder. Read on to learn more about what it’s like to be a young player competing at the professional level, how he is able to balance his paintball life with school, reflect on Galveston, and how Thunder is preparing for Phoenix.

Thanks to Raw Fotos and Bjorn Bainto for photographs.

Michael B @ ProPB: Why don’t you start by telling us a little bit about yourself – who you play for and have played for and how you got to where you are now.

Nico Perry: Right now i play for Seattle Thunder. Before this I played on Tacoma Notorious and before that Part-Time Ninjas. Hard work and determination got me to where I am skill wise, but without the support of my teams that I have been on and my parents, I couldn’t have been at the level I am now. I owe it all to the people who helped and supported me.

Michael B @ ProPB: Very true, support is key. Being so young, how do you balance your school work with now playing paintball at the pro level?

Paintball player Nico Perry locking it down

Paintball player Nico Perry locking it down

Nico Perry: Ha ha, the school topic. I knew this was coming. In my family, school is very important. Playing paintball nationally and having to miss school Thursday-Monday a few times a year sometimes takes a toll on my school work. I just have to be on top of it. That might mean taking a test a few days before I fly out, or doing homework in the hotel room. Even though I’d like to, I’m not going to make a living playing paintball anytime soon, so school work has to take precedence over paintball.

Michael B @ ProPB: As a first year pro in the PSP, did you find it intimidating to be going up against long-time veteran teams such as Dynasty and Ironmen?

Nico Perry: Yeah, to be honest, I was a little scared going into those two games. You never really want to count yourself out, but against teams like that that have great coaches and players alike, I was unsure if we were ready or not. But after that first game against aftershock and having my boys behind me, the fear left me when those games came around.

Michael B @ ProPB: What are both you and the team doing in order to be prepared for the Phoenix event in only a month?

Nico Perry: Well, since the pros weren’t able to finish the tournament, we have to prepare for two events: Galveston and Phoenix. I have been stepping up my workout regime, doing cardio and working on my core. Besides our regular team practices, I plan to also work on my own gun skills. In this unique situation of having two layouts in one weekend, it will be a challenge for all the teams to be prepared equally for both tournaments.

Nico Perry playing paintball with Notorious

Nico Perry playing paintball with Notorious

Michael B @ ProPB: Were you disappointed at first to be told your team wouldn’t be able to finish Galveston for more than a month?

Nico Perry: As I was standing in a 6-inch puddle of water getting rained on and having fire ants biting me, I guess you could say I wasn’t that disappointed, haha. Having this extra time just gives us the chance to go over what went wrong in the Dynasty and Ironmen games and be that much stronger come Phoenix.

Michael B @ ProPB: Yeah that is nice to have time to review and come back with new outlooks. Any shout outs you’d like to make?

Nico Perry: Of course! I thought you’d never ask. I want to thank all our sponsors: Empire Paintball, DLX, Understood, Diamond Hill Paintball, Ninja, Raza, Exalt, and Pro Paintball. I also want to thank Corey Field and the rest of the boys on Thunder for giving me such an awesome opportunity. Big thanks to my family, especially my dad, who has been with me throughout all of it.

Michael B @ ProPB: And just to remind us, how old are you again?

Nico Perry: 15, turning 16 in april.

Michael B @ ProPB: Well Nico that wraps up my questions… thanks so much for taking the time to talk to us and good luck in Phoenix!

Nico Perry of Pro paintball team Seattle Thunder

Nico Perry: Anytime, thanks!

Life After Damage: Interview with Mike Carthy

In most respects, the societal role and function of extreme sport is anomalous and a-typical of that most associated with traditional sport. While the existence of mainstream sport contributes towards advancing overarching sociological end-goals such as group cohesion, economic development and conflict resolution, extreme sport has always promoted individualism, anti-establishment and anarchy. Paintball finds itself in a state of limbo, afflicted with a serious identity crisis. It’s having an internal conflict; a fight between cleaning up its image to present a product easily swallowed by the masses, or staying true to its gritty underground roots that made it so attractive to all the oddball adrenaline junkies in the first place. Mike Carthy is a man that empathizes with both faces of the sport and exemplifies a progressive bridge between the two that could be used as a model for the ideal public paintball figure. As Tampa Bay Damage begins their first event without him, ProPaintball sits down with the man behind the mask (a veteran mask, with more points played than the number of balls most of you shoot at a Sunday practice), to probe for his unabated perspective at a strange (no pun intended) point in his professional playing career.

 

For a professional franchise to attain any sort of longevity or name recognition, it must exhibit a winning tradition and project a brand face that is attractive and consistent. You have been a valuable member of two of these teams (Detroit Strange, Tampa Bay Damage). Internally and externally, where did Strange go wrong that Damage did not and vice versa?

Mike: Strange and Damage were completely different organizations. The only thing the two had in common was that they both became professional teams. Strange was originally founded by a group of 10 players playing at the novice level. They had a plan to take the team to the highest level possible, using local tournament winnings to fund this dream. These days, that wouldn’t even be possible. Teams that win local tournaments are lucky to even get their entry fees back, let alone put money into a team fund to propel themselves to the national level.

Strange kept winning, progressing through the ranks, and proving themselves at each new level. It was clear that the team had a vision. Companies within the paintball industry took notice and began lining up to put their logos on our jerseys and money into our team fund. However, once the economy started to go downhill, companies tightened their sponsorship budget, the golden age of paintball faltered and Strange dried up with it. In contrast, since day one Damage has received the majority of their funding from outside of the paintball industry. Relative to the days of old, the sponsorship assistance Damage receives from within the industry would not have been sufficient to cover air fare, entry fee, and hotel rooms.

With most mainstream professional sports, an athlete’s dedication and loyalty to a team often seems to go no deeper than their pockets. As I’m sure you’re painfully aware of, the professional paintball player does not suffer from this “problem.” As a player who has now been faced with the adverse reality of starting over twice after dedicated, lengthy team tenures (5+ seasons with each team), does your moral suffer or your faith in the game waiver?

Mike: I don’t look at it as starting over really. Ultimately, I get my enjoyment and satisfaction in paintball by setting personal goals and objectives. The most fundamental goal always revolved around gaining the respect of my teammates and making sure there was a mutual understanding of the sacrifices necessary to make our visions reality. You can’t build a house without a good foundation. I was never in this game to be rich or famous. Every competitive goal I have set for myself as a player, I have accomplished. At the end of the day, the competition is what keeps me going. Paintball is my one opportunity to really challenge myself, and competing against others that are equally passionate about the game is the best way to do it.

Which has been more difficult to comprehend and come to terms with, the dissolution of Strange or the end of your time with Damage?

Mike: Honestly, neither one has been particularly difficult to comprehend. With Strange the writing was on the wall as soon as the industry went downhill and the NXL folded. With Damage I delivered on what I was paid to do, but in the off-season several things transpired within the team that made me question whether I would even want to be affiliated with certain individuals. To be honest, I don’t regret a thing that has happened based on how I reacted. The friendships I have with individuals on the team transcend any sort of paintball politics.

Obviously paintball is suffering in growth and functionality primarily from the top-down. Players provide the extent of their contribution by continuing to play the game, while the companies continue to under-capitalize and under produce from their side of the equation. Do you think mismanagement of professional franchises is one of the main contributing factors to the stifling of industry expansion and the attainment of national recognition for the sport?

Mike: One of the main things that I don’t think the average tournament paintballer understands is that 90% of the business in paintball is gathered from the bottom up. Today’s church group has tomorrow’s pro player on it. The problem lies in the “bigger and better” equipment fallacy. A new player, interested in playing beyond just a friend’s birthday party, goes to a local field and thinks that they NEED to buy 2 cases of paint and have a ramping gun just to have fun. If paintball, even on the most basic level, wasn’t perceived as being such an expensive sport, there would be fewer barriers to entry and more customers in the game. It also doesn’t help that the industry itself can’t present a singular, well refined product to outside sponsors (X-Ball vs. 7-man.. ad nauseum). It won’t gain mainstream acceptance as a sport until the industry can figure out what would make the average person more comfortable about wanting to go out and play paintball. A weekend of fun; without running the risk of not being able to pay your bills at the end of the month.

When the fog of war dissipates, the dead are gathered and there is light on the horizon, where do you see yourself in paintball going into the future?

Mike: There is always light on the horizon. I work at a paintball store part time, and I see a little bit of that light each time a new player walks in to ask questions about buying their first marker. I will be in paintball for as long as it will have me, and I look forward to seeing where the future takes us.

[END]

Thanks Mike, great to get such quality insight from a veteran of the game. Undoubtedly more great things to come from you and the game. So all you ballers out there, rotting in your Galveston hotels and everyone beyond that, sound off and let us know what you think.

Tampa Bay Times Features Alex Spence

Tampa Bay Times Features Alex Spence

The paintball world has proudly stood behind Alex is his fight against Leukemia. The Tampa Bay Times recently featured Spence in this human interest piece and with good reason. Alex has been fighting Leukemia while staying true to the competitive spirit we’ve seen him showcase on the field. Follow his story as the Tampa Bay Times’ Joe Smith highlights and recalls the personal fight Spence had been going through.

This is an article you don’t want to miss- We wish Alex the best this year and look forward to his unshakable spirit and presence on the field as he returns to professional paintball.

http://www.tampabay.com/sports/humaninterest/article1218586.ece

BELLEAIR — The moment Alex Spence got a paintball gun for his 12th birthday, he was hooked.

An “adrenaline junkie,” the Clearwater native has wakeboarded and raced dirt bikes, but paintball became his passion. He played every weekend he could, and, with some buddies, helped start the Tampa Bay Damage, a professional team coming off a world cup victory last season.

Spence, 24, has traveled around the country, as well as overseas, to compete in tournaments. His picture is in trade magazines, and a showcase in his Belleair home is filled with medals and trophies.

Paintball is his life.

“It’s his driving force,” his father, Bob Spence, said. “It’s what keeps him going.”

And paintball is partly what drove Spence to stay alive last year during a recovery from acute myeloid leukemia, a very aggressive form of cancer with a bleak mortality rate. Even with a successful bone marrow transplant in May, Spence had two infections that forced him to learn to walk again.

“Three different times, they gave me less than 10 percent chance of survival,” Spence said. “It was a wild ride. Everything that could go wrong, went wrong.”

But thanks to the support of doctors, family and girlfriend Alexandra Fuller, Spence is back doing what he loves.

This weekend, in Galveston, Texas, he will participate in his first paintball tournament since being declared cancer-free.

“It’s unbelievable,” Bob Spence said. “He had two close brushes with death, and to see him get out, and reach the level he’s reached and dedication he’s shown, it’s inspirational.”

• • •

The warning signs showed up in November 2010. Spence always seemed fatigued and sore but thought it was because of paintball season and his classes at St. Petersburg College.

But when an infection led Spence to get his wisdom teeth taken out in December, and he continued to feel worse, he got checked out at Mease Dunedin Hospital. Lab results revealed he had 96 percent cancer cells.

“We didn’t know anything about (acute myeloid leukemia) at the time, I didn’t know a single person who had cancer or anything,” Spence said. “I had no idea what it was. I was like, ‘Okay, well I’ll stay in the hospital for a few days, get rid of this and get back to life.’ We were in for a shock.”

Dr. Ernesto Ayala, from Tampa’s H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center, said Spence’s leukemia was more aggressive because of a chromosome abnormality. “It’s a very poor prognosis,” he said. “The chance of long-term survival is very low, probably 15-20 percent.”

Spence went through two rounds of chemotherapy in the hospital, and his cancer cells decreased to 7 percent. His body took care of the rest, as he was cancer free by February 2011. Fuller, Spence’s girlfriend of four years, never left his side, compiling a book of medical records and pill schedules, communicating with doctors, and often sleeping in his hospital bed.

“Out of the entire ordeal, she probably wasn’t there maybe four nights,” Spence said. “She definitely saved my life.”

• • •

In early March 2011, Spence woke up with a 103-degree fever due to an infection, which temporarily paralyzed him from the waist down. Fuller called Moffitt, which had no beds available, so she drove him to Mease Dunedin Hospital. By the time he got there, Spence’s temperature was 106.1.

Doctors told Fuller that if she had driven the extra 30 miles to Moffitt, he would have died.

“Everything happens for a reason,” she said.

Spence wasn’t out of the woods. Nurses and doctors told Fuller to prepare for the worst, start making arrangements.

All around after Spence moved back to Moffitt, there were reminders of tragedy. Several other patients on his floor — his new friends — had died.

“It was very scary,” Spence said.

Doctors told Fuller one of five things would happen. He could be paralyzed from the neck down. He would have organ failure. He’d suffer brain damage. He could die. Or, as it was put, a miracle could happen.

“Thankfully, it was the miracle,” Fuller said.

Spence was hospitalized for a month, slowly learning how to walk. When he was released, he cleared his mind by taking strolls with his dog, a playful 90-pound Doberman called Dozer, his “pride and joy.”

“He wouldn’t let me die,” Spence said. “Because who else would pet him?”

With no family members a bone marrow match, an out-of-state donor was found for a transplant May 17 at Moffitt. It succeeded — but 20 days later, Spence suffered veno-occlusive disease, a blockage in some small veins in the liver. His liver was failing.

But through weeks of treatment, Spence got better, with Ayala sensing a fighting spirit.

“He has a will,” Ayala said. “He really is a persistent type of person. He would do everything I told him to do. And he has something else, a wonderful person by his side, his girlfriend, she would always be by his side. She is a very special person, and was critical for his recovery.”

• • •

Spence had to spend 100 days in an adjacent hotel after the transplant before going home. The day doctors said Dozer could visit, Fuller rushed home to bathe the brown, boyish Doberman, and brought him back.

When they were five minutes away, Dozer began to bark, and bounced in the backseat. Spence, wearing a surgical mask and hat, was immediately recognized by Dozer, who jumped on him.

“It was the most amazing thing ever,” Fuller said.

In August, Spence was allowed to come home. The leukemia could return, but after being in remission for 14 months there’s a good chance it’s gone, Ayala said.

When Spence was cleared to practice paintball again a couple months ago, he was so happy, he couldn’t sleep the night before. “He had the biggest smile on his face,” Fuller said.

“I felt like I was a kid going to Disney World,” Spence said. “Getting back to paintball is a huge milestone for me. It gives me something to look forward to.”

Spence is thinking about going back to school, possibly studying accounting, like his dad. He’s looking forward to May, when he can find out the identity of the marrow donor. All they know is it’s a woman, and she sent a letter to Spence at the hospital.

“It says, not only did she save his life, he also saved hers in a way,” Fuller said.

But first comes paintball, with Spence joining the Damage’s semipro team for a while until he gets his strength and skills back. Sponsors pay for his team’s equipment and travel, and Spence supplemented his income by running a T-shirt printing business out of his house. Winning teams split cash prizes at tournaments like October’s Paintball Sports Promotion world cup. Back then, Spence could only coach. Now he can play.

“I have to earn my spot back,” he said. “But I think I’ll be okay.”

After what Spence has been through, it’s hard to doubt him.

Joe Smith can be reached at joesmith@tampabay.com.

Interview with John Robinson, KEE CEO

ProPaintball caught up with John Robinson, President & CEO of KEE Action Sports (home of Empire, JT & BT Paintball), for a quick chat about NPPL vs PSP debate, his background in paintball, and growing the game. Read on for an awesome interview!

1: How did you get involved with paintball? What career path led you to becoming CEO of KEE?

John Robinson: I played paintball for the first time in 1995 at a field in Fanling, Hong Kong. I was living, playing pro basketball and working in Hong Kong at the time. I started working in paintball in 2006 when I was transferred to JT. At the time, K2 owned JT and it was the last of my 5 stops in my K2 career. After Jarden bought out K2 and made the decision to sell the paintball business to KEE, I was asked by the KEE ownership to join as CEO. So, my path to KEE was by over 20 years of sporting goods experienced and I am now in my 7th year in paintball.

2. Lot of discussion last year about a league merger. What was KEE’s position?

John Robinson: KEE has been fairly vocal for the past year that we would like to see a merger between the PSP and the NPPL. There are many reasons for our position, which starts with pure economics. But more importantly, it’s about making a league more meaningful and aspirational for new players. We aspire for our Pro Players to become more recognizable and marketable, while earning a living by playing and promoting paintball full time. KEE’s vision includes a plan to get to that point and beyond. One Pro league makes that much, much easier.

3. Once the merger talks fell apart what were the major decisions KEE had to make regarding
sponsorship?

John Robinson: We remained committed to our position that we would only sponsor one league. That didn’t and doesn’t mean we won’t support both leagues. There is a difference in the two terms. But it was important to us to understand and discuss a “vision” with both leagues and then sponsor the league that best matches our views and direction on growing the sport. To do that, there must be a tie back to our grass roots efforts. In short, our marketing plan for new players has to ultimately point to a league and its players.

4. PSP Press Release – why choose them?

John Robinson: The PSP knows who they are. They are committed to a format, a structure, locations and they have a clear vision for the areas they want to grow and improve. In our discussions with the PSP, I was convinced what they want to do and what KEE wants to do and that has the potential to be a very good match.

5. What does this mean for the NPPL?

John Robinson: In short, we will not sponsor the NPPL. However, we will support our teams, partners and customers within the guidelines of the NPPL. We will certainly send our Techs to events and support those that own Empire branded equipment. We will not display or sell our products at the events.

6. What about the Valken rumors?

John Robinson: In our discussions with the leagues, we absolutely brought up the economics of having an open door policy on paint vendors. People have to understand that being committed to sponsoring a league means investing several hundred thousand dollars in sponsorship fees, travel, freight, event support and free/discounted product to sponsored teams and customers. That is before we sell one box. There are a few really good events with 120+ teams, but there are more events with less than that, sometimes as few as 60-70 teams. Throw in 2-3 other paint vendors and there is simply no math that makes being there from a short term economic perspective a good idea.

7. What is your position on the market today?

John Robinson: Competition is a great thing and critically important in any industry. I respect the companies that build their brand through innovation/great product, packaging, sharp marketing and clever ideas. Dye, for instance has done a great job with their brand. In particular, the Rotor launch and execution a few years back was tremendous. Tippmann, historically is another who has done a really good job with their brand. I would also throw in DXS and Eclipse. To me, that is where the game amongst companies is played. I want to out develop and out promote the other companies in our industry. If that’s where the game is played, the consumer and the industry win.

8. Growing the Sport – what are your thoughts about how to do this?

John Robinson: Everyone is using this phrase as if just saying it is actually going to do something. It doesn’t matter if I am listening to a pitch from a league, watching chatter on a paintball website, or reading something another company is trying to do. The reality is for the past 5-6 years there have been no significant impactful initiatives to grow the sport. But that is about to change. This summer we are introducing a comprehensive concept/product line to drive new participants to our sport. I believe it is going to be a tremendous shot in the arm for paintball.

9. Can you elaborate?

John Robinson: The SPLAT of the paintball and the adrenalin rush of our game is what makes paintball great. There are many other qualities, but that’s our hook. For the first time player though, the barriers are high. It may be a kid’s mom who doesn’t like the noise or the bruising. It may be a kid that get can’t handle getting hit. It may be the expense of getting into it, the logistical issues of finding a field, or the many other areas that prevent someone from getting in. We have to attack all of these areas. Personally, I think Airsoft is lame, but they have capitalized on these and other areas to build a solid industry. So, it’s time for us to address these issues and ensure when a kid pulls a trigger for the first time, a paintball is what comes out of the barrel.

10. KEE is sometimes referred to as the “Evil Empire” – how do you respond to that?

John Robinson: It’s part of what comes from being the largest player in the industry. We certainly have our shortcomings, as all Companies do, but we work on improving every day. Our focus is on developing great products and driving people to our sport. Our record over the past couple of years demonstrates our commitment and what is coming in roughly 5 months will send a strong signal to the market we are serious about driving participation. I pay very close attention to thoughtful commentary about our company and our product. I completely ignore the emotional banter that lacks fact or credibility. Our focus is on building a great, branded Company that sets the standard for supporting our teams, players, leagues, customers and most importantly, drives new people to and retains them in our sport.

11. One of KEE’s flagship brands, JT Paintball, has been marketed pretty aggressively in big box retail stores like Walmart, Dicks, etc. What is your plan for big box retail and how does it fit in the big picture?

John Robinson: We feel strongly that the Mass/Retail channel is critical to exposing a broader group of consumers to paintball. The JT brand is the cornerstone of that strategy. We have worked exceptionally hard to offer quality, value based product in the Mass/Retail channel specifically targeted at first and second time players. Our belief is if the consumer has a good experience with this product, they will graduate to higher end product that is available in our Traditional channel. Obviously, there is a delicate balance and we try to manage that through branding and product features. The Empire brand, for instance, has very little visibility in the Mass/Retail channel and is intended to be more aspirational and Traditional channel focused. All that said, the JT brand has a rich heritage in the traditional market. There is no group more passionate about the JT brand than the guys from XSV. They definitely have some great ideas for JT and it will be exciting to see what they do in the months and years ahead.

12. Where do you see paintball (in general) in 3 years? Up, down, flat, left, or right? Which way?

John Robinson: We are very bullish on the future of paintball. We believe we have a great opportunity to start moving the needle with our product launch this summer. In addition, we have really worked hard to increase our product development pipeline for Empire, Empire Battle Tested, and JT. I believe people will be excited at the new products we will introduce over the next 12 months and beyond. Over the next 2-3 years, as we more firmly establish that link between the first time player and the Pro, we believe there will be tremendous opportunity for everyone from Field/Pro Shop owners to the Pro players. It should be a fun ride.

Thank you very much for your time John. We appreciate Empire’s continued support of professional paintball. For more information on Empire, please visit EmpirePaintball.com.

Interview with Cassidy Sanders, Paintball Videographer

Pro Paintball caught up with Cassidy Sanders, arguably the best paintball videographer in the world. In this exclusive interview, Cassidy tells ProPaintball about his background, influences, and news of a fresh series of paintball videos.

Cassidy Sanders - photo by CreedShot

Cassidy Sanders - photo by CreedShot

ProPaintball: How old are you and where do you hail from?

Cassidy: 26, Southern California…currently Newport Beach.

ProPaintball: Tell us about your background in paintball. You were one of the original Hostile Kids/HKArmy, right?

Cassidy Sanders playing paintball with HKArmy - Photo: Warpig.com

Cassidy Sanders playing paintball with HKArmy - Photo: Warpig.com

Cassidy: Yea, one of the few originals from when we created HKarmy almost 10 years ago. I got out of playing a season or two after xball was created because the pro teams were constantly picking apart our core. I always preferred playing with a core HK team and was way too shy back then to leave my friends to play on pro paintball teams. The core HK team was always a last minute ordeal and after a few seasons, I decided to go back to school and work full time. I came back to paintball after a few years to see that a few of the core guys had turned HK army into a clothing company. I jumped in and applied my creative talents to the cause. I rarely play now days because I enjoy filming so much.

ProPaintball: Where do you look for inspiration?

Cassidy: I don’t know if you can call it looking because I am literally inspired by everything. Any type of art form…be it through paintings, music, film, web designs, you name it, I have great appreciation for it.

ProPaintball: Which musician or type of music is your favorite, and why?

Cassidy: Man that is a tough one. That is almost like asking what is my favorite film haha.

ProPaintball: Haha, that was our next question. Do tell..

Cassidy: Honestly, this is a hard one to pin down. I enjoy almost every type of music and film.

ProPaintball: We understand you spent a considerable amount of time traveling last year to shoot paintball videos. What event and host country was your favorite? Care to share any memories from your trip?

Cassidy: The first Millennium event in Paris, France I didn’t plan on filming paintball. The event was used as a trick to get my lady out to France. My goal was to surprise her on the Eiffle Tower with a successful proposal. Being in Paris during the Millennium event I couldn’t leave without filming paintball. Paris was above and beyond a perfect trip and I’m excited to get married in a few months. Norway was also amazing and everyone I met was beyond friendly to me, which isn’t always the case because I’m a weird looking American ;)

Cassidy Sanders Filming Paintball - Photo: Roggie Photo

Cassidy Sanders Filming Paintball - Photo: Roggie Photo

ProPaintball: You set the trend in paintball videography by introducing Dubstep music into your videos. What trend do you see popping up next?

Cassidy: Dubstep has taken over all media forms lately. I just happen to know a good amount of friends who made dubstep back when not many people knew about it. I always thought Dubstep would be perfect for paintball. The other thing that aided me was that very few were using DSLR’s for filming paintball back when I started. With the way technology is advancing I think there won’t be just one really big trend. The quality of these cameras are perfect for anybody to be creative and be original with there own type of style for film.

ProPaintball: What type of equipment are you using these days?

Cassidy: I still use my personal outdated Canon t2i 550d for paintball, but when ever I have the opportunity to use better equipment I jump for it. The latest event I filmed with a Red Epic and plan to use cameras at that level for many more projects.

ProPaintball: Here is one of our favorite videos by Cassidy – NPPL 2010.

YouTube Preview Image

ProPaintball:Which paintball videographer do you watch most? Any favorites out there?

Cassidy: Big fan of my buddy Drew Templeton’s Grind Paintball videos.

ProPaintball: Your videos are blowing up on Youtube and the paintball community is clamoring for more. When should we expect your next video release?

Cassidy: Next one will be released tomorrow (Feb. 2nd.) I hate not having videos done as soon as possible just like everyone else. However, I film and produce videos outside of paintball for a living. Unfortunately the paintball videos all began to pile up in a backlog. The rest of last years events will all be dropping through out this month and early march before next year’s season begins. I’m never going to let the event videos fall behind like that again.

ProPaintball: Awesome, we can’t wait to check the new videos out. What can paintball players do to find themselves in your videos?

Cassidy: I film anyone who supports paintball. Of course since my roots are HK and I now do videos for them, I will always hit record for anyone supporting HK army.

ProPaintball: Any advice for aspiring photographers or videographers?

Cassidy: When I began filming I couldn’t afford even the cheapest DSLR at the time, so I would test out friends cameras and learn everything I could while saving money. I would say don’t stop trying something new or making mistakes. So many good ideas happen on accident.

ProPaintball: What is your schedule looking like for 2012? Anything special we should be looking forward to?

Cassidy: 2012 is going to be huge. I have lots of big plans for paintball and plan on finishing the first HK Army DVD/BluRay some time during this season.

ProPaintball: Thanks for your time dude! We can’t wait to check out your new releases. For more information about Cassidy and his videos, you can visit CassidySanders.com, follow him on Facebook, and Subscribe to his Youtube Channel, ThePBFashion.

 

Photo 1 credit: CreedShot

Photo 2 Credit: Warpig.com

Photo 3 Credit: Roggie Photo

Paintball Team Spotlight: T1 Topgun Union

This weeks ProPB Team Spotlight is on T1 Topgun Union. Mike Zapantis sat down with Matt Renschler and Nick “Chicken” Hunt to learn more about the D1 team from New Jersey’s rise to success in the PSP circuit.

Zap @ ProPb: What is your current roster?

  1. Matt Renschler
  2. Nicholas “Chicken” Hunt
  3. Alvin Johnson
  4. Jamie Ezell
  5. Lance Hardwick
  6. Steve Lasher
  7. Bryson Smith
  8. Hamen Chapman

Zap @ ProPb: Ryan Martin played very well with the team in 2011. Lots of rumors are floating about Ryan during the off season. What can you tell us about Meezy? Will he be back?

division 1 paintball teams Top Gun and the Hurricanes battling it out

Ryan Martin getting elusive.

Matt: Ryan has had talks with pro teams, but he hasn’t figured it out.  He is weighing his options.  He feels bad, but obviously he has to take a pro spot if he’s offered it.  There are rumors going around that the teams are California based pro squads.  (Ed note: We now know that the team is the Los Angeles Ironmen).

Zap @ ProPb: Who are your current sponsors?

Zap @ ProPB: HK? Cool. What HK paintball gear will you be using in 2012?

Matt: They are giving us a special package with their cleats and packs for next season.

Top Gun Paintball team breaks out at PSP World Cup 2011

Top Gun Paintball team breaks out at PSP World Cup 2011

Zap @ ProPb: Could you give us a brief history of Top Gun?

Matt: Alvin and me are the only original people left.  GPL 7 man 2006 was our first tournament series as a team.  2007 GPL we played 187 crew and they ended up beating us in finals.  2008 we finally made the move to the national circuit in D3 NPPL.  We took 2nd in the series that year.  The following year bumped up to D2 PSP for 2009.  We picked up Chicken at that point, but we got our asses handed to us the rest of the season, only winning two matches at Phoenix that year.  A couple of us also played with Black Cell for USPL, and that’s actually how we met Lance.

Chicken:  For 2010, we decided to go with one of our old NPPL ex-rival teams, CS Union, and join up with them to play D3 PSP.  We got 4th at Phoenix.  MAO and Chicago we got knocked out in quarters, but we took 3rd at World Cup.  It was one of the best events we ever played as a team.  In 2011 we decided to bump up to D1.

Zap @ ProPb: Summarize your 2011 season for us.

Matt:  Besides not taking first at any event, we couldn’t have been happier with the season. We got 3rd place at Texas (getting knocked out of finals by 187 Krew), we got 5th at Chicago, and we got 2nd at New Jersey, losing to 187 Krew.  At World Cup we got 2nd, losing again to Upton 187 cRew.  We lost to them by one point every event, and we always placed one place behind them this season.  They were our rival this season, but we get along well with them.

T1 Topgun Union

Zap @ ProPb: If you could pick one reason for your teams success in 2011, what would it be?

Matt:  From a success standpoint, we play as a team, and we became really close as friends, even though only half of the team is from New Jersey.  We really don’t practice as a team, but when we are at the events we get very close, and there’s no arguing over whom is playing or getting more playing time or not. In Chicago for example, I didn’t play one point.  So people will step off when needed, and everybody knows their job on the team, and everybody gets along.

What made it difficult for our team this year is that we are not all from the same area, and we don’t have the funds to fly to practice every weekend.  So we have to work our butts off the day before each event to learn the layout.  It was really helpful for our team that the PSP only released the layout the week before the event, so we weren’t at a disadvantage.

Matt Renschler and Lance Hardwick

Zap @ ProPB:  So a lot of people would argue that the main formula for success of a team is that they are a close group of friends that not only play together every weekend, but also hang out together off the field.  On the flipside, a lot of people would argue that good paintball players are going to come together and do well, no matter where they are from.  How do these ideas relate to your team?

Chicken: Well I would go along with the combination of those two concepts.  Myself, Matt, Alvin, Jamie and Bryson play all the time, whether it is drilling or recball or scrims, which really helps us get the communication together, so that when the out of state players come in the day before the event, the transition is a lot smoother.  The experience that Ryan, Hamen, and Slasher brought to the team definitely helped us this year.  And combined with how close everyone has become over the years, it was a formula for success.  Right before Chicago we had all of the out of state guys fly out to New Jersey and stay in Big Jim’s little 3 bedroom ranch the week before the event, and then we drove out.  We did the same for NJO.  We just got so close, and I think that is what helped us click for NJO and World Cup afterwards.

Zap @ ProPB: A lot has been said in regards to your roster, what is your reasoning behind the team’s structure and how is it made possible?

Matt:  It’s not like it’s all random people that are on the team.  We are all friends of friends and that’s how we know each other.  Nobody is being paid for.  We used all of our frequent flier miles built up over the years to help people with flights.  It you want to call that paying for players, then sure, that can be their pay.

Chicken:  We picked up 2 pros for D1, since that it is allowed by the PSP.  Lance knew Ryan Martin from growing up playing So Cal paintball, and Jaime actually played Call of Duty with Slasher all the time, so that’s how that got hooked up.  Slasher grew up playing with Hamen down in the Carolinas.

Zap @ ProPb: Your team has played both the NPPL and the PSP this past season and prior.  What are your thoughts on the merger falling through, and how will what is looking like a 10 event season affect your team?

Matt: I would say that the way the schedule is now, that we won’t be playing HB NPPL, which we have played just for the sake of playing HB for the past 4 seasons.  With three events in 6 weeks, and us committing to the PSP for the season, and with school and work schedules, it is just going to be impossible to play HB, which really sucks.

I would like to see one league, and the sponsors definitely would like that.  It makes it really hard on our team to even think of playing the two leagues.  I would like to see 4 events again; it would be a lot easier with school and money.  It’s really going to stink for the NPPL in regards to HB since a lot of the PSP teams that have played the event aren’t going to be able to.

Zap @ ProPB:  So do you think with the added stress of more events to attend, it will affect any of your team’s sponsorships (i.e. Empire Paintball)?

Matt: Nope, Empire is behind us, especially with the team and the field having such long time connections with them.

Zap @ ProPB: Speaking of NJO, from an unbiased standpoint, it was a great event that was hugely successful.  You guys busted your butts to make sure that the facilities were top notch, and I know personally what that cornfield looked like before it was leveled and grass was planted on it for the PSP fields.  There are a lot of teams in the Northeast, and it was time for that area to get some credit for that with an event.  What is going on for NJO 2012 at Top Gun?

Matt: We hope to see it happen again!  The PSP could not have been happier with the outcome.  The attendance went up from MAO last season, and there were more X-Ball teams at NJO, and we would love to host it again!

Zap @ ProPb: Now that no merger has happened between the NPPL and the PSP, what are your teams plan for the upcoming 2012 season?

Matt: Whatever the division is below pro is the division that our team will be playing.  We hope that the PSP would include penalty boxes in that division so that teams playing it can have a smoother transition to the pro division.

Zap @ ProPb: Any shout out’s you would like to make?

Matt:  Thanks again to all of our sponsors that helped us out this year, and for future sponsors.  Thanks to my dad (Big Jim) and mom for all of the support!  Thanks to Mickey, Tom Lee, and all of our pit help, and Mr. Ruza for standing by us!

Chicken:  Johnny from KEE.  Thanks for believing in us.  Two weeks before the beginning of the season he put the Axes in our hands.  We used the same guns all season without problem.

Matt Renschler, Topgun Union's captain

Zap @ ProPb: Any closing thoughts/opinions you would like to share?

Matt: If anybody ever needs help at the events with their Axes or Prophecies, come see Jamie or myself at the KEE booth.  Not only do we play the events, but also we work every event as techs.

 

Also if the PSP could put penalty boxes in the division below Pro, that would be awesome!  It changes the whole aspect of the game, and would be a real big help to teams looking to make the jump to pro.

 

And everyone should go to the Top Gun Union Facebook page for a chance to win a custom laser engraved Empire AXE!

 

Paintball Industry Spotlight – Audrey Whiddon

Ed Note: For the sake of transparency, ProPaintball Writer JJ Roth co-owns and plays for pro team Seattle Thunder. Audrey Whiddon, owner of Diamond Hill Paintball Park is a co-owner of Thunder. While the two have a relationship, we felt that a shout out to Audrey and her work was worthy of mention. ProPaintball received no financial compensation for publishing this article.

Paintball Industry Spotlight – Audrey Whiddon

There’s a few people in paintball that really stand out as being exceptional individuals, and having nothing but a good impact on the future of the sport. Even though she doesn’t actually play, I really felt like I owed it to Audrey Whiddon, owner of both Diamond Hill Paintball in Harrisburg, Oregon and the Seattle Thunder Pro NPPL franchise to shed some light on how she has impacted paintball in the Pacific Northwest region. Her field, has grown from a dusty dream into the premiere tournament field in Oregon. With the addition of a rec field that is expanding all the time and future plans for another tournament field, DHP has something for everyone. Every weekend you’ll find a mix of beginner, 3man, 5man, pump and divisional teams mixing it up as well as getting time to play against the Shameless, Uprising and Thunder guys. Audrey makes it a point of ensuring that every player that visits her field feels welcome, has a fantastic time, and gets to really experience the rush that tournament paintball brings with it. Her mandate to the Thunder players is to be accessible and help the newer developing players whenever possible. You’ll often see Thunder players mixed in with walk-on’s and the ‘no attitude’ aura that she brings to the park is one that makes everyone who visits DHP come back for more.

JJ @ ProPB: How did you get involved in paintball?

Audrey: I got involved in the typical way.  My son Josh went to a birthday party at our local indoor field.  The rest is a 6 year long adventure.  He went from a recreational player to a tournament player within 6 months.  He and I were lucky enough to have several mentors over the years that helped him progress to his current D1 status.  I would like to thank Eddie Molter, Brian Hafdahl, Corey and Kasey Field for their support of both Josh and I. I started with organizing a team called Fearless.  We played local and national events from 2007 to 2009.  When that team disbanded Corey Field and Raymond Knuth asked me to manage Naughty Dog Silver (D1) in 2010.  They handed me some very good players and we took the team to NPPL series Champions that year. After the 2010 season I left the Naughty Dogs to start a field of my own.  In January of 2011 I met Dan Mills.  He owns Harrisburg Motorsports Complex.  He felt paintball was a good fit for his park and Diamond Hill Paintball was born.  I named it after the I5 exit you take to get to the park. JJ Roth and I started Seattle Thunder when I was notified that I had won a Pro spot by having managed the team that became series champs.  We then conned Corey Field in to becoming our team captain.  This is an adventure that has just begun! I have never played paintball but I have fallen in love with the sport and the people who are part of it.  You all are the best!


JJ @ ProPB: What are your goals for next year in regards to Diamond Hill Paintball?

Audrey: Goals for next year…..I want to create a paintball park that anyone can come and have fun.  I know that is a bit cliche but true none the less.  To grow, paintball needs to get the young and their families involved.  I want my park to become a fun destination for everyone. Having said that, I can tell you that I want to build a bigger recball field and put in a second speedball field.  I hope to be part of organizing reffing clinics, Pro drill clinics and hosting several tournaments.

To give you an example…We put together a Zombie Maze for Halloween.  It was a huge success.  There were a lot of people who have never played paintball who came out to try something different for the holiday.  They have already started to come to the field with birthday parties and more.  The smiles on their faces and the glow in their eyes are why I keep doing this!

JJ @ ProPB: What are your goals for next year in regards to Seattle Thunder?

Audrey: My goal for Seattle Thunder is to work towards shining as a team.  Winning is not the only thing that makes a team shine.  A team shines when everyone sees them as, not just as winners but also as stewards of the game.  That means some off field time for fundraisers,  running clinics for kids and promoting paintball outside of national events. Seattle Thunder will be part of helping Northwest paintball grow.  Oh and of course we will be on the road to win a trophy as well!

JJ @ ProPB: What tournaments/events do you have planned for Diamond Hill Paintball in the upcoming season?

Audrey: DHP will be running two NPPL 7 man feeder events.  One will be before HB and the other will be before Vegas.  I will be setting up some clinics for beginners as well as some advanced clinics for those upper level players.  I will be working with several others to start a Reffing pool for the northwest. WCPS (West Coast Paintball Series) has already advised me that I will be a field they will be using to run their series.  I also have been asked by Dan Bonebreak to assist him with organizing the Oregon State Fair event in August.  Everyone has asked for a Streetball event.  Whew that is just the start!

JJ @ ProPB: What do you see the future is holding for tournament paintball in the northwest?

Audrey: Tournament paintball in the northwest has been on the decline over the last 4 years.  There are fewer fields open than ever before.  On the up side, I have also seen a growth in new kids wanting to come in to the speedball end of the sport.  I have also never seen the level cooperation between field owners this high.  I have had the privilege of working with Royal Ridges, Impact Action (closed for the moment) and Warpaint International (their out door field is also closed for the moment).  We all see the need and are working together to grow the sport. This is why it is critical for teams such as Seattle Thunder to get their name out to the public.  We need to be a recognized sport by everyone. That will pave the way for more fields to be allowed to open.

JJ @ ProPB: Who do you see as up and coming teams from the northwest?

Audrey: Now that is a tough question.  There are quite a few good teams.  N.W. Devastation (D4-Royal Ridges), Notorious (D3-OP-Seattle), Shameless (D1-DHP), Infected (D2-DHP), APC (pump-DHP), Crossfire (D4-Impact action) and many more.  If I had to pick a team to highlight this year I would have to say Shameless.  They are a team that have been around for many years and have made it to D1 pretty much on their own.  They were just starting their D1 ranking when, in 2010 several members were picked to play on the ND Silver team.  When Silver disbanded in at the end of the 2010 season, Shameless re-formed to play D1.  They have split their time between Royal Ridges (where they have been coaching NW Devastation) and DHP where they have been working with Seattle Thunder.  The guys on this team are a very dedicated bunch and deserve to acknowledged for it.

JJ @ ProPB: Any acknowledgments you would like to make?

Audrey: Lets start with the staff at the NPPL.  They have worked with me on several issues and have been very supportive for a first time Pro team owner.  You guys rock! JJ Roth and Corey Field.  Thanks you two for your friendship and your help with Seattle Thunder.  We will make this a great team together.
BW Dunn (Pro Caps),  thank you for your support this last year.  You are one of the few people who saw the potential for DHP and helped make it happen.
To Eddie Molter, a big thanks for the long hours getting the field up and running.  We would still be at our first ghetto spot if it weren’t for you and the rest of the staff at DHP. Lastly to my family, thanks.  Starting a new business can be hazardous on relationships.  You guys have jumped in and helped when you can and I appreciate it!

Paintball Player of the Week: Dan Zaleski

On this weeks POTW, Michael Zapantis sits down with Dan Zaleski, a key member of the Upton 187 Krew.  The team has stormed their way to the top of the divisional ranks, winning 2 out of 4 D1 PSP events this season.  Read on to find out how Dan and 187 will prepare for their move to the pro division in 2012, and gain an insight into New England paintball.

 

Name: Daniel Zaleski

Hometown: Somers, CT

Occupation: Educational Assistant, specializing in Special Education.

Previous Teams: UConn, Hartford Hardcore, Armageddon, Team No Name,

Current Team: Upton 187 Krew

Sponsors: Fox4, Planet Eclipse, KEE

Position/#: Snake Side, #16

Favorite Players/Teams: Michael Jordan, he’s just the ultimate competitor and ultimate athlete.  I am a big Patriots fan, and I love Wes Welker.  He’s smaller than the average receiver and a ton of heart.  Obviously I also am a big UConn Sports fan as well.

Zap @ ProPB: When you aren’t playing paintball, how are you spending your free time?

Dan: I am pretty active, I love any sport. I used to play High School Lacrosse, Basketball, and Soccer, which is where I would say I got my sense of competitiveness.  Hiking is a lot of fun too.  I love playing poker, the mind games that go along with it, reading people’s hands makes it appealing to me.

Zap @ ProPB: So you like going to casinos and gambling as well?

Dan: Well, let’s get one thing straight, poker is not gambling.  When I think of gambling, I think of playing against a house or casino.  When you are playing poker, you are playing against other people.  There is no disadvantage of playing against a house.

Zap @ ProPB: So you are pretty competitive, huh?

Dan: Yes, very.  Maybe too competitive sometimes.

Zap @ ProPB: Tell me about your first paintball experience?

Dan: Well in high school I went out one day with a bunch of my buddies and played in the woods.  I had no idea what tournament paintball was like.

Zap @ ProPB: When did you first start playing tournament paintball?

Dan: When I went to UConn, and my buddy John Stofka (my boy Blue) how much I liked sports, and asked me to come check out the paintball club.  Well, I didn’t even know that paintball was even considered a sport.  But I tried it out, jumped on with him, got shot a lot, and just kept going back.  It was great playing against all of the college teams, and all of the shenanigans kept me coming back.

Zap @ ProPB: Whom do you look up to in the sport?

Dan: Oliver, the dude just makes a living playing paintball.  He’s competitive and got the heart.  I really look up to that.

Zap @ ProPB: What is your most memorable paintball experience?

Dan: I thought that winning college nationals in 2007 was going to be the height of my career, but I would have to say this past season.  This whole ride of playing national events with the team and bumping up to D1 this season has been crazy.  We didn’t know what to expect, and then we got to World Cup and winning it this year has truly been the most memorable.  It was something we all strove for in the beginning of the season and we worked as brothers to achieve our goals.

Zap @ ProPB: What are your goals for next season?  How do will you prepare personally and as a team to achieve them?

Dan: We want to be competitive in the pro division for sure; we definitely don’t want to get walked over.  But we want to have fun and win.  Everybody is pretty much on the same page with that, we all hate losing.  So our goals are definitely to make podium.  I know there is a big gap from the D1 to the Pro division, but the work ethic on the team is right where it needs to be and everyone is ready to jump up to the challenge.

Dan: You know how paintball is in New England.  It’s going to be pretty tough to play for the next few months, and it definitely makes it harder for our teams to practice before the first event.  But everybody is going to have some kind of personal workout program to stay in shape, which is one of the other major differences between the majority of divisional players and pro players.  Everybody in the pro division is quicker, everybody is faster.  And then when it comes time, probably in January or February we are going to start drilling hard again, even if it’s in the snow.  Last year it was pretty crazy the kind of preparation the team took.  Digging with the shovels and clearing the field just to play while it’s freezing out…drills, drills, and drills.

Zap @ ProPB: Tips for Beginners?

Dan: Do what you love and what makes you smile.  What’s the point of living if you’re not having fun?

Zap @ ProPB: Tips for Pros?

Dan: Watch out, 187’s coming.

Zap @ ProPB: Biggest rival team?  Why?

Dan: Top Gun Union, every match we play is close and it’s a grind.  Also Hurricanes are from the same area from us, and we know most of them.  So there is some rivalry there.

Zap @ ProPB: Favorite food?

Dan: It’d have to be Tacos, yup.  All Mexican food, I love the spices.

Zap @ ProPB: What are your goals for the future?

Dan: For paintball, to eventually win a pro event and put New England back on the map.  I’d love to turn it into a career and be involved in the sport more intensively.  I also want to help make more people aware of paintball on the competitive level.  Oh, and to own a 55-foot yacht.

Zap @ ProPB: What was the last song playing on your iPod?

Dan: [laughs] It’s actually Courtesy of the Red, White, and Blue by Toby Keith.  And if you don’t know that song, you’re not an American…it should be on every Fourth of July playlist!

Zap @ ProPB: Sing it for me.

Dan: [laughs] I’ve given up singing this song, because the only time I ever tried to sing it was at a dive bar during karaoke.  There is no singing voice in here, it was pretty terrible.

Zap @ ProPB: What is your favorite video game?

Dan: Call of Duty…but dude, my Xbox just got the rings of death at the most crucial time…the off-season.

Zap @ ProPB: Any shout-out’s you want to make?

Dan: The whole Fox4 crew, Curt and Dave, can’t thank them enough. Mar Lancia at Eclipse, the guys at KEE, Rob Darcy, Mike Gudejko, and the entire Lizotte Family.  Also, my family for all of the support.  Love you guys!