Top Solar Company President Gets Dream Opportunity with San Diego Padres
Most baseball fans have entertained the thought: what would it be like to be a professional baseball player? Short of that, what would it be like just to play one game? Or even just to get down on the field of a MLB stadium – bathed by the high halo of light banks, surrounded by three tiers of fans stretching into the night sky, and stepping up onto that mound that stands 60.5 feet from that focal point where games live and die. Home plate.
At the tail end of the San Diego Padres’s 2021 season, Ross Williams, the President and CEO of the San Diego solar installer HES Solar, got the call up to the show – he was offered the honor of throwing out the first pitch in the second of three home games against the San Francisco Giants just one day after summer had ended and the Northern Hemisphere was wrapping up its first day of Fall. Running a top solar company in San Diego isn’t a standard desk job, but it’s nothing to prepare one to throw the pitch that kicks off a much-anticipated baseball game.
SAN DIEGO PADRES BASEBALL FAN X 2
Perhaps not physically, but in other ways the Padres couldn’t have made a wiser pitching decision. Williams has been on an intensive baseball training program since mid-way through last season, when his then three-year-old discovered baseball in general and the San Diego Padres specifically.
“I’m a huge Padres fan and my little boy Caleb is probably an even bigger fan,” explains Williams. “I play baseball every single day with him. He forces me to. I mean I literally play baseball every single day. And I’m always the pitcher. He loves batting, so I’m always throwing the ball. Now this is a little Wiffle Ball, but it’s still the same concept.”
GETTING THE CALL TO THE SHOW
When Ross got the call, it was like a dream come true… or like a second chance at a dream come true… “I was supposed to throw the first pitch at a game in May of 2020. I got invited to do it because of our long term sponsorship with the radio network and with the TV broadcast. We love supporting the team and it grew out from that. So it was supposed to happen in 2020, and then obviously the whole first half of the season got shut down. When they resumed playing nobody was allowed in the stands, and so I wasn’t going to get invited onto the field. So unfortunately I didn’t get to do it last year. Then this year it just kinda came up three weeks before the game. I was super excited to hear – I thought the opportunity had passed. I’d thought I’d lost out on a once in a lifetime thing; I’d thought for sure it was gone. When I heard it came back I was really excited.”
STEPPING UP FROM WIFFLE BALL
It’s great to be excited, but that’s far from prepared. And a Wiffle Ball can only get you so far. Williams needed a little ‘big boy’ practice time, so he called his brother. “The weekend prior to the [Wednesday night] pitch, I went to the park with my brother and did some real practicing. Just because my biggest fear with this thing was that I didn’t want to short change it. And the second fear to that, I didn’t want to throw it wildly wide left or right or whatever. I definitely wanted to practice a little bit and make sure I had, you know, some ability to get it over the plate.” The plan seemed solid at the time, but there was a Major League Baseball factor Ross wasn’t accounting for (and it wasn’t the pressure from the stadium’s fans).
THE EXPERIENCE OF A LIFETIME
Before he knew it, it was the evening of Wednesday September 22, and Williams, his wife, and two kids arrived at Petco Park in downtown San Diego. Ross was ushered onto the open field as final game preparation was underway for the Major League Baseball match-up that would occur at the top of the next hour.
“I felt like l was having my 15 minutes of fame or something. They let you down on the field for about 45 minutes before the first pitch. I mean, I’m eight feet from the dugout. I just stood there and took it all in, appreciated how far away the fence really is, and saw how meticulous – I got to watch the field crew set up the whole thing: painting all the lines, making the dirt perfect, and vacuuming. They literally vacuum the grass to make sure the sand’s not in the grass. They are just so meticulous. Then the players came out of the dugout to do their warmups on the field. I was literally right there in the middle of it.
“The Padres organization is amazing. I tried to get my family down on the field with me. They had to comply with the MLB’s really strict Covid rules so we couldn’t do that. They moved Caleb, Bella, and my wife Anna down as close as they could get, right by the dugout. So they were right there to watch the whole thing. Every now and again I’d turn around and heard Bella and Caleb’s, ‘Daaaddddddyyyy!’ just screaming and yelling. It was cool, it was a lot of fun.”
Have you ever wondered what that field looks like from the infield with the Petco Park lights powering down from above? Spending his career in solar energy, Williams took a strong appreciation of the dream-like lighting, “The day was overcast, and the lighting was phenomenal. I mean, it was amazing. There were no visibility issues.”
It’s all fun and games until that little stitched baseball needs to get to the Friar holding out a catcher’s mitt behind home plate. Even then, leading up to the pitch, “I was pretty confident. My biggest concern before I got there was just being, you know, in that scene and just getting overcome with some of the nerves. And it never really came. I was kinda anticipating it to be more of a nervous thing, but it never came. The excitement just overwhelmed the nerves.
“But when I got up there for the actual throw itself, everything went so fast. It’s like I wasn’t even there. It was just: walk out to the mound, they announce my name, throw the pitch, walk back. I feel like I blacked out or something because I don’t really remember any of that. It was like boom, boom, boom.
“I didn’t think I was going to get to go on the mound, and I didn’t practice for that. Being on the mound created quite a bit of a different angle. It’s only ten inches high but when you’re standing there it creates a very downward angle. I think that’s why I threw it high, actually. Like I said, I didn’t want to shortchange it.”
Wait, in a story like this, our hero is supposed to throw a perfect strike, right? Williams joked, “Well it was an intentional ball, you know? It was a 1-2 count, you know, and the batter was standing a little too close, I wanted to brush him off a bit. I wasn’t going to give him something to hit, you know? No way.” Ross laughed when giving the excuse.
“NICE PITCH, KID”
“After I’d thrown the pitch I was walking off the playing field, and there was Joe Musgrove standing there next to a security person. And as I pass by I hear, “Nice pitch.” I looked over – I thought it was Joe Musgrove – but it wasn’t, it was the security guy. But when I tell this story a year from now it might be Joe Musgrove who said, ‘nice pitch.’” Sorry, Ross, we have your fresh account of the moment recorded right here in this story.
SOLAR GROWTH MADE IT HAPPEN
The once-in-a-lifetime experience was a sign of the growth of HES Solar in San Diego and of the growing involvement of the solar energy company in the community. HES Solar is celebrating its 20th Anniversary as a top solar installer. The solar group has installed more than 20 million watts of solar power in the San Diego area. The San Diego solar installer has also partnered with the YMCA of San Diego County as a way to boost that great organization’s re-emergence from the shutdowns.
“We’ve been a partner with the Padres Radio Network, 97.3 The Fan, and through the team’s TV provider which was Fox Sports San Diego and now is Bally Sports. In addition to that, our spokesperson is Tony Gwynn Jr, who is the son of Mr. Padre himself, Tony Gwynn. And working with him has been really cool. He’s the voice of a lot of our radio commercials and the face of a lot of our TV commercials. It’s really exciting.”
“I should back up a bit. So, I’m really into baseball. I love baseball. I think it’s just an awesome sport that has been passed down through so many generations. It’s kind of been the one thing that’s been a constant since as far back as I can remember. And really going back to even the 1800s, it’s just been a constant. I have a lot of respect for the game and I think it’s an ideal sport that just transcends so many generations. I have a lot of respect for it. I watch it a lot. And to get to be involved in professional baseball even a little way was a real honor.”
WHAT’S NEXT FOR HES SOLAR?
Ross Williams has led the solar company through its strong growth. Throwing out the first game pitch was a highlight, but there have been others, equally surreal. The young solar CEO found himself in other moments that signified the success he was bringing to the company:
“I’ll never forget the first time I was in the suite, one of the Padres suites. As part of our partnership with the Padres group we get to have these suites to host customers, or key clients, or family, or employees. I’ll never forget the first time I was in the suite, and I kinda caught myself being aware of what I was doing and I thought, ‘I’m here in this luxury suite hosting these people who want to do business with me.’ I felt like I was one of those corporate Fat Cats! I just had this feeling like, ‘I did it!’
DID THE RIGHT THING
Ross Williams enjoys the perks and experiences his company’s growth allows, but his main focus is installing solar power in San Diego and providing the pathway for more businesses and homes to operate with renewable energy. He’s building the company’s strength and reach, and he’s doing it the right way.
“We were all but unknown fifteen years ago in the public eye. Not many people had heard of us. Our marketing efforts, we weren’t being very loud or noisy. 100% of our business came from referrals, from doing good work. We weren’t very well known as a company with a big company brand at all. In fact a lot of our competitors who were more well known called us out for that in their pitches when we were competing for a project. That would really make me mad because they would say things like, ‘Oh, who’s this rinky dink company? You don’t want to go with them…’ That’s changed, we’re seeing it. Just this month, one of our residential consultants told me we have respect from everybody now. He was told that directly by a homeowner. They’d told him, ‘Hey, you guys are pretty legit. These other companies are saying, “You’re fine, go with those HES guys, they know what they’re doing.”’ In between there was a lot of hard work and a lot of effort. Now we have a lot of ability to be a good corporate citizen in our community. That’s something that to me is the essence of who we are. And it’s important to not only be respected and be known, but also be good corporate citizens: Give back wherever we can, how we can, treat our people well, treat our customers well, and just always do the right thing.
“So over the years we’ve had opportunities to do certain marketing activities or participate in certain events, and I think we’ve done a really good job of delivering our company’s values at those events and through that marketing. We’re slowly building our brand bigger and bigger and bigger. Couple that with the facts that the work we do is always of the highest quality and we deliver a good customer experience.
SOLAR WORD OF MOUTH
“The people that we have done work for, especially on the business side of things, the what and the how we deliver goes a really long way because what we do is pretty hard to do. They see that and they tell us all the time, ‘Hey, you guys did an awesome job, we’re really happy we went with you guys and really appreciate all the work you did.’ And more often than not it’s, ‘We have another building down the street. We want to look at that one as well.’ On the residential side we hear, ‘Hey, I talked to my neighbor who wants to talk to you guys.’ And it’s really rewarding to see that over time getting bigger and bigger and bigger and bigger with every system that we install. It’s kind of like a flywheel we’re working on here, building momentum. Now we’re even having the opportunity to expand that geographically to other parts of California, well away from San Diego. That’s really fun.”
What’s next for Ross Williams? Maybe more pitches inside more stadiums up the coast of California? At the current rate, no one should be surprised to see that.
But Ross… Next time?… Put it in the strike zone.