We have personnel news to pass along from the West Michigan Whitecaps (Low A; Midwest League) and the Charleston Riverdogs (Low A; Sally League).
In West Michigan, the Whitecaps are preparing to undergo some major leadership changes at the end of 2018. Whitecaps Managing Partner and CEO Lew Chamberlin and Whitecaps CFO Denny Baxter will each be undertaking the newly-created roles of Chairman and Founder. This will allow the two original owners of the Whitecaps to step away from the day-to-day operations to focus on strategic oversight of the organization. Also changing later this year, Whitecaps President Scott Lane has chosen to retire at the end of 2018 after a 31-year career in professional sports.
Joe Chamberlin, the current Vice President of Finance and Administration, will be named Whitecaps CEO and will oversee the organization’s strategic direction. Joe has held several roles with the Whitecaps since joining the organization in 2013, currently serving as the team’s Vice President of Finance and Administration. Prior to returning to West Michigan to rejoin the Whitecaps, Joe earned his master’s degree in labor relations and human resources at Michigan State University and spent the first portion of his career with a Fortune 500 financial services company located in Detroit, Michigan.
Steve McCarthy, Vice President of Sales, will take over as President and will oversee the organization’s day-to-day business activities. McCarthy completed an internship with the Whitecaps in 1995, then worked for the Palace of Auburn Hills and the Detroit Pistons before returning to West Michigan in 2001 to join the Whitecaps as the team’s Director of Ticket Sales. He was promoted to Vice President of Sales in 2005.
Jim Jarecki, who has been with the organization since day one, will also continue to play an integral role moving forward as Vice President and General Manager. Jim will continue leading all operational functions including acting as the primary liaison with Minor League Baseball and the Detroit Tigers.
Lew Chamberlin, a Grand Rapids native, and Denny Baxter, a native of Muskegon, started their quest of bringing Minor League Baseball to West Michigan more than 30 years ago. Their efforts paid off in 1993 when they announced that the Midwest League’s Madison Muskies were going to move to West Michigan for the 1994 season. A privately funded ballpark was then constructed in Comstock Park and the Whitecaps began play in April of 1994.
“When Denny and I first started working on bringing professional baseball to West Michigan, it was our hope that the Whitecaps would become a sustainable community asset that families from all over West Michigan could enjoy” said Chamberlin. “Now, thanks to the support of the fans over the last 25 years, that dream has become a reality.”
“We’re confident that the next generation is ready to build on what we started and ensure that Fifth Third Ballpark will remain one of West Michigan’s premier sports and entertainment venues for the next 25 years. And we’re not going anywhere. Denny and I will continue to be involved with the business on a strategic level and you’ll still find us at the ballpark most every night.”
Baxter reiterated Chamberlin’s comments.
“To think that it has been 25 years is shocking,” said Baxter. “Lew and I have enjoyed ourselves so much realizing our dream with the tremendous community support we have had over the years. We have prided ourselves on the development of many talented staff members who have helped us achieve the success we have enjoyed and now we are in a position to turn the reins over to our newly-appointed management team, which I am confident will continue to carry on our dream for the next 25 years.”
Lane, the first employee of the Whitecaps, was hired in 1993 as the General Manager. He was promoted to President in 2000 to provide strategic vision for the Whitecaps. In addition to his Whitecaps duties, he also oversaw the day-to-day operations at Berlin Raceway when the Whitecaps owned it from 2001 to 2008.
“For 25 seasons we’ve worked to make the Whitecaps one of the best in Minor League Baseball.” Lane said. “In that time, we’ve built an extremely strong organization and due to the talent here I feel confident this is the time for me to step away,” Lane explained. “I’ve enjoyed my time at the Whitecaps and I’m excited to start my next stage in life. The Whitecaps will always be important to me. I’ll still be coming to games but now it will be to enjoy the atmosphere.”
Looking forward, Joe Chamberlin knows there is a strong foundation to build on. “What Lew, Denny, Scott and the entire organization has done over the years is simply incredible. They took a dream and made it a very successful reality. We are extremely lucky that as we begin to think about what the next 25 years looks like, they will be a huge part of that. As a result of this succession planning process we have the time and continuity to ensure that Whitecaps baseball at Fifth Third Ballpark remains a West Michigan tradition and only gets better with age.”
In their time, the Whitecaps have seen enormous success on and off the field. On the field, the franchise has six league titles in the first 24 seasons and more than 130 Whitecaps have gone on to the Major Leagues. Off the field, more than 10 million fans have enjoyed a Whitecaps game and under their leadership the organization has won numerous awards, including Baseball America’s organization of the decade for the 1990s. The organization has grown from the original hire of Lane to now employing more than 30 full-time employees and employs more than 500 people during the baseball season.
Outside of baseball, Fifth Third Ballpark has turned into multi-purpose facility hosting thousands of concerts, company picnics, meeting, weddings and several other events. In 2018 there have been more than 100 non-baseball events held at Fifth Third Ballpark.
Chamberlin will still be active in the West Michigan community, continuing to serve on several committees and boards in the area. Baxter will spend more time working with his concert promotion company, Blue Cap Promotions. Both plan to remain heavily involved with the Whitecaps organization in their new roles.
In Charleston, the Riverdogs have hired two new front office staff members, including Jesse White as the Director of Food & Beverage and Sara Carpenter as the Hospitality Manager.
White settles into the Lowcountry for the first time after working as the Director of Food & Beverage for Aramark at the University of South Carolina in Columbia, where he oversaw the food and beverage operations for 15 Gamecocks athletic programs and events. Prior to his stint in the Palmetto State, he resided in Pittsburgh, PA, where he was the Warehouse Manager at the PPG Paints Arena, the home of the Pittsburgh Penguins, and the Club Level Supervisor at Heinz Field, both with Aramark. The Slippery Rock grad got his start in the sports industry as the Lead Concessions Supervisor at PNC Park with the Pirates.
Carpenter joins the RiverDogs with a wealth of experience in the hospitality industry, working most recently as a manager at Butcher & Bee in Charleston. She has held various roles in event management and food and beverage in the Charleston area for the last six years. A native of Virginia, Carpenter is a graduate of James Madison University with a BBA in Marketing and added a degree in graphic design at VCU.
“Sara and Jesse are both excellent additions to our front office staff that bring plenty of experience in the food and beverage industry to help our expanding operation,” said RiverDogs President and General Manager Dave Echols. “We’re also excited to add two more energetic individuals to our staff as we look to finish the 2018 season strong.”