- Last Updated on Thursday, 30 July 2020 18:11
By Matthew Peaslee
When Travis Williams was hired as the Pittsburgh Pirates team president in October 2019, one of his initial plans was to make baseball more family friendly.
|Travis Williams - Pittsburgh Pirates Team President|
In early March, the team announced the ‘Kids Free Program’ allowing parents to bring a child to PNC Park at no charge, with the purchase of a regularly-priced ticket.
Unfortunately, due to the COVD-19 pandemic, the program and the Major League Baseball season have been put on hold. That doesn't mean Williams, a South Hills resident, isn't still thinking of ways to enhance the gameday experience once play begins and fans are allowed in the stands.
"Baseball is really about families and bringing people together," Williams said. "It's generational and based in family tradition. I can remember going to the ballpark with my grandfather, father and mother, and I enjoy having the pleasure of bringing my kids to the ballpark on a beautiful summer day.”
"We have to get back to our roots as a sport and understand that we are providing a source of affordable family fun and a way for people to escape the troubles of the
real world while watching baseball and enjoying each other's company,” he added.
Williams knows first-hand the importance of spending time together as a family. He and his wife, Nikki, have six children. Through quarantine and stay-at-home orders, the Williams have been spending more time together than usual, which has been a unique blessing.
"We're under one roof more often these days playing board games and having meals," Williams said. "It's been fun and we try to keep it as lighthearted as possible. It's easy for us all, and especially kids, to focus on the negatives and worry about what we've missed out on, including graduations, school plays and ballet recitals. But supporting each other has gotten us through it."
Two of the children are in college, two are in high school, and the youngest two boys are in grade school at St. Louise de Marillac in Upper St. Clair. Williams says it truly does take a village to raise children and he credits the school community, and his South Hills friends and neighbors for assisting the family when times are busy.
"I try my best to be a successful executive in the sports world and I try my best to be a successful dad in the family world," Williams said. "I don't claim to be perfect at it but they all respect the fact that I do my best. I don't know what I would do if I didn't have my unbelievable wife. She's the logistics person and our nucleus."
Williams has nearly 15 years of sports management experience under his belt, following a career as a partner at the Reed Smith law firm. In 2008, he was hired by the Pittsburgh Penguins and moved up to be the team's chief operating officer in 2011. In 2018, Williams accepted a job with the New York Islanders as the president of business operations. When former Pirates president Frank Coonelly moved on following the 2019 season, the wheels were in motion for Williams' quick return to the Steel City.
"Pittsburgh has always meant so much to us," Williams said. "Having the opportunity to come back for this position was just perfect."
Williams is an Anderson, Indiana native, who also spent some parts of his childhood in the St. Louis, Missouri area. His family moved to St. Marys, Pennsylvania in his high school years, and that's where he first met his future wife. Williams attended Penn State University and Duquesne University.
While this current situation is certainly difficult to navigate, Williams has dealt with other disruptions in his sporting career with the Penguins. In 2012-13 there was a work stoppage and lockout and in 2014 there was a mumps outbreak sweeping through locker rooms.
On July 1, the Pirates players returned to PNC Park for workouts and the shortened 2020 season was scheduled to begin July 24.
"The main thing we are focused on is making sure everyone is healthy," Williams said.