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Mr. Phil Stillwell
Graduated 1978

401 Oliver Trail Lane
Phenix City, AL 36867

The Game
16 Downing Drive
Phenix City, AL 36869

Home Phone: 334-297-3827
Work Phone: 334-291-5151
Fax: 334-291-3067
Email: philstillwell@thegamellc.com

Former Baseball: UL alum pairs passion and business

Amanda McElfresh, Daily Advertiser, Sept. 23, 2011

Phil Stillwell, owner of sports apparel company The Game, is seen with his products Thursday at M.L. “Tigue” Moore Field. By P.C. Piazza September 22, 2011
Back in the late 1970s, when Phil Stillwell first set foot on UL’s M.L. “Tigue” Moore Field as a collegiate baseball player, he was, by his own admission, somewhat of an underachiever.

The Alabama native wasn’t one of the team’s stars, but little did he know that he was sowing the seeds for a highly successful career as a businessman and developing a love for south Louisiana that would last for a lifetime.

“This is just a special place,” Stillwell said Thursday during a trip to Lafayette. “My baseball career wasn’t very good. But I did have a competitive spirit, and I took that into the business world.”

Stillwell’s family owned sporting goods stores in Alabama and throughout the South, but rather than following directly in their footsteps, he became a sales representative, mostly for athletic wear companies. Then in 1986, his brother Neil approached him about starting The Game, a company that would make and sell caps for the average fan.

“We kind of started out doing more fan-based headgear, not the kinds of caps that players would wear on the field,” Stillwell recalled. But eventually, nationally-recognized college football coaches such as Bobby Bowden, Barry Switzer and Vince Dooley began wearing The Game’s hats on the sidelines, back in the day before universities had multi-million dollar contracts with apparel companies.

“We were kind of instrumental in starting that, before the Nikes of the world became involved. At the time it was kind of revolutionary,” Stillwell said.

The Stillwells sold The Game to Russell Athletic in 1993, then purchased it back in 1998 and discovered that the sporting apparel landscape had vastly changed. Stillwell said he grew concerned because The Game couldn’t afford to pay coaches and universities huge sums to use their hats and other apparel. But an out-of-the-blue call from California a couple of years later quickly changed things.

“I got a call from a lady at San Diego State University. Tony Gwynn had just become their baseball coach and he wanted to know if The Game would do the team’s caps,” Stillwell said. “They were in a little bit of a bind, so we made the caps for them and they were very pleased and appreciative because we kind of came through for them at a time when they really needed it.”

Before Stillwell knew it, he and other company representatives were meeting with baseball coaches at UL, Tulane and LSU. Eventually, all three schools decided to use The Game’s merchandise on their teams. With The Game now outfitting three major Louisiana baseball universities and working with the high-profile Gwynn and his team, word spread throughout the college baseball world.

“It gave a lot of credibility to our company and it just started snowballing,” Stillwell said. “Now, we have over 1,000 colleges in the country that use our products. It’s been a lot of hard work, but we’ve also been very blessed.”

Despite his success, Stillwell remains humble, still living in his native Alabama, where The Game has its headquarters and visiting Lafayette each year to visit UL coaches and assist former teammate and major league star Jose Alvarez with his annual charity golf tournament.

“That’s something that’s very near and dear to me,” Stillwell said. “Lafayette is just a special place. Plus, I like to come and get a gumbo fix.”

Athletic Network Footnote: go to www.2thegame.com for The Game website.