By ERIC PLUMMER
Hagadone News Network
SANDPOINT - Since graduating from Sandpoint High in 1999, Jens Weiden has won two World Series rings, run some of the nicest golf courses in the Bay Area, and rubbed elbows with the likes of Willie Mays, Magic Johnson, Shaq and countless other celebrities.
Now he's about to become the chief financial officer of the Rose Bowl stadium, overseeing everything from 'The Granddaddy of Them All' football bowl game to Justin Timberlake and Jay-Z concerts, not to mention UCLA football, international soccer events and plenty more.
To say hometown boy makes good would be stating the obvious for the 32 year-old Sandpoint native, who is currently the marketing manager for the San Francisco Giants, hoping his team can win a third World Series during Weiden's sixth and final season with the Bay Area baseball team.
But despite it all, Jens believes he will never measure up to his old man, Bill Weiden, at least in one respect.
"My dad has been, and probably always will be a little cooler than me," admits Jens with a chuckle. "My dad is a good time. He's good people."
Jens grew up playing baseball in Sandpoint for head coach Mike Givens, with his dad Bill an assistant coach. Baseball was and still is a key bonding component between father and son.
"My dad was always there," recalls Jens of Bill, 62, who works for the City of Sandpoint and Schweitzer. "If you did well, he'd tell you a couple of things to improve. If you did bad, you couldn't get away from him."
Jens became good enough to eventually walk on as a pitcher at St. Mary's College, where he played for two seasons before switching to rugby for the final two years of college, graduating with a degree in communications. Baseball never left his blood, however, and last fall he was able to fly with Bill on the Giants' private jet to Detroit to watch his team win their second World Series title in the past three years.
Suffice it to say, it was a memorable evening for the Weidens, who at least for a brief time, were part of the proverbial jet-set.
"I ate and drank with the players and owners all night, then flew back to San Francisco," says Bill, who through Jens has rubbed elbows with some famous people, including last year at the U.S. Open Golf Tournament at the Olympic Club in San Francisco. "I took a baseball and had Jack Nicklaus sign it. I said 'Mr. Nicklaus, have you ever signed a baseball?' I got him to smile."
Jens Weiden credits his upbringing in Sandpoint as an integral component of his career success. The small town atmosphere, where everybody knows everybody, helped him develop strong relationships with people, a practice that serves him very well today. Weiden has a brother, Kip, a sister, Callie, and mom Trudie Weiden is a fourth grade teacher at Farmin-Stidwell. He still tries to make it home to Sandpoint at least once a year
This fall he'll move his wife Raelene and their eight month-old son to Southern California, becoming the new CFO of the Rose Bowl, which just happens to be celebrating its 100th anniversary. He beat out more than 300 other applicants for the new job, which came with a considerable bump in salary. His new job description is fairly simple.
"I'm in charge of bringing in the money. It's a cool opportunity for me," says Jens of managing the huge, iconic and revered stadium. "I'm a kid from a small town in Idaho and you walk into a venue that can hold 10 times the amount of people in your hometown."
It's the latest top line on a burgeoning resume that includes stints with 24 Hour Fitness, where he handled the entertainment marketing, including the TV show the Biggest Loser, and also managed Magic Johnson and Shaq's 24 Hour Fitness franchises.
From there he managed a handful of the nicer golf courses in the Bay Area, before taking his current job with the San Francisco Giants. A lot of great baseball people never win a World Series, so Weiden's timing as a Giant employee was exquisite. He fondly recalls being on the field after the first World Series win in 2010.
"I got to go down on the field, had champagne poured on me, it made you feel like you were a part of it. Ultimately, it's what we all try to get out of sports, to feel like a kid again," recalls Jens, crediting current Sandpoint American Legion coach Mike Givens's role in his career. "Mike has always been a great influence on me. I'll be forever grateful to him."
Asked to give a Mount Rushmore of the people he has met to this point, Jens started with Willie Mays, calling him Superman to a lot of people, Shaq, whom Weiden calls the nicest person he's ever met, musician Kenny Chesney, whom Weiden calls unassuming, and finally Giants closer Sergio Romo, who Weiden describes as pure and a kid at heart.
Bill Weiden, who once played youth baseball with Dave Winfield and still skis with former Major League Baseball Commissioner, Olympic chairman and Time Man of the Year Peter Ueberroth at Schweitzer, said his son called him for advice when the opportunity to leave a good thing for a potentially better thing recently presented itself.
"I said any decision you make will be good. He didn't burn any bridges," says Bill, who strings many of the broken tennis rackets in Sandpoint. "They (Rose Bowl) really liked him. He's such a people person.