When the Schaumburg Boomers came into existence last year, they had quite the checklist staring them in the face.
First they had to erase any bad feelings some fans may have had toward the previous Schaumburg team, the Flyers. Then they had to get word out that, hey, the Boomers aren't the Flyers and that fans should give the new organization another try. And finally, they had to make sure they fielded a competitive team.
Check, check and check.
Not only did the Boomers finish Year 2 averaging more than 3,000 fans per game -- up roughly 20 percent from 2012, they were recently named the Frontier League's Organization of the Year.
Oh, and if that weren't enough, they also qualified for the playoffs by winning the West Division after missing out of the postseason last season by one measly game. They will open a best-of-five series against the Florence Freedom at 8 p.m. Saturday at Boomers Stadium.
"It was all about growth for us," Boomers president/general manager Andy Viano said of the 2013 season. "We grew in the box office. On the field, we took that next step from being a playoff contender to actually getting in the playoffs and winning our division.
"But we're not satisfied with where we are. This is a long-term project for us. Three thousand fans a night is great, but we really think that the franchise has the potential for a lot more growth."
That will be no easy task considering how much effort it took just to reach the heights they did this season.
"Our job is pounding the pavement," Viano said. "Our staff is making cold calls, knocking on doors, passing out pamphlets, wearing Boomers shirts … we're here all hours of the day throughout the winter and summer -- it's a lot of hard work."
That, in large part, is due to the bad taste left by way the Schaumburg Flyers fizzled out after the 2010 season due to mounting financial issues.
"It's no secret that our predecessor didn't go out on great terms, and I don't think it's a secret that that hurt us," Viano said. "We've spent our first couple of years trying to get past that stigma and getting people in the area to realize that now there is a new team in town and that it's different from what the Flyers used to be."
Having a winning product on the field sure also helps the Boomers' cause.
"It's important that we're competitive, but we try to present ourselves as more than baseball," Viano said. "It's a great place for a company outing. You can host birthday parties and kids can bounce in the Bounce House and not watch baseball."
"But there's still something about walking out of the park after a 'W' that gives you a little bit better experience," he admitted.
There have been plenty of 'W's' this season. A year after missing out on the playoffs despite a 54-42 record, the Boomers clinched their first division crown courtesy of a 59-37 regular-season mark. By comparison, the Flyers finished above. the 500 mark only 3 times in a 12-year span.
Viano felt early on that the 2013 Boomers might have this kind of year.
"We looked at our team on paper and saw that position-wise we had almost the entire roster coming back, so we were confident," he said. "When we got through the first month of the season and found that we had kind of a stud starting pitcher in Chris Phelan and then we picked up another stud starter in Seth Webster midway through the season ...
"Since then, it's all kind of fallen into place."
In a best-of-five series, especially against Florence, which beat them out of a playoff spot a year ago, the Boomers are going to need all their studs to be studs if they hope to advance to the championship series, which begins a week from Saturday.
"We've struggled against Florence this season (1-5), so it's a big series for us," Viano said. "In these kind of series' it's nerve-wracking. Anything can happen."
Regardless of the outcome, however, Viano knows one thing for certain about the 2013 Boomers:
"On and off the field it's been a heck of a year."