A group that includes Minor League Baseball veteran and former Mandalay Baseball Properties CEO Art Matin, as well as local investors Bob Tamashunas and Bill Luby, has acquired an operating interest in the Lakewood BlueClaws (Low A; Sally League).
This isn’t the first run at MiLB for any of the three. As noted, Matin was previously the CEO of Mandalay Baseball Properties, which owned and operated nine separate franchises, including the Dayton Dragons, Oklahoma City RedHawks, Frisco RoughRiders, and Scranton Wilkes-Barre RailRiders. He also served as chairman of MiLB’s Baseball Internet Rights Company (BIRCO) from 2010-2014.
With Mandalay, Matin had worked with Luby and Tamashunas. The pair are partners at Seaport Capital, a private equity firm that invested in Minor League Baseball through its majority ownership of Mandalay Baseball Properties. Shore Town Baseball — the investment vehicle created for BlueClaws ownership — is a reference to Lakewood.
For the trio, the chance to operate a team with the BlueClaws reputation close to home — Tamashunas lives 30 minutes away, Matin in Brooklyn — was irresistible. Though Matin and previous Mandalay investors had been approached by owners and brokers since the sale of the last Mandalay team — the Erie SeaWolves — none had much appeal until Lakewood hit the market, according to Matin.
“I just love the business and being out for two years, I miss it terribly,” Matin says. “It was something that when the opportunity arose, we wanted to get back in.”
“Foundationally, we love baseball and the business of baseball as well,” Tamashunas added. “We had the chance to invest in a small business in our backyard. And I’m a big Phillies fan. When the opportunity arose, we said, hey, this is something we want to do personally, and from a business perspective, we felt we could do well.”
The appeal of Lakewood: The BlueClaws are an established brand and Lakewood is a large market. “I’ve really come to appreciate how important the market is,” Matin says. “With Lakewood, it’s more than just Ocean County and Monmouth County. We saw that the BlueClaws have a great tradition and are very well known. Long term, the Phillies as an affiliate partner is a huge factor.
“Those were really the main elements,” Matin added. “Being local is an added benefit and an important benefit.”
The operating interest was purchased from American Baseball Ventures, featuring MiLB veterans Joe Finley and Craig Stein. Terms of the purchase were not disclosed.
“Our nearly two decades with the BlueClaws were gratifying and enjoyable in every way,” Finley said in a press statement. “I’ve known Art Matin for a decade, and with the new ownership group and the talented team of people on the staff, the BlueClaws are in very capable hands. We wish the team, fans, and sponsors nothing but the best.”
The BlueClaws, a Philadelphia Phillies affiliate since their inception in 2001, will remain affiliated with the Phillies through the 2020 season, at the least.
“We are thrilled to welcome Art, Bob, Bill and Shore Town Baseball to the Phillies family,: said Phillies President Andy MacPhail in a press statement. “Their passion for the game is outstanding, and we know they will do a great job leading the BlueClaws and supporting the Phillies, our young players, and coaches. I’d also like to thank Joe Finley and the rest of the outgoing ownership group for 17 great years together in Lakewood. We would also like to express our appreciation to all the fans who have supported the team over the years.”
Though the trio’s background is a firm owning the maximum number of MiLB possible at its peak, they’re not seeing to re-create the Mandalay experience.
“We tipped our hand in naming the company Shore Town Baseball,” Tamashunas says. “We are clearly investing in Lakewood.”
“This is a personal investment among close friends — we’re not trying to recreate a multiteam portfolio,” Matin added. “We’ll take what the team already is and put our thumbprint on it.”
The purchase is final: it’s already been approved by the Sally League and MiLB and reviewed by MLB. Next up for new ownership: running the team during the remainder of the season to closely assess operations and hiring a new general manager.
“Closing now gives us a month of the season to learn from our upcoming homestands,” Matin says. “We’re going to work with the new GM and the existing leadership staff to formulate plans going forward. And, of course, we do expect to make an investment in the ballpark.”