In his first year as president of the Daytona Tortugas (High A; Florida State League), Ryan Keur led the team to new heights. The Tortugas’ emphasis on unique promotions and community outreach helped generate a solid increase in attendance, making 2017 a successful season. For his efforts and the team’s strides, Keur has been selected from a strong pool of candidates to win the 2017 Ballpark Digest Executive of the Year.
“I’m really honored,” Keur said. “Looking back at the previous winners, it’s some really good company. I’m really humbled, really honored, and very excited about being recognized for this award.”
This year, the Tortugas received national recognition for several of their promotions, including tributes to Bob Ross and Craig Sager. Under Keur, the Tortugas made an aggressive effort to improve their community outreach and give the organization a visible presence in the region on a year-round basis. (We took a closer look at the Torgtuas’ success in a story earlier in 2017.)
That resulted in strong attendance numbers in 2017, Keur’s first season in Daytona after joining the team from the Burlington Royals (Rookie; Appalachian League). For the season, the Tortugas saw their per-game average jump from 1,672 in 2016 to 2,064, while their total attendance over that same period increased from 112,053 to 136,224.
“We’ve become a really strong community stalwart, and that’s really important to the way that we’re looked at in Central Florida and also Volusia County,” Keur said. “Our entire staff thinks about that. They breathe that, they live that, and I think that really makes a difference. It’s not so much about how we’re going to get through this seven-game homestand, but how we’re going to have an impact in the community 365 days a year.”
Keur added that, without the work his staff put into the facets of the Tortugas’ operations, the team’s success in 2017 would not have been possible. “For us now, we’ve put in place a really strong experience at the ballpark, we’ve put together really innovative promotions, and we’ve set the bar for what Tortugas baseball can be and what it should be. And it’s only going to get better,” he said. “You can’t do this on your own, this is about the team and it’s about everyone this staff. We’re thinking everyday about how we can become better, and that’s what we will look to build on.”
That effort, combined with the fan response, fueled the 2017 season. “I want to thank our supportive ownership group for taking a chance and believing in the vision—our staff for all the innovation, dedication to re-energizing the culture of Tortugas Baseball. Most importantly, thanks to our fans and corporate partners that came out in droves all season long! We wouldn’t be anywhere without our community and thankful for each and every person that walks out of our gates with an even bigger smile than they did walking in.”
As noted, this was a strong season for Executive of the Year candidates, making this award a tough choice. We are recognizing three other individuals with an Honorable Mention.
Columbia Fireflies (Low A; Sally League) president John Katz oversaw a successful sophomore season for the club at Spirit Communications Park. Along with helping to institute a number of new marketing and promotional initiatives, Katz led the Fireflies to an attendance increase over their 2016 debut and implemented strategies to make the ballpark a destination on a year-round basis. “I’d like to thank Ballpark Digest for recognizing the accomplishments of my team with this Honorable Mention recognition,” Katz said. “Congrats to Ryan and his team in Daytona for earning this honor from Ballpark Digest.”
In their third season at First Tennessee Park, the Nashville Sounds (Class AAA; Pacific Coast League) made noted strides in terms of attendance and finished first in the league with a per-game average of 8,861. Helping to make the fan experience at the ballpark one of the finest in Minor League Baseball was vice president of operations Doug Scopel. “It is a very proud honor for me to be in the discussion for this award in an industry filled with so many great leaders,” Scopel said. “This award is also a reflection of the excellent work being done by the entire Nashville Sounds staff as we continue to reach new levels of fan experience and overall success at First Tennessee Park.”
The success of the Pulaski Yankees (Rookie; Appalachian League) has been one of the more intriguing storylines in MiLB over the last few seasons, and it owes in no small part to the work of general manager Blair Hoke. In her second season as general manager, Hoke led the Yankees to the league’s top spot in attendance and oversaw their thorough community outreach initiatives. “I am humbled to be named an honorable mention by the Ballpark Digest for the 2017 Executive of the Year Award,” Hoke said. “Our team works diligently to ensure fans have a safe, fun and family-friendly environment to enjoy the great game of baseball. This award is a team effort beginning with the fan experience, while also ensuring coaches, players, our affiliate and management are prepared with the tools and opportunities needed to make each season a success.”
Image courtesy Daytona Tortugas
Past Ballpark Digest Executive of the Year Winners
2016: Chris Allen
2015: Eric Edelstein
2014: Dan Rajkowski
2011: Martie Cordaro and Alan Stein
2010: Katie Dannemiller, Liz Kern and Amy Venuto
2009: Rick Brenner
2008: Joe Ricciutti