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Stingers are Buzas family company

Joe Buzas’ daughter juggles motherhood and baseball duties

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While her father devours every pitch, every play of the Salt Lake Stingers' game, Hilary Drammis jots down notes about next year's schedule, orders pizza for her children and plays host to some of the community's most powerful people.

"My dad's more of a baseball purist," said Drammis, whose father owns the triple A baseball team. "To me this is more family entertainment. It appeals to a lot more interests."

Not that Joe Buzas' daughter can't talk baseball with the best of them. She just sees the franchise, and sports in general, from a little different perspective than her father, who's been involved in baseball as a manager and owner for 61 years in 18 cities.

For the elder Buzas it has been a labor of love.

"It's been my life and will continue to be my life," said the man who can rattle off statistics, celebrities and stories that captivate even the most casual baseball fan.

Drammis is also motivated by love, but it is a love for her two children — Evan and Sabrina. She began to get involved in the business of baseball six years ago when Joe Buzas was diagnosed with prostate cancer.

"I thought I should learn (the business)," Drammis said. "I saw this as Evan's security and future."

Both father and daughter would love to see Evan Drammis someday take over the franchise. But severely handicapped, the 11-year-old boy has trouble with even the most simple tasks.

Evan Drammis was born after Drammis, a psychologist, had established a thriving practice in Chicago. Her husband, John Drammis, was a successful cosmetic surgeon at the time. First, her son was diagnosed as deaf, and soon afterward, the family had powerful hearing aids implanted in his ears. But that wouldn't be the only challenge the boy faced.

"I had to cut back my practice," she said. "Every time I turned around there was something else (wrong)."

She said Evan has trouble communicating even through sign language and has several learning disabilities. Two things keep him from being diagnosed as autistic, she said. He's extremely aware and sensitive.

Drammis moved to Utah with her children shortly thereafter. John Drammis retired last year so he could join his family in Utah.

"I have learned a lot from Evan," Drammis said, as her father coaxes a kiss and a hug from the child. "Patience, for one. To have different priorities."

She said dealing with the problems of running a baseball team pale in comparison to those she and Evan struggle with every minute of every day.

"None of this is very difficult after dealing with a handicapped child every day . . . These kinds of problems aren't problems. The toughest job is being a parent. It's a lot of fun, and I love it."

A year ago, Drammis began to do more than just learn from her father; she began making business decisions for the team she co-owns. Most of those decisions involved significant changes for the state's only triple A team.

She set up an advisory board for the team made up of successful businessmen and businesswomen. She spearheaded the drive for a new name when the Buzz were sued by a college with a similarly named mascot.

She's recruited on- and off-field sponsors and instituted promotions to attract new fans. She led the effort to change the Stingers affiliation with a team closer to Salt Lake City, which ended up being the Anaheim Angels.

The Angels are owned by Disney, a company dripping with images of family and fun, a company Utah fans can identify with. Drammis and the advisory board also hoped the proximity of the West Coast team would mean fans would see more of the players they came to know in Stingers uniforms.

She created the Family Fun Zone just beyond the outfield fence, where children can take a break, run and ride small carnival rides.

"The mother's touch," she says with a laugh. "I just wanted to have a play area for the kids. We go to Jazz games, and my kids feel so confined."

The Fun Zone is just one example of how Drammis sees sporting events as a way to help families bond and children stay out of trouble. She says it's something psychologists refer to as "competing behavior."

"If kids are doing something appropriate, then they can be engaged in an appropriate behavior," she said. "I see it as contributing (to the community) in many ways, all sports do. It's an integral part of our society . . . besides developing a closeness with family and friends, kids develop self-esteem and they learn to socialize and cooperate with one another."

Her father jokes about how his daughter "pushed herself in here" and how she'll never be completely in charge because he's "ornery enough to live forever."

But he obviously harbors only love and admiration for the woman who will succeed him.

"She'll take over, naturally," he said, adding that his only regret is that she can't devote more of her time to the team. Buzas said his daughter reminds him of himself.

"She knows what I've done," Buzas said. "She's more like me, like I used to be. She's tough. She won't let people get away with anything."

Drammis is a little more unsure about how she feels regarding her ability to balance motherhood with running a baseball team.

"It is tough in the sense that I never feel like I'm doing quite as well as I want to at either (job)," she said. And while juggling her jobs may be daunting at times, being one of only two women owners in triple A baseball doesn't bother her at all.

"When I look around the rooms and see mostly men, I feel privileged that I've been given this opportunity."

E-mail: adonaldson@desnews.com