The makeover of the Lakewood BlueClaws (Low A; Sally League) continues. Just weeks after announcing a change in ownership, the BlueClaws have appointed a new president and general manager, naming experienced executive Joe Ricciutti to the post.
Though it has been several years since his last run in Minor League Baseball concluded, Ricciutti has plenty of experience. From 2007-2011, he was the president of the Staten Island Yankees (Short Season A; NY-Penn League), where he was widely recognized with his work and was named Executive of the Year by Ballpark Digest in 2008.
Prior to receiving his new job in Lakewood, Ricciutti had been serving as Columbia University’s assistant vice president, university event management. He says that even in his years away from the game, he kept a return to baseball in mind. “I spent years in Minor League Baseball, and I love the business,” Ricciutti said in an interview on Monday. “When I left the Staten Island Yankees back in 2011, I knew at some point I would want to get back into Minor League Baseball because I loved the business of it and love to provide a family-friendly entertainment experience.”
Ricciutti’s appointment comes in the weeks following another major announcement from the BlueClaws, one in which it was revealed that Shore Town Baseball—the entity that includes former Mandalay Baseball Properties CEO Art Matin, as well as local investors Bob Tamashunas and Bill Luby—had acquired an operating interest in the team. That shift stood out to Ricciutti, who describes the organization as having the “right owners, right team, and right location.”
“It was a major factor,” he said of how the ownership change affected his decision to join the BlueClaws. “For me to leave an organization like Columbia University, it had to be an extraordinary set of circumstances. That set of circumstances begins with the people who will be at the top of the organization.”
The principles behind the ownership group, Ricciutti added, had certain characteristics that appeal to him. “In my mind, there’s no ownership group that I would want to work for more than those guys. They’re a passionate group, they know the game, they love the game, and they know how to reach the fans.”
“We are thrilled to be able to lure Joe back to baseball and to have him lead the BlueClaws,” Matin said in a press statement. “Joe did a great job in overseeing the Staten Island Yankees for Mandalay Baseball. We saw a remarkable increase in attendance, sponsorship, and fan satisfaction over those five seasons. We expect that his extensive experience at Columbia University and the Staten Island Yankees in leading event operations, managing food and beverage services, interacting with sponsors, and in helping create positive fan experiences will be an asset for the BlueClaws community.”
The appointment is taking effect as the BlueClaws play out the final weeks of the 2017 season, but Ricciutti will be a visible presence at FirstEnergy Park over the coming weeks. As he describes it, his initial time with the team is going to spent in something of an observation mode. “It’s coming in an observation mode,” he said of the position. “Being out on the concourse, seeing the operation and how things move around the ballpark and what that fan experience is like. There’s not much one coming in the door today can do to affect this season, other than to talk and listen.”
Feedback from fans and sponsors is something that will likely help to shape how the BlueClaws plan their operations over the offseason. “It’s largely what are we hearing from fans,” Ricciutti said. What do they say about our ticket packages, or our group packages? Once you get that information, you’re able to make changes and fine tune as needed.”
Now in the role of president and general manager, Ricciutti will look to lead the BlueClaws. Processing feedback from fans and corporate partners will be a major part in what Ricciutti and the BlueClaws do going forward, with the goal being to provide a family-friendly entertainment experience—something that Ricciutti says fuels his desire to be back in baseball. “That’s something that has always resonated with me, because I’m very much a family person. The opportunity to do that and give someone a reprieve from their day is something that has always resonated with me.”
Image courtesy Lakewood BlueClaws.
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