It was a dream come true.
Chris Pope, an executive for the Low-A Rancho Cucamonga Quakes, has been a fan of game shows his entire life. So when a casting company reached out to him at work about potentially participating on a new show with a team of four family members, the 36-year-old could not respond quickly enough. After a series of interviews and lots of paperwork, Pope and three family members -- brother-in-law Alan, brother Jake and cousin Andy -- were informed they had been chosen to be on "Family Game Fight!" on NBC, the game show hosted by married celebrities Dax Shepard and Kristen Bell.
The Quakes' vice president of sponsorships could not believe it.
"Being on a game show was always a dream of ours. We're all a fun family. When we're together, we love playing games, so the idea of playing on stage with oversized games and props was so amazing for us," he said. "And not only getting the chance to do it with our family, but to get the show aired and have the chance to talk about the Quakes on national TV, it was just a dream come true. I'm just over the moon about it."
And although the experience was a new one for Pope, there was an air of familiarity to it.
"To be honest, when we first set up our team, I was excited because our family is above-average athletes, and we were ready to tackle any competition, but we really didn’t know any games we were doing until we were on set. So it's not like we were training, but we were ready for anything, and the fun part was it just ended up being like Friday night at a Minor League Baseball game," Pope said. "Just you and your family playing games that mentally challenge you, like all those promos we do at the park in-between innings. Specifically, the 'Pie Roller' game really reminded me of when we would pie staff members during trivia question games. If the fan got it right, the staff would get pied, and if they got it wrong, the fan would get pied.
"And even with the game 'Sound Bites,' it reminded me of when I used to be an on-field host for the Quakes and participate in a lot of the in-game promotions and games. While there may not be an immediate link there, that experience at the ballpark really taught me how to roll with things and figure out whatever comes next on the fly, and that's exactly what it was like with 'Sound Bites.'"
The Pope family, led by Chris, won that part of the competition. They also won the next game in which neither family directly participated but had to guess how the hosts -- Shepard and Bell -- would fare.
"The game was called 'Taste Buds,' and it's other people playing stuff and you're there just trying to guess along and measure them up before they play. And, again, it just felt a lot like the process of what we did on a nightly basis during baseball games.
"All the games there just reminded me a lot of attending Minor League Baseball games and all of the in-between inning stuff, like what's gonna keep people entertained for the 90 seconds to two minutes in between the baseball action."
And those weren't the only similarities to his regular job for the Dodgers' affiliate. The Loma Linda native was thrown a few curveballs on the show. The team elected Alan to participate in the "Pie Rollers" portion of the game and Pope's brother-in-law wound up posting a goose egg.
"He's the lawyer in the family, smartest IQ guy on the team, and we figured word association was right up his alley, and then he just looked lost -- very embarrassing answers," Pope laughed. "He told us after we watched the premiere that he's deleting his social media and not talking to us anymore. You know, you send the smartest guy to the plate and it ends up being horrible, but it was a good laugh. … He’ll never live that down, Christmas gifts are coming his way about it."
Pope even felt like he was experiencing a rain delay before his family took part in the 'Brain Freeze' competition. During that portion of the program, one member waits in the brain freezer while the others spew out word association clues for a specific topic. The topic for this Southern California family was a can of corn: the beach.
"Waiting in that brain freezer very much so felt like a rain delay," Pope said. "If you ask my teammates, it’s the most nervous they’ve seen me ever. At least in the last 10 years. … There was some down time before that game, so in my mind, I was like, we're either advancing or not and it's all determined on if I get these answers right, so I was pretty nervous. And having to wait, the anticipation, yeah, it was like a rain delay. But we knew how many points we needed to get and it was not that many, and luckily the theme was great for us Southern California guys. When we hit the number we needed to get, it felt like hitting a home run to stay in the game, and then in 'Spin Cycle,' that was the walk-off win."
The finale "Spin Cycle" had a max payout of $100,000. With every member of the Pope family participating, the hosts acted out, sang or drew clues for a mystery word worth $10,000 each. And spoiler alert, the Popes not only took home the grand prize, they won with time to spare.
"That was actually another curveball we got there," he said. "We were stressing out because we thought we would have to choose who would play with us, Dax or Kristen, but then relieved when we realized it was going to be both of them together. That was absolutely amazing and led us to winning $100,000. It turned out to be a good curveball [a hanging curveball] and ended up being a home run for the win."
And while the group has not decided exactly how they will to spend their winnings, they have agreed to use it to pay for an epic sporting experience. The favorite so far is for the combination of Padres and Dodgers fans to attend a National League Championship Game, if the stars align.
"That's definitely the front-runner right now, but obviously things would have to fall just right," Pope said. "But yeah, with the fandom split in our family, that would be a fun trip for the four of us. And we would make a whole event around it with the game being the main thing."
While the experience was nothing like playing a game show while sitting on the couch at home, Pope feels like he and his family had an edge that enabled them to rally to victory.
" I really compare [the experience] to Minor League Baseball in the fact that, from the second I walked onto the set, everyone there was just amazing. And I can't remember the last time I went to a Minor League game -- at any stadium, anywhere -- and the whole staff isn’t happy and there to assist you and make sure you're having a good time," he said. "The staff at the show made sure we had whatever we needed and made sure we were having a good time. It was just an incredible experience all around -- just like baseball."
Rob Terranova is a contributor to MiLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @RobTnova24.