Hi everybody I’m Brian Clapp Director of Content for WorkinSports.com and this is the Work in Sports podcast…
Baseball is getting a bit of a bad rep in our current just add water societal demands. We want results now! We want our action fast and furious – with a ground and pound mentality, a cheetahs speed and a roller coasters intensity.
That is not baseball.
Baseball takes time. Everything about the sport is methodical and strategic.
While a basketball game will be done in about 2 hours and 20 minutes a baseball game… well if the Yankees and Red Sox are playing, it could take up half a work day or longer.
In the early 2000s I worked in Seattle for Fox Sports Northwest, we had the Mariners broadcast deal and the team was winning an insane amount of games. Ratings were off the hook, everyone, sports fans and commoners alike watched every moment breathlessly, and loved the players – Jay Buhner, Ichiro, Bret Boone, Kaz Sazaki – these were local, national and international superheroes.
But something has changed over the last 18 years, maybe it’s just our temperament, maybe the social second screen live sports phenomenon just meshes better with other experiences or maybe it something entirely different. I don’t have that answer.
What I can tell you is, when you drive by a baseball field, whether it’s an American legion game, or a minor league park you feel something pure. A special energy. A connection to history, of young men and women putting on stirrup socks for the first time. Of the smell of leather and breaking in a glove, of grass and green and spring and the sound of bat meets ball.
All the while, as major league baseball teams struggle with a perception of being old, slow and boring – minor league baseball has thrived.
Class AA teams that 30 years ago were worth $500,000 are now worth $16 million to $25 million in some markets.
Some Class AAA teams are valued at more than $30 million.
According to Forbes, minor league baseball’s 20 most valuable teams are worth an average of $37.5 million, up 35% from 2013. The Class AAA Sacramento River Cats are the most valuable ($49 million). The El Paso Chihuahuas, who also play in the Pacific Coast League, are valued at $38.7 million. The Charlotte Knights of the Class AAA International League, who, like El Paso, moved to a new ballpark in 2014, have an estimated value of $47.5 million.
This is what growth look like.
Because minor league games are affordable, family friendly, wildly entertaining and community oriented. And they’ve really figured out this branding thing – teams are changing their names to more unique and marketable concepts and selling out merchandise and apparel like hotcakes.
Minor league baseball is where inventions are happening. They’re speeding the pace of play, coming up with new ways to entertain, focusing on the fans and changing the perception of what a day at the game costs. It’s not longer half a mortgage payment to take a family of five to the old ballpark.
You know what else is great about the minors – career opportunities. Which is why I brought Bob Moullette, Assistant General Manager of the New Orleans Baby Cakes on the show to discuss what life is like in minor league baseball –
1: In 2013 you joined the Modesto Nuts, Class A affiliate of the Seattle Mariners, as a Sales and Marketing trainee – why did you pick minor league baseball as your direction in sports?
2: I tell people all the time sales programs with a team are a great way to get your feet wet in the sports industry and if you thrive, your career opportunities open up. For you personally, after just 7 months in the sales and marketing program you were promoted to Director of Brand Management for the Nuts, how did that experience working in sales/marketing help you take that next step to brand management?
3: Brand Management is one of those industry buzzwords in a way – it sounds so vague – but, the role encompasses so much. Tell us a little about the scope of your responsibilities in brand management.
4: That’s the thing about minor league sports – you wear many hats and fill many roles. Did you find this challenge of managing so many aspects of the team to be a welcome challenge?
Do you consider yourself someone who enjoys this level of pressure and expectation?
5: Big move after almost 4 years with the Nuts – you make the move to Triple A going to the then New Orleans Zephyrs as their Merchandise Manager – and boom! The organization starts the process of changing team names to the baby cakes. From your perspective as merchandising manager how complex was this rebranding?
5a: What about public sentiment – Social media is akin to digital beer muscles, people say mean things without pause, awareness or consequence – has the community embraced the new name and the mascot or have you had some push back and how do you deal with that?
6: Just 4 and a half years after starting as a sales and marketing trainee in single A ball, you are named Assistant General Manager of a triple A team – looking back, and don’t be humble, we want honesty, what do you attribute this rise to?
7: We have this private facebook group of fans of this podcast, and before every interview I ask that group for questions they want to ask our guest and then pick out a few of the best.
So this question comes from Brett Shanker -- In minor league baseball, fun and crazy promotions/giveaways are basically becoming the norm. How do you leverage those games that draw a higher attendance to get fans to come back to games that don't have an exciting promotion/giveaway?
8: This one comes from Alina Menukhin, In our era of constant use of mobile phones and electronic devices how do you come up with new and innovative ways to keep attracting fans to the games?
9: Back to me -- In a large city like New Orleans with the Saints and Pelicans and shall we say other ways to spend your entertainment dollar how do you carve out, and better still grow, an audience and compete for ticket dollars and merchandise sales?
10: In the pro’s it seems they focus almost entirely on the athletes and the on field product, but in the minors the approach seems more geared towards the fan experience at the park – how are you able to come up with creative experiences for the fans over a long season?
If you can’t get inspired by that… I don’t know what’s up with you! I have so many people email me and say, I’m in a career I don’t like and I don’t want to do for the next 50 years…how do I get into sports?
Well, Bob just gave you the blueprint. He took a step back from being a store manager at an Abercrombie and Fitch to become a sales and marketing trainee for a single A baseball team. Sure he probably took a hit financially for 7 months, but then he became a director, then a merchandise manager in AAA then Assistant general Manager – and the guy sure sounds happy!
So here’s your action plan – stop waiting for tomorrow, go do something to solve the problem you are facing today.
That it for this episode – I had a lot of fun with this one and I hope you enjoyed it!