The Appalachian League has named its award winners for the 2017 season, including five that garner nominations for Minor League Baseball’s annual honors.
Executive of the Year – Blair Hoke, Pulaski Yankees
Pulaski Yankees General Manager Blair Hoke has been named the 2017 Appalachian League Executive of the Year after continuing to transform the baseball industry in Pulaski. The Executive of the Year Award is presented to the executive who, in the estimate of his/her peers, has made the most valuable contribution to his/her club and/or league. Under Hoke’s leadership, the Yankees conducted substantial stadium renovations for the second consecutive year, while also invigorating the Pulaski community to embrace the team, efforts that culminated in a league-best attendance of 77,880. Hoke and the Yankees are active in the Pulaski community, in terms of both community service efforts, as well as community-themed nights at the ballpark. Hoke is also a member of the Appalachian League Executive Committee and collaborates with other executives in the league to help the League grow, as well as assisting new executives beginning their tenures in the League. Hoke is in her third season with the Yankees and second as General Manager.
Woman of Excellence Award – Betsy Haugh, Danville Braves
Betsy Haugh has been named the recipient of the 2017 Appalachian League Woman of Excellence Award presented to a female who has made an outstanding contribution to her club, league, and/or baseball. In her first season as a full-time member of the Danville Braves front office staff, Haugh was responsible for the Braves’ media and community relations, as well as working in sales and handling retail operations. Haugh’s efforts in Danville have been instrumental in the Braves’ maintaining one of the most active social media accounts in the league. In addition to her work in Danville, Haugh also serves as the Appalachian League’s publicist by writing press releases, controlling the league’s social media and website, and updating the league media guide. Her efforts and communication internally among the teams in the league and externally to media outlets have helped make the league’s media efforts very well rounded. As the 2017 recipient of the Appalachian League Woman of Excellence Award, Haugh will be nominated for the Rawlings’ Woman Executive of the Year award in MiLB.
Outstanding Employee of the Year Award – Betsy Haugh, Danville Braves
In addition to receiving the Woman of Excellence award, Haugh has also been named the 2017 Appalachian League Outstanding Employee of the Year, presented to a club employee who, in the estimation of his/her peers, has made the most valuable contribution to his/her club by going above and beyond the scope of their position to contribute to the success of their franchise.
Sports Media Award – Bristol Herald Courier
A long-time supporter of professional baseball in Bristol and the Appalachian League, the Bristol Herald Courier has been named the recipient of the 2017 Appalachian League Sports Media Award given to the media person or outlet doing the best all-around job of covering a particular club. The Herald Courier writes and supports daily coverage of the Bristol Pirates for both home and away games and also provide extended support and coverage of the team’s announcements and promotional efforts throughout the season. In addition to its nightly coverage of the Pirates, sports writer George Stone has also authored two books about professional baseball in the area.
Broadcaster of the Year – Nick Pierce, Danville Braves
Danville Braves’ broadcaster Nick Pierce has been named the 2017 Appalachian League Broadcaster of the Year. Pierce has been the voice of the D-Braves since the team started broadcasting games in 2007. A true broadcasting professional, Pierce spends considerable time preparing for each season and travels to Atlanta to interview former Danville Braves now playing in Major League Baseball; he also conducts interviews with Braves player development and front office staff to share interesting and informative stories with his listeners. In addition to his work with the Braves, Pierce works in the Liberty University Athletic Department and serves as the public address announcer for the Carolina Panthers (NFL).
Organization of the Year Award – Danville Braves
The Danville Braves are the 2017 recipient of the Appalachian League Organization of the Year award, presented to a team that exemplifies the standards of the complete baseball franchise. Under the leadership of General Manager David Cross, the Braves made continued contributions to the baseball industry and Danville community, while also representing long-time franchise stability and success from both a financial and promotional standpoint. The Braves saw a 10 percent increase in average attendance during the 2017 season and also made nearly $6,000 in donations to local non-profit organizations. As the 2017 Appalachian League Organization of the Year, the Danville Braves will be nominated for MiLB’s John H. Johnson President’s Award.
Promotional Trophy – Johnson City Cardinals
After putting together one of the more impressive promotional schedules across MiLB, the Johnson City Cardinals have received the 2017 Appalachian League Promotional Trophy awarded to a club conducting outstanding promotional work during the season. The Cardinals had seven giveaways in 2017, including bobbleheads, t-shirts, bro tanks, and fidget spinners. The team’s replica 2016 Johnson City Cardinals Appalachian League Championship Ring giveaway culminated in one of the most successful nights in franchise history. The Cardinals also raised over $2,500 for the Pat Summit Foundation through the auction of jerseys worn on “We Back Pat” night, a promotion that also featured a Pat Summit Bobblehead for the first 1,000 fans. Under the leadership of General Manager Tyler Parson, Johnson City also continued to grow their traditional weekly promotions such as Tennessee Pride Tuesdays, Dollar Mondays, Thirsty Thursdays, and Sound Off Saturdays. The Cardinals also enhanced their promotional efforts through local media and advertisement packages, as well as by having radio station remotes at all weekend games. As the recipient of the Appalachian League Promotional Trophy, the Johnson City Cardinals will be nominated for MiLB’s Larry MacPhail Promotional Award.
Community Service Award – Elizabethton Twins
The Elizabethton Twins have received the 2017 Appalachian League Community Service Award after another season of high involvement in the Elizabethton community. The award is presented to a club that demonstrates outstanding, ongoing commitment to charitable service, support and leadership within their local community and the baseball industry. The Twins cite support for both local and national charities as the foundation of their club and regularly donate tickets and merchandise to local school and church fundraising events that raise thousands of dollars annually. The Twins also proudly participate in UmpsCare, Bat for the Cure, and Baseball Hall of Fame community efforts. Additionally, the club also participated in a MiLB domestic violence initiative, “Safe at Home,” in 2017 and also hosted several school field trips and youth baseball clinics at Joe O’Brien Field. With a mission to provide inexpensive recreational opportunities by giving back to the community and making a difference in the lives of the citizens of Elizabethton, the Twins also open their gates to many non-profit organizations to use their platforms to reach out to the community about the important missions they provide. As the recipient of the Appalachian League Community Service Award, the Elizabethton Twins will be nominated for MiLB’s John Henry Moss Award.
Patriot Award – Danville Braves
The Danville Braves are the 2017 recipient of the Appalachian League Patriot Award given to a club for outstanding support of and engagement with the United States Armed Forces and veterans, both at the ballpark and in the community. The Braves offered a standing military discounted for all 2017 home games and conducted multiple auctions to raise nearly $1,500 to donate to the Danville Veteran’s Memorial located in the same park as the team’s stadium, American Legion Post 325 Field. The Braves also provided tickets to American Legion members on several occasions to enjoy Danville Braves baseball. In addition, local American Legion teams play games at Legion Field and operate their own concessions as a means to raise additional funds. As the recipient of the Appalachian League Patriot Award, the Danville Braves will be nominated for MiLB’s Charles K. Murphy Patriot Award.