We have a name, logo and front office for the newest team in the summer-collegiate Coastal Plain League: the Holly Springs Salamanders, which begins play in 2015.
“We had great support from the community and gathered a lot of interesting and unique suggestions for what we should call the team,” said Salamanders President Pete Bock. “We went through each of them and put the ones we liked up on the board. Salamanders kept jumping out to us because of the variety of things you can do with it as your nickname. We also did some research on salamanders, and even talked with some town officials who informed us of a salamander preservation area here in Holly Springs; so we quickly realized it was a perfect fit.”
Bock, who founded the CPL along with Chairman and CEO Jerry Petitt in 1997, will serve as the Salamanders President. He and Petitt will co-own the franchise. Petitt is a well-known and successful hotel industry figure. He setup Creative Hotel Associates, which currently owns and manages over 19 properties across the U.S. Meanwhile, Bock is no stranger to baseball in the Triangle area, having help start up the Durham Bulls with Miles Wolff in 1980. Bock has spent most of his adult life working in baseball, having operated Minor League teams including the Bulls, Hawaii Islanders, Eugene Emeralds and Idaho Falls Braves. He also served as the President and General Manager of the Raleigh IceCaps of the East Coast Hockey League.
“We’re excited to be bringing Coastal Plain League baseball to Holly Springs and the surrounding communities,” said Petitt. “After having our league office located in Raleigh and then Holly Springs for 18 years, we are happy to have a team and beautiful facility that the area can be proud of.”
The rest of Salamanders front office will consist of General Manager Tommy Atkinson, Assistant GM Kevin Whitehead and Director of Promotions and Entertainment Auston Moore. Including Bock, the Salamanders front office will boast over 75 years of combined experience in baseball.
“We feel we have put together a very talented and knowledgeable front office staff for the Salamanders,” said Bock. “Each has their own unique attributes, but the great thing is they have all worked in and around baseball for numerous years. They will all be active members of the community, and look forward to making this franchise a way of life for all of our fans.”
Atkinson joins the Holly Springs staff after most recently working as a sales representative for BSN Sports and as an associate scout for the Atlanta Braves. He also brings coaching experience from his time working as the assistant and eventual head coach at Louisburg College, and as an assistant coach under Billy Godwin at East Carolina. Like much of the Salamanders staff, he is familiar with the Coastal Plain League after coaching the Fayetteville SwampDogs in 2003, a team that included Major Leaguer Mark Reynolds.
“I am thankful to Pete Bock for giving me the opportunity to be the general manager of the Holly Springs Salamanders,” said Atkinson. “Starting a franchise from the beginning is really exciting. I really enjoy living in a great baseball town like Holly Springs, and I am looking forward to our franchise becoming a staple for our community.”
Meanwhile, Whitehead comes over from Edenton, N.C., where he served as the Steamers’ GM for the 2014 season. During his time with the team, the Steamers saw a rise in season ticket sales and overall revenue by over 25 percent. Whitehead is originally from Tacoma, Wash., and attended Texas Tech University where he played baseball for the Red Raiders from 2009-2012. While in college he also played in the Coastal Plain League for the 2011 Edenton Steamers that finished with an overall record of 49-14 and made it to the Petitt Cup Championship Series.
“I really enjoy being around summer baseball,” said Whitehead. “It’s a very pure form of the game and the community involvement you find in summer ball is hard to find elsewhere; which is what excites me about bringing the game to Holly Springs.”
Moore, the final member of the Salamanders front office, graduated from Oklahoma State University in 2008 with a degree in Business Management. She then joined the Durham Bulls on-field promotions’ staff in 2010, while also working for the N.C. State Athletics Department as a marketing assistant. In all, she spent the past five seasons with the Bulls.
“I am really excited to continue working in baseball with the Salamanders,” said Moore. “I think it’s a great opportunity to bring a sports franchise to a community and area like this that really has a passion for baseball.”
On the field, the Salamanders will be coached by a familiar face for many in the area, as former North Carolina State product Andrew Ciencin will lead the team in its inaugural season. Like Whitehead, Ciencin also played in the CPL during college, spending time with the Forest City Owls in 2009 and 2010. As a member of the Owls, he helped lead them to two Petitt Cup Championships and a national title in 2009 as presented by Perfect Game. After working as an undergraduate assistant for N.C. State following his playing career, Ciencin spent the 2013 summer as an assistant coach for the Morehead City Marlins of the CPL and then returned a year later to the league as the head coach of Forest City. The 2014 Owls went 31-27 overall and qualified for a berth in the Petitt Cup Playoffs.
“I first want to thank Pete Bock and Tommy Atkinson for giving me the opportunity to be the head coach,” said Ciencin. “I am extremely happy to accept the position and be able to be the first coach at what I think will be one of the best places to play collegiate summer baseball in the country. We are already hard at work on recruiting a roster our fans will be proud of. I am excited for this summer, and I am excited for what this team will bring to Holly Springs.”
The new Salamanders identity was developed by Skye Design Studios, a brand identity and design firm located in the greater New York City area. Skye Design Studios has also been responsible for designing the 2014 and 2015 CPL All-Star Game logos, as well as a new CPL Petitt Cup Playoffs brand identity back in August. The logo features a large gold salamander with blue markings leaning atop the team’s nickname “Salamanders” and a banner that features “Holly Springs”. There is also a baseball in the backdrop to tie the design in nicely. The team’s colors are Vegas Gold (Pantone 4515) and Steel Blue (Pantone 285).
“We really wanted to create a classic baseball mark that, while timeless in style, allowed for some fun brand extensions,” said Skye Dillon, owner of Skye Design Studios. “For example, balancing a refined salamander character with expressive, custom lettering gave us a broad creative range to work with when developing other brand touchpoints such as uniforms, secondary marks, and fan apparel.”
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