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Front-office changes in Visalia, Mobile, Sugar Land

Jennifer Pendergraft

We have a slew of hirings to announce in the baseball world, including new general managers in Visalia and Mobile and new staffers in Sugar Land.

Heath Bennett is the new GM of the Mobile BayBears (Class AA; Southern League), coming to the team from a stint as Director of Sales and then Senior Director of Sales and Service for the NBA’s Los Angeles Clippers. He leaves the Clippers with an active sellout streak dating back to the 2010-11 season that stands at 45 consecutive sellouts at Staples Center.

“Heath is an outstanding, experienced executive with a strong sales background and we are excited to welcome him to the BayBears family,” said HWS Baseball and BayBears President/COO Bill Shanahan. “A special thanks to HWS Baseball Vice-President, Mike Gorrasi for securing such a quality and exceptional individual to run the day to day operations of this tradition rich franchise. 

“With Heath accepting the GM position, the BayBears organization have taken a huge leap forward in building a strong foundation for 2013 and many years to come.”

Prior to his time with the Clippers, Bennett worked for Comcast-Spectacor as Director of Sales for the American Hockey League’s Philadelphia Phantoms and Director of Group Sales for the HWS owned Modesto Nuts. Heath has also spent time in the sales department of the Philadelphia Eagles.

Jennifer Pendergraft (shown above) is the new general manager of the Visalia Rawhide (High Class A; California League), promoted from within by President Tom Seidler.

“Jennifer has been an outstanding leader for the Rawhide, and also in the greater Visalia Community,” Seidler said. “Each year with the Rawhide, she has earned additional responsibilities and excelled in managing her expanding role. She has already handled most of the responsibilities of a GM. I am confident she and the rest of the staff will lead the Rawhide to continued growth in attendance, expansion in community outreach, and making Rawhide Ballpark more and more of a community gathering place.”

“I’m excited to take on this new responsibility,” Pendergraft said. “I’ve enjoyed the challenge of helping build up the organization over the past six years. With our fantastic staff, I look forward to continuing to improve the ballclub and further strengthen our connection with the community.”

“Jennifer is certainly very well-qualified and deserving of this promotion,” California League President Charlie Blaney said. “The California League welcomes her as the new General Manager of the Visalia Rawhide.”

“We are extremely happy and proud of our relationship with the Visalia Rawhide and the Visalia community,” Arizona D-backs Director of Player Development Mike Bell said. “To have Jennifer named the GM of the Rawhide reassures us that this relationship will continue and will surely grow stronger.”

The Sugar Land Skeeters (independent; Atlantic League) announced several recent additions to their front office staff in the areas of marketing and communications, special events, event marketing and premium sales. The announcement was made by Skeeters President Matt O’Brien.

MJ Trahan has been named the club’s new marketing communications director. In her new role with Sugar Land, Trahan will oversee all media and marketing communications for the Skeeters. She will serve as the main liaison between the organization, Opening Day Partners and the media, while actively maintaining the club’s social media and marketing initiatives. Previously, Trahan served as the media relations coordinator with the Houston Astros for four seasons (2009-12).

Charlie Norton, also a former member of the Houston Astros, joined the Skeeters in July as the club’s special events director. Norton serves as the main contact for all non-baseball events at Constellation Field, including the upcoming Inaugural Rock-N-Roll Weekend featuring REO Speedwagon and ZZ Top, October 19-20. Norton has worked in professional baseball since 1999.

Paul Wallace, an 11-year veteran in professional sports, also joins Sugar Land as the director of premium services. He currently oversees ticket sales and services and customer service while working to improve the overall fan experience at Constellation Field. Wallace previously spent 10 years working in premium seating and customer service with the Tampa Bay Lightning of the National Hockey League.

Stefanie Nelson, a Sugar Land native and active member of the community, was named the Skeeters’ new event marketing manager last month. Nelson now represents the organization as a contact for season tickets, group tickets, sponsorship and customer service.

Adam Mettler also joined the Skeeters in August, now serving as the club’s customer service coordinator. Mettler comes to Sugar Land from Mobile, Alabama, where he worked as the box office manager for the Mobile BayBears Minor League Baseball Team for two seasons. In his current position with Sugar Land, the Indiana native assists Skeeters season ticket holders with renewal plans and game-by-game customer service.

“Adding these individuals to our staff is going to make a huge difference for the Skeeters,” said O’Brien. “Due to the success of the team and the demand for other non-baseball events at Constellation Field, we are acquiring people with valuable, professional sports experience and placing them in these key roles.”

Image courtesy of the Visalia Rawhide.


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