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2015 Executive of the Year: Eric Edelstein

EE_headshot_RenoTurnarounds are challenging for established Minor League Baseball teams, but the change in fortunes for the Pacific Coast League’s Reno Aces earns President Eric Edelstein Ballpark Digest’s Executive of the Year Award for 2015.

“There is a tremendous talent pool in professional baseball these days, but the revitalization of the Reno Aces, as well as a great plan to utilize Aces Ballpark on other open dates, makes Eric our choice for our Executive of the Year,” said Ballpark Digest Publisher Kevin Reichard. “He’s positioned the team and the ballpark well for the future.”

“It’s an honor to receive an award that goes across our entire Industry of leaders,” Edelstein said. “I see this as an organizational award as no one person creates success. This award is a tribute to everyone who has worked so hard in our office and community.”

Edelstein joined the Aces front office in May 2013 after establishing the Northwest Arkansas Naturals (Class AA; Texas League) in 2008 upon the team’s move from Wichita. The Aces operation was in need of a makeover: team attendance had been on the decline since an inaugural 2009 season.

Since Edelstein’s arrival in Reno, the team experienced an attendance rise in 2014 and followed that up with several financial successes during the 2015 season, boosting group sales, corporate sponsorships and per caps. Some of the changes involved changing the team’s culture: Upon arriving in Reno, his first plan of action was to require 50 phone calls a day from his sales staff, which has grown from just a director and four full-time employees to a 10-person operation. The calls—directed at a variety of prospective clients, including non-renewals (past season ticket holders) and groups—were part of the engagement strategy designed to raise the team’s profile in Reno. He personally adopted the same strategy: Edelstein is an active social-media user, giving fans plenty of access to the face of the team in the community. (For more, check out of profile from earlier in 2015.)

Edelstein also launched two successful initiatives designed to bring fans to Aces Ballpark in the offseason, including Reno’s only downtown ice rink and Reno’s largest haunted house. Still to come: Aces Ballpark will host an expansion United Soccer League team beginning in 2017.

“There’s no such thing as an overnight success in pro baseball – the Aces’ success this season is the direct result of the hard work and systems initiated upon Edelstein’s arrival in Reno in 2013,” Reichard added. “Fans will have plenty to look forward to in coming years.”

There were a number of worthy nominees for this award in 2015. As noted, there are many talented people working in professional baseball front offices, and the sport has never been in better hands. Worthy of recognition:

  • Mike Nutter, president, Fort Wayne TinCaps. If anyone wants to see the very definition of a well-oiled ballpark machine, spend some time at Parkview Field with Mike. The team was an immediate success, but each year sees something new and great at the ballpark.
  • Derek Sharrer, Executive VP/GM, St. Paul Saints. To say that the Saints overhauled their game operations in 2015 upon the opening of CHS Field is an understatement: dealing with the challenges of creaky Midway Stadium was totally different than responding to increased fan and sponsor expectations at a shiny, new ballpark. But the spirit that made the Saints a Twin Cities institution carried through to Lowertown, and the Saints blew past attendance projections in a record-setting season. He was a prime reason why Saints owner Goldklang Group was named our Organization of the Year.
  • We’ve honored Martie Cordaro before, but the president/GM of the Omaha Storm Chasers (Class AAA; Pacific Coast League) outdid himself this year. The team enjoyed another successful campaign, highlighted by a well-staged Triple-A All-Star Game.
  • And, finally, we’d like to acknowledge Keith Lupton in this discussion. Lupton touched the lives of many in the baseball industry, both in MiLB and the independent Atlantic League. He was honored this year by multiple teams.

Promotion of the Year: Ambush Baseball, Brooklyn Cyclones
Organization of the Year: Goldklang Group
Best Major Ballpark Renovation: CenturyLink Sports Complex/Hammond Stadium
Best Ballpark Renovation (Over $6M, Under $20M): AutoZone Park
Best Ballpark Renovation (Under $6M): Dr Pepper Ballpark
Best New Food Item: Sweenie Donut Dog
Broadcaster of the Year: Josh Whetzel

Best New Logos/Branding: Daytona Tortugas
Best New Ballpark: CHS Field, home of the St. Paul Saints

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