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2014 Organization of the Year: Big Top Baseball

Big Top BaseballRunning two baseball teams is enough of a challenge for the best of organizations. So when Big Top Baseball, already successful with ownership of the Madison Mallards and the Wisconsin Rapids Rafters, decided to launch a new Kenosha team and take over operations in Green Bay, many bad things could have happened – but they didn’t. With all four teams successful in 2014, Big Top Baseball is the Organization of the Year in the annual awards from Ballpark Digest.

This year was basically a year when Big Top Baseball doubled its commitments and investments. The group took over the Green Bay Bullfrogs from the Northwoods League and began the process of turning the team around, installing new leadership and increasing attendance and revenues. Launching the Kenosha Kingfish was also a huge challenge, building an organization from scratch while also working with Kenosha on a major renovation of Simmons Field, the long-time home to baseball in the city.

“Most operators would have been happy running the Madison Mallards, the most successful summer-collegiate team on the planet,” said Kevin Reichard, Ballpark Digest publisher. “Adding Kenosha and an outstanding ballpark renovation certainly was not easy, but it paid off, as the Kingfish was a very successful launch at a nicely renovated Simmons Field. Throw in a successful takeover of the Green Bay Bullfrogs, and the Big Top Baseball organization had a great 2014.”

“We are loyal readers of, so this is a special honor for our group,” President Vern Stenman and COO Conor Caloia said. “This is a tribute to Steve Schmitt for giving us the freedom to pursue our passion and to the Big Top Baseball staff, who are the best employees in all of baseball. There is not a more ambitious and fearless group in sports, and we have the good fortune of being able to work with this amazingly talented team on a daily basis. 2014 was a great year and we are looking forward to continued growth and even bigger things in the future.”

The numbers speak for themselves. In the past year, Big Top Baseball drew 364,267 fans to their ballparks in 2014. Madison and Wisconsin Rapids both saw growth this year despite a challenging weather season. Kenosha averaged 2,207 fans per game in a ballpark seating 2,144, finishing with more than 2,000 fans at each of the last 14 games and more than 3,000 fans per game at the last four home games. In Green Bay, Big Top Baseball increased attendance by 31 percent and revenue by 40 percent in just nine months. No other group at the summer-collegiate level operates four franchises nor has enjoyed similar success.

“Doubling an organization in just nine months is a major accomplishment,” Reichard said. “Launching Kenosha alone would have been enough. But for Big Top Baseball to see improvements both in Madison and Wisconsin Rapids while adding Green Bay to the mix is truly noteworthy.”

Each year Ballpark Digest honors noteworthy accomplishments in the baseball world, whether it be Major League Baseball, Minor League Baseball, independent baseball, summer-collegiate baseball or college baseball. Here’s a list of the 2014 awards, both already awarded and to come:

Broadcaster of the Year: Steve Klauke, Salt Lake Bees
Best New Logo / Branding: Akron RubberDucks
Organization of the Year: Big Top Baseball
Nov. 5: Best Promotions (Announced in weekly newsletter)
Nov. 6: Best Marketing
Nov. 7: Best New Food Item, Editor’s Choice
Nov. 10: Best Ballpark Improvement, Executive of the Year
Nov. 11: Best Ballpark Renovation
Nov. 12: Team of the Year, Best New Ballpark (Announced in weekly newsletter)

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