Across Minor League Baseball, many ownership groups bring a level of quality to their operations year in and year out. Main Street Baseball has always been among the standout organizations, but took it to another level in 2016, earning our 2016 Organization of the Year Award.
“What a wonderful honor,” said Dave Heller, one of Main Street Baseball’s owners. “I’m thrilled, and very happy to accept on behalf of all of the people who have helped our four franchises be as successful as they are in Minor League Baseball.”
Heller currently oversees four teams as part of Main Street Baseball: The Quad Cities River Bandits (Low A; Midwest League), the Billings Mustangs (Rookie; Pioneer League), the Wilmington Blue Rocks (High A; Carolina League), and the Lowell Spinners (Short Season-A; NY-Penn League). Lowell is the most recent addition to the group, as Main Street Baseball closed on its purchase of the franchise within days of the team’s opener.
Each year Ballpark Digest awards the best and the brightest in Minor League Baseball. The award for Organization of the Year is the most prestigious of all: creating a successful franchise is one thing, but creating multiple successful franchises is a much harder task to achieve. And when you look at the four teams under the Main Street Baseball umbrella, it’s clear there’s a high commitment to elevating the fan experience.
“One of the things that we have tried to do is put together a group of clubs that are among the very best in each league that we are in,” said Heller. “When you look at the New York-Penn League, that conversation always includes Lowell. To have the opportunity to get a team like Lowell and a market like Lowell, that opportunity doesn’t come along very often.”
With an approach resembling what it has done at other ballparks, most notably Quad Cities’ Modern Woodmen Park (shown above), Main Street Baseball has already added amusements to Lowell’s LeLacheur Park and is discussing a new zipline and kids area at Billing’s Dehler Park.
“Every minor league team has its own focus, its own points of emphasis, and its own way of doing things,” said Heller. “With Main Street Baseball, we try to focus on families with young children and make the experience more than just baseball.”
In 2016, the Spinners proved to be a worthy addition to Main Street Baseball, while the Blue Rocks, River Bandits, and Mustangs are sustaining their success. “Our organization is only as good as the people that make up the organization,” said Heller. “We are so fortunate in our four teams to have four of the best GMs in Minor League Baseball—Andrew Chesser (Quad Cities), Chris Kemple (Wilmington), Gary Roller (Billings), and Shawn Smith (Lowell)—as well as talented group of assistant general managers and directors. This award is more about them than it is about me or the organization as a whole.”
Going forward, Heller says that he and Main Street Baseball will continue to focus on and expand upon its goal of providing family-oriented entertainment. “It’s incredibly gratifying. I’ve stood there at the base of the Ferris wheel [in Quad Cities], and I’ve seen four generations of families getting off that wheel together. Whether it’s a 90-year-old grandparent, a two-year-old child, or everybody in between, they come off the wheel with the same smiles.
“You can just see in their faces that they’re having such a great time. To give families that experience at the ballpark is just special.”
Image courtesy Quad Cities River Bandits.
This is the second year for the Ballpark Digest Organization of the Year award. Last year’s winner: The Goldklang Group.
Previous 2016 Award Winners:
Editor’s Choice: Fort Bragg Field
Team of the Year: Birmingham Barons
Executive of the Year: Chris Allen, Tennessee Smokies
Charity Award: Omaha Storm Chasers
Promotion of the Year: My Big Fat Fresno Wedding Show
Best New Logo/Branding: Columbia Fireflies
Best Ballpark Renovation (Over $10 Million): The Outfield Apartments
Best Ballpark Improvement (Over $1 Million): The Choctaw Lazy River
Best Ballpark Improvement (Under $1 Million): The Perch
Broadcaster of the Year: Sean Aronson, St. Paul Saints
Ballpark of the Year: Spirit Communications Park