Posts Tagged ‘Minor League Baseball’

Baseball is a game, yes. It is also a business” – Willie Mays

After a full week in Florida our front office is back from Winter Meetings and adjusting to the below freezing temperatures in Ohio.  After returning on Friday, General Manager Jordan Taylor, Assistant General Manager of Sales Matt Thompson and Assistant General Manager of Stadium Operations Brad Hooser spent some time catching me up on their adventures.

Winter Meetings officially started for the trio when they arrived in Orlando and were picked up at the airport by the Brandiose party bus.  For those who are unfamiliar, Brandiose is one of the premier design firms in Minor League Baseball.  They have helped design logos for many teams including the Scrappers over the past several years.  On the bus, the staff got to loosen up and catch-up up with other winter meeting attendees on the way to the hotel.

(Brandiose)

Ready to board the Brandiose Party Bus! (Brandiose)

(Matt Thompson)

Inside the Brandiose Party Bus (Matt Thompson)

After arriving at the Swan Resort and Hotel in Walt Disney World, the group checked in and got their schedules for the week.  The Winter Meetings had over forty different seminars this year in the categories of sales, marketing, web design, operations, merchandising, media, and community relations.  Seminars are led by the industries best and are a great way for teams to share their strategies and insight.  Some of the seminars our staff attended included “Minor League, MAJOR Marketing Channel”, “Brining Technology Into Your Stadium Operations” and “Creating a Fanatical Food Experience”.

Matt Thompson walking into the Swan Hotel for a Day of Seminars (Brad Hooser)

Matt Thompson walking into the Swan Hotel for a Day of Seminars (Brad Hooser)

In addition to the seminars Jordan, Matt and Brad also attended networking events.  A favorite for many teams is the annual affiliate dinner.  The dinner is a chance for staff from Arizona, Mahoning Valley, Lake County, North Carolina, Akron, and Columbus to get together and socialize.  Of the six Indians affiliates, four are located in the state of Ohio.  This is very unusual for a farm system and for many Minor League teams the affiliate dinner is the only time of the year they get to see the other front offices in person.

Though it is not on the official Winter Meetings schedule another highly anticipated event each year is the New York Penn-League Kangaroo Court.  Kangaroo Court is a time honored baseball tradition played in almost every Minor League and Major League clubhouse across the country.  New York-Penn League execs play each year as well by airing their grievances each December.  A front office member will issue a complaint against a team and the group will decide the appropriate fee for the team to pay.  Kangaroo Court is a way for the league to poke fun at each other and raise money for the New York-Penn League foundation.  Though I am not allowed to disclose any of the charges brought in court this year I can promise it was a fun night for all teams in attendance.

In their down time, Jordan, Matt and Brad met up with old friends from different teams and enjoyed their surroundings.  I’m told one night Matt performed at a Karaoke Bar (sadly there is no video, I asked).  They explored Downtown Disney and also attended the Winter Meetings Gala.  Celebrity sightings included Kevin Millar, Chris Rose and Chris Fowler.  Jordan can also be spotted on last Thursday night’s Intentional Talk.

Winter Meetings Gala (Matt Thompson)

Winter Meetings Gala (Matt Thompson)

On their final day the front office met up with 2011 Scrappers intern and current Promotions Manager of the Lake County Captains, Drew LaFollette, and toured the set of the ESPN College Football Awards.

Now that the group is back in snowy Ohio, they are more ready then ever to bring new ideas and great fan entertainment to the Mahoning Valley in 2014.

What do you want to be when you grow up?  It’s a question we ask from childhood all the way through college.  As an adult, though we may be “grown up”, we sometimes still struggle to find an answer.  It’s a question, which for many people, can change as frequently as the seasons.

Justin Toole is not one of those people.  He has known, since before he can remember that he wanted to be a baseball player, and despite an unusual and sometimes rocky path, he’s found his way there.

Like many professional athletes, Toole was born into a baseball family. His father and mother coached at the local high school and his brother and sister both played baseball and softball respectively.  Growing up, he fell in love with the game, helping out his dad as a batboy and joining the team on road trips until he was old enough to play. A Derek Jeter fan he favored shortstop, but got experience all over the field, playing wherever his team needed him the most.

After a successful high school career at Lewis Central in his hometown of Council Bluffs, Iowa Toole went on to play at the University of Iowa.  As a Hawkeye he continued to excel both athletically and academically, and the idea of playing professional baseball felt less like a distant dream and more like a plausible reality.   That is, until he suffered an injury in his senior season playing against Big 10 rival Michigan State

“When I broke my arm everything kind of stopped, I wasn’t sure what the future was going to hold.”

His arm healed, but the damage to his draft stock was done, and Toole went undrafted in the 2009 Major League Baseball First Year Player Draft.  Rather then hang up his cleats he signed to play Independent baseball with the Sioux City Explorers.  However, after a little over a week of playing in Sioux City Toole awoke in his host family’s basement to a phone call.  His dream was coming true, the Cleveland Indians wanted to sign him as a professional baseball player.

Since signing with the Indians on July 7, 2009, Justin Toole has played at every level in the Indians’ Minor League system, including here in Mahoning Valley.  Though some players dislike moving from team to team, Toole has enjoyed the benefits.

“I’ve been able to learn not only from all the different coaches and managers but also different teammates.  It’s definitely something you have to have a passion for.  It’s not your typical lifestyle.”

Toole’s passion for the game is infectious and his enthusiasm is apparent not only when talking about home runs but in the daily grind of getting better.

“The beautiful thing about the game of baseball is that you play 160 games and you get to play every day.  You can go out on a Monday and have a horrible day and wake up the next day with a clean slate and learn from the day before.”

He has learned that Minor League Baseball is a world where a player’s draft round can mean more than their current statistics and every success and failure is not only recorded but analyzed.  So how does an unsigned free agent like Toole not only survive but thrive?  His answer is simple, he doesn’t give up.

“There are so many things out there that are out of your control.  One of the things you can do is control what you have going on.  You can control your attitude and your effort…I’ve gotten to where I am not because I’m the most talented player.  I didn’t throw the hardest or run the fastest; I didn’t hit the most homeruns.  A lot of the reason I’ve gotten to where I am is that I believed that I could do it.”

When reflecting on the rigors of Minor League Baseball Toole recounts an analogy, “If you look at baseball it’s based around sports cars.  When you watch ESPN you’ll see the Ferrari’s, Porsches and the Mazaratti’s, all the good looking cars that draw people to the game.  What you don’t see are the Ford 150 trucks and the heavy duty stuff that people do behind the scenes.  Those are the players who make it to the major leagues and make the game what it is.”

During his career, Toole has not only shown tenacity, but versatility.  This was never more evident than on a late summer night two seasons ago while playing for the Class A Advanced Carolina Mudcats.  On August 25, 2012, the Mudcats gave him the opportunity to play all nine positions in the span of a nine inning game.   Toole’s performance gained national media attention and he was even contacted by a Cleveland based t-shirt company, Fresh Brewed Tees, who created an “I Play The Field” shirt honoring his accomplishment.

What is most impressive about Justin Toole’s game two Augusts ago was not just his versatility as a baseball player, but how he is using that game to positively influence the lives of others.  The following offseason, Toole added “author” to his growing list of accomplishments and published “9 in 9: Nine Life Lessons Learned From Playing Nine Positions in One Nine Inning Baseball Game”.

When asked how he came up with the idea to write the book Toole responded, “I’ve always wanted to do that but I wasn’t sure how to go about it.  Then everything kind of came full circle; different things in my career and lessons I’ve learned.  They may not have been the most fun but they got me to this point.  The game was a way of telling my story”.

“People think professional baseball players are these ultra mega talented people who don’t make mistakes.  The more you get to know and play with these guys the more you realize yes they are talented but they work extremely hard.  A lot of kids when they’re young give up on dreams because of preconceived notions that professional athletes, doctors, bankers or lawyers are so much more talented or smarter or different then anyone else.  Actually, they are just like everyone else.  They just work hard, follow their dreams and never give up.”

What’s makes “9 in 9” such an enjoyable read is Toole’s ability to stay relatable to the reader and true to himself.  He’s a 27 year old guy who likes county music and watching sports center.  He also just so happens to be a professional baseball player.  Toole’s story takes the reader through each inning and each position played of the August 25, 2012 game, while reminding them that in life, and in baseball, it’s not always about the score but the plays that you make to get there.

Maybe following our dreams is as easy as taking a page from Justin Toole’s book

“People ask me what I do in the winter when there’s no baseball.  I’ll tell you what I do.  I stare out the window and wait for spring” ~ Roger Hornsby

It’s been a little over a month since the season ended.  Players have left, the clubhouse is spotless and jerseys have been washed, ironed, and placed in storage.  So what does a Minor League front office do in the off season?  For starters, we don’t just look out the window and wait for spring, we plan for it.

For the next few months it’s going to be planning, meetings, and then meetings about planning.  Meetings often have the connotation of being long and boring.  However, Minor League Baseball is not your typical business. Our job is not only to create revenue and provide a premium atmosphere for baseball’s top prospects, but also to allow our fans to have as much fun as possible.

In an average weekly promotions meeting we may talk about 90’s boy bands, monkeys who ride dogs and herd sheep (check this out!), Dancing with the Stars, and how one employee (who shall remain nameless) has never seen Boy Meets World.  I’ll give one highly coveted front office signed baseball to the first person who can correctly answer who the employee is.

It is in these meetings that the seeds for Zombie Apocalypse Night are planted and the not so great ideas like Tin Foil Appreciation Day are tossed to the wayside.  The challenge is not only to predict what will be popular eight months from now, but also what fans here in the Mahoning Valley will like.  We also take into consideration our brand image, and the reputation of our sponsors.  A good promotions schedule should be creatively mesh both pop culture and the identity of the region while positively enforcing a team and their sponsors’ role in the community.

Often times the best ideas and biggest office arguments happen while spit balling about promotions.   Should we get our very own food truck? Would fans like a Rush themed fireworks show or a Drake Appreciation Night? Should we have a date auction? What does a fox really say?  Should we have a Texas A&M football night or Ohio State football night? Shockingly, I’m always out voted on the last one.

In this last week’s promotions meeting the gauntlet was thrown down over what is the best baseball movie of all time.  Not so surprisingly we all had a different idea of what it should be, so we would like to ask our fans to help settle it once and for all.  You never know, the winning movie may be incorporated into the 2014 promotions schedule!

“All I ever wanted was to be president of the American League” – A. Bartlett Giamatti

After a year hiatus, the Scrappers Scoop is back with a new look, new information, and a new angle.  We all love summers at Eastwood Field, but this time around we’re going to give you a first row ticket to what happens in the off-season and the people who make Scrappers Baseball come to life every June.

As we embark on the 2013-2014 off-season here is your Mahoning Valley Scrappers starting lineup:

General Manager – Jordan Taylor

Assistant General Manager Marketing – Heather Sahli

Assistant General Manager Sales – Matt Thompson (@MattyT_6)

Assistant General Manager Stadium Operations and Concessions – Brad Hooser (@HooserBrad)

Group Sales Manager – Chris Sumner

Box Office and Merchandise Manager – Stephanie Novak (@StephanieNovak)

Accounting Manager – Courtney Perrino (@Court_kneeeP)

My name is Annie Stoltenberg (@astoltenberg) and after two summers of on-field hosting for the Scrappers I’m now a Marketing Intern this fall.  Though I don’t aspire to be president of the American League anytime soon, I have known that I wanted to work in Minor League Baseball since my first baseball concessions job ten years ago.  For me, Minor League Baseball embodies everything America’s Greatest Pastime should be.  It is family oriented, it rewards hard work and resiliency, and it’s full of baseball magic.

Why watch Minor League Baseball many people ask? Well, how many times have you seen an inside the park home run?  I saw undrafted free agent Cody Ferrell hit one here at Eastwood Field this last season.  What about a player hitting for the cycle?  St. Louis Cardinals’ prospect Jimmy Bosco accomplished that very feat on June 26, 2013 in Mahoning Valley.  Even more impressive, it was one day after he hit his first professional home run.  Minor Leagues though sometimes unrefined, are often baseball at its very best.

We often joke that there is no better stage for a reality tv show than a Minor League baseball office.  Though we may not have as much drama as the “Real World”, everyone here has an interesting story.  Every week I’ll post on this blog about my experiences in my first year working in a Minor League front office.  Follow along to learn a little more about us, what life working in baseball is really like, and a lot more about the ins and outs of Scrappers Baseball.

The Mahoning Valley Scrappers start the 2011 season with Fan Fest on Saturday, May 14 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Eastwood Field. This event kicks off individual tickets sales and season ticket package pick-up. Fans are able to enjoy $1 hot dogs, soft drinks, and beer, and take advantage of merchandise specials in the team store. Additionally, the team invites fans to participate in an open batting practice from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. while games, inflatables and face painting will be provided for children’s entertainment.

The Scrappers are also looking for performers. Open auditions for National Anthem singers occur from 10 a.m. until 1 p.m.

This season the Scrappers are reducing the price of general admission tickets to only $5, making Scrappers baseball the most affordable entertainment value in the Mahoning Valley.

For more information, contact the Scrappers front office at (330) 505-0000 or visit mvscrappers.com.

Why purchase Scrappers season tickets? Here are a few reasons:

1. Guaranteed seats to all 38 Scrappers home games.
2. Exclusive gift
3. Benefit coupons
4. Guaranteed giveaways for selected games
5. Access to VIP Gate, which opens 15 minutes earlier than the main gate
6. Pre-season Meet-The-Team party
7. Free Scrappers media guide
8. Season wrap-up party
9. Unused ticket exchange program
10. Recognition in the 2011 souvenir game program
11. Nightly stat sheets and game notes
12. Special group outing discounts
13. Free box seat ticket vouchers
14. Extra VIP events featuring Q&A sessions with special guests

Don’t forget that season tickets are the perfect way to entertain clients/friends/family!

ALL NEW FOR 2011:  If you sign up for a 3-year season ticket package, you will receive a FREE SUITE RENTAL EACH SEASON ($500 added value). The suite rental includes 12 tickets and 3 parking passes. This can be used for any Sunday – Thursday game (one per account).

Full season ticket packages are priced at $304 per seat with payment plans available. Don’t forget about our Early Bird Discounts! These discounts are available if tickets are paid in full by December 31, 2010.

For more information, please call 330-505-000.