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Tampa Bay Rays’ profitable methods add to RiverDogs advertising and marketing

A fast swap of navy blue and gold clothes tells the story of unprecedented glory. One beaming Charleston RiverDogs fan who confirmed up at Riley Park in his 2021 championship T-shirt was fast to cowl it up with a free 2022 Carolina League playoff shirt handed out on the entrance gate.

Say it’s so at The Joe: Charleston, after 99 years and not using a league championship from 1922 to 2021, is out of the blue minor league baseball royalty.

“It is super for the RiverDogs,” workforce co-owner Jeff Goldklang mentioned whereas standing amid the nice and cozy playoff thrill at Riley Park. “It is super for town of Charleston.”

The franchise previously well-known for signature concession stand fare, ballpark appearances by Director of Enjoyable Invoice Murray and promotions akin to No one Evening (no followers allowed till the fifth inning) and Go Again To Ohio Evening (free one-way ticket to Cleveland) are revered by their rivals as …

Properly, sure, consider it or not.

to powerhouse.

Charleston has had a minor league baseball workforce most years since 1886, and the low-level Class A spread steadily since 1980. However these groups hadn’t gained a playoff collection in back-to-back seasons till Sept. fifteen.

That is when the RiverDogs accomplished a two-game sweep of Myrtle Seaside to earn a spot within the best-of-three Carolina League Championship Sequence in opposition to the Lynchburg Hillcats, which began Sept. 18 and continues Sept. twenty.

RiverDogs administration is shedding the long-held, industry-wide perception that profitable does not matter in minor league baseball, that advertising and marketing at this stage is nearly solely concerning the ballpark expertise.

On-field success, it seems, sells.

Apprehensive about attendance after COVID-19 led to cancellation of the 2020 minor league season and influenced 2021 restrictions, the RiverDogs had been happy to complete second within the 12-team league in 2021 house attendance (208,641) behind the Augusta GreenJackets (211,561), an Atlanta Braves farm membership.

This yr, regular-season house attendance was as much as 251,491. That’s nonetheless effectively under the pre-pandemic whole of 301,320 in 2019, however third within the Carolina League behind Augusta (262,172) and Fredericksburg (260,546).

Or, the place would the RiverDogs be with out the current profitable groups?

“Good, high quality, steady profitable baseball is actually useful,” Goldklang mentioned. “It is helped us from our season ticket gross sales standpoint, it is helped us with sponsors. It is nice to know the product on the sector goes to be spectacular after we’re on the market advertising and marketing earlier than the season, and even through the season.”

Bill Murray and a RiverDogs' Game 1 playoff win;  on to Myrtle Beach

Rays are ‘one step forward’

Charleston groups have had some catchy nicknames over the many years. Seagulls, Palmettos, Buddies, Rebels, Pirates and Rainbows, amongst others.

Budding stars akin to Corridor of Famers Kiki Cuyler and Roberto Alomar, plus David Cone, Willie Randolph, Josh Hamilton and Aaron Decide have performed in Charleston.

Then got here this two-year run of Tampa Bay Rays prospects, together with 60 totally different gamers on the always altering 2022 roster. The supervisor is 30-year-old Blake Butera, in his second season with the RiverDogs.

“It’s a credit score to the gamers and workers who’re placing within the work day in and time out to push one another and keep one step forward of the competitors,” mentioned Jeff McLerran, the Rays’ Director of Minor League Operations.

The Goldklang possession group is led by Jeff’s father Marvin Goldklang, who purchased the Charleston franchise in 1989. That was simply earlier than Hurricane Hugo smashed up School Park, the workforce’s former house. The house owners after the 2019 season made the tough however astute choice to modify RiverDogs affiliations from the New York Yankees to the Rays.

The Yankees are probably the most fashionable groups in sports activities, and Marvin Goldklang has lengthy had a minority curiosity within the main league membership. The Yankees from 2005 to 2020 offered Charleston with principally good groups and a few high-profile prospects.

However the Rays acquired to be baseball’s most overachieving small-market workforce with progressive scouting, participant growth and analytics technique on show every day all through one of many most-respected farm methods.

Not coincidentally, Tampa Bay’s minor league groups win quite a bit.

“I do suppose they put an emphasis on profitable as a constructive element of growth,” mentioned JJ Cooper, govt editor of Baseball America. “They wish to win, and so they have been very profitable at stressing profitable.”

25 Riley Park seasons: Nobody Night, Citadel glory, Bill Murray, A-Rod and food

Invoice Murray, Taco Pie

Honolulu’s Shane Sasaki is searching for poke bowl eating places and stealing bases (47 through the common season), however the left fielder has big-league potential.

So does 19-year-old, slick-fielding shortstop Carson Williams. The San Diego native was Tampa Bay’s first-round draft decide in 2021.

Dominican Republic natives Junior Caminero and Willy Vasquez have been sizzling postseason hitters.

In the meantime, the RiverDogs’ “Enjoyable is Good” mantra created by former co-owner Mike Veeck lives on inside a broadly admired enterprise mannequin.

The ballpark meals remains to be unusually numerous, from seafood burgers and taco pie to Mexican road po’ boys.

That’s due to vp of meals and beverage Josh Shea, who is sort of keen to share his menu with profitable baseball.

“Completely, surely, it enhances each the meals scene and in-game promotions,” Shea mentioned. “We couldn’t be extra thrilled with how the workforce is at the moment doing and can’t wait to get began on subsequent yr’s loopy enjoyable meals concepts.”

The immensely fashionable Murray has been a playoff plus.

He does not simply crash Charleston wedding ceremony picture shoots or shock prospects in Starbucks traces in Mount Nice. He gave the 2021 RiverDogs (and followers) a championship collection pep discuss on the Riley Park video board from a bull ring in Spain.

Murray threw out the primary pitch earlier than the Sept. 13 playoff opener in opposition to Myrtle Seaside.

Simply as some RiverDogs followers had been changing their year-old playoff T-shirts with new ones.

Observe Gene Sapakoff on Twitter @sapakoff

Profitable RiverDogs

1922: Charleston Buddies win South Atlantic League championship

1923-2020: No minor league titles for Charleston groups

2021: Charleston RiverDogs, a Tampa Bay Rays’ affiliate, win Low-A East Championship Sequence

2022: RiverDogs, with a brand new forged of gamers, make best-of-three Carolina League Championship Sequence (Sport 1 on Sept. 18 vs. Lynchburg; Sport 2 on Sept. 20 at Lynchburg; Sport 3, if obligatory, Sept. 21 at Lynchburg)


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