By Mike Griffith
Californian Staff Writer
The Bakersfield Californian
Three years after arriving in Bakersfield, it seems that Sean Venedam is everywhere.
There’s been Venedam sightings at schools throughout Kern County, at hospitals, at civic functions, at picnics and in board rooms. His voice is heard plugging businesses on radio commercials and his face has been seen in numerous television commercials.
He’s often quoted in the newspaper and on local television sports segments.
All because he’s a player for the Bakersfield Condors.
Bakersfield was recently ranked the 11th best minor league sports market in the nation by Street and Smith’s Sports Business Journal and no minor league team in the city has been embraced more fondly than the Condors.
And Venedam is not just any player for the Condors. He’s a leader. An 11-year veteran of minor-league hockey who is wearing the C on his sweater for the third straight season and led the team in scoring last season.
The Condors captain recently took some time to sit down and answer a few questions.
What is your role as captain of the team?
Early in my career it was more of a lead by example role.
I always considered myself a hard worker, somebody who necessarily didn’t have all the talent in the world so I was going to get by with hard work. I think I’ve been that way since I started playing junior hockey pretty much. I had a good coach there who worked with me a lot my first couple of years and taught me a lot of things. I had a couple of good guys I played with there that are still my best friends today that really helped me out.
Things have expanded as I’ve grown as a person, as a player. I’m a firm believer that you shouldn’t ask somebody to do something if you’re not willing to do it yourself. Over the years that’s one thing I’ve done, the way I’ve seen myself anyway.
Are you vocal in the locker room?
I guess I’m somewhat vocal. I say something when it has to be said. I don’t talk for no reason because after a while I think guys will start to tune you out.
You see it with coaches. Sometimes a coach will ask a captain if you can talk to a certain player on behalf of them. It doesn’t matter if you’re in business or in sports if you’re always talking it’s kind of like the cry wolf theory, after a while people aren’t going to believe you, or necessarily believe what you have to say or consider what you have to say because you’re just talking too much and talking for nothing.
Are you, at times, an extension of the coach?
Absolutely. I think a lot of times as a captain of the team you gotta play the good cop, bad cop role. A lot of times if the coaches are coming down on certain players you have to be there to pick that player up because we are the family in the locker room. We hold each other together a lot of times. You have to be a friend of everyone on the team. There’s not one or two guys that you can tune out.
Sometimes you’ll get guys who are marching to the beat of a different drum. We’ve seen that here in the past. It’s those guys you’ve got to help along the way. It only takes a couple of guys to sink a ship.
Maybe early in my career I was a lead by example guy and not quite as vocal. I think as you grow older you learn from your experiences and a lot of times you want to share you experiences with the guys.
How important is that?
I had a guy, it’s hard to believe my first year in Toledo named Brian Blad. He had played for a lot of years at a higher level and was the captain on the team. I’ll never forget this. We had nine rookies on that team and he took us all under his wing. He made sure we all came along and did the right things. He led by example. He was a great leader, not only on the ice but off the ice as well. We really learned a lot from this guy … I played with him one year and never talked to him again but as far as an influence on my pro career he had the most as a young player.
What is expected off the ice?
Something as simple as introducing yourself to a new guy when he comes into the room. You want to feel welcomed. I’ve played on teams before where you’re the new guy coming into the locker room and you might have one or two guys introduce themselves. That’s not a team. That’s not somebody saying welcome. That’s somebody saying you might be here to take my job and I’m not happy about it and I don’t want you here.
Is it a privilege or burden to wear the C?
Oh, I’m going to answer this truthfully. Sometimes it’s both. It’s definitely a privilege. I’ve followed in some great hockey players’ footsteps by all means. They say (crap) flows downhill. If something’s coming from Marty it’s coming to me first then it’s going to the players. A lot of times the coaching staff takes the brunt of all the bad that goes on on the ice then we get the brunt of that. When stuff goes bad off the ice they look at their leadership that let us down. That’s the worst thing.
I tell guys all the time you have to have broad shoulders. You can’t let a lot of things really bother you all that much. You have to roll with the punches and take things as they come. It seems like every day is a new challenge and a new venture. When you’re winning things are great. When you’re losing then it’s a little tough.
What does your future hold?
That’s a good question. I’ve thought about it long and hard for the past seven or eight years and I still kind of find myself in the same situation every year. But I know I’m getting closer. I don’t know. If coaching is in the near future then so be it. I like the player personnel aspect. If I could have Bob Bartlett’s job (director of hockey operations for the Condors), that would be the best job in the world, right? (laughs).
Did you ever envision playing this long?
I never did. I came out of junior hockey and got to play 13 games in the American League. The following season I said that wasn’t too bad, I didn’t feel out of place. I felt like I could play at that level. My wife (Jenny) and I were just getting engaged and I said just give me one year. I’d like to try and make it back to that level. I said give me one year and this is 11 years later. It’s been a good ride.