The Class AA Southern League has announced the winners of its 2018 Executive Awards, with honors given in several categories.
Jimmy Bragan Executive of the Year – Chris Morgan, Mobile BayBears
Since the 2015 season, Chris Morgan has served the Mobile BayBears organization as General Manager and provided a quality experience for both fans and sponsors alike. Morgan has worked with the city of Mobile to receive funding for stadium renovations that revitalized historic Hank Aaron Stadium. They have improved their drainage system, cutting down on suspended games and rain delays in the process. The addition of new seats at “the Hank” makes the park look and feel more vibrant, and the upgraded scoreboard and sound system is another example of how Morgan and the BayBears have invested in improving the overall fan experience. In addition to his role with the Mobile club, Morgan became Chair of the Southern League’s Marketing Committee in April 2018.
Woman of Excellence Award – Amber McClure, Pensacola Blue Wahoos
Amber McClure, the CFO of Studer Entertainment and Retail, is in her sixth season with the Blue Wahoos. She has ensured that the Wahoos maintain financial success and growth while supervising the financials of several different entities outside of the Blue Wahoos. This season, McClure has integrated new software into the financial department to help make the Blue Wahoos (and entire Studer Family of Companies) operation more paperless. As the winner of this award, McClure will be the Southern League’s nominee for MiLB’s Rawlings Woman Executive of the Year Award.
Outstanding Employee of the Year Award – Andrew Zito, Chattanooga Lookouts
Andrew Zito, Vice President of the Chattanooga Lookouts, has earned Outstanding Employee of the Year honors for his fantastic work with regards to the Lookouts ticketing and group sales effort. In addition to his work with the club at AT&T Field, Zito is also on the board of the United Way’s Emerging Leaders United and does a terrific job of continuing to make the Lookouts part of the fabric within Chattanooga’s local community. Zito joined the lookouts as part of their inaugural internship program in 2012, and was promoted to his current Vice President role following the 2017 season.
Don Mincher Organization of the Year – Pensacola Blue Wahoos
The Pensacola Blue Wahoos have earned their first Don Mincher Award since 2015, once again serving as a model with regard to how customers should be treated. In addition to their local impact at Blue Wahoos Stadium, the organization has displayed their strength as a community partner by hosting numerous events and making an annual contribution of over $500,000 in goods and services to area organizations. Despite being the second smallest market and experiencing an over 50% increase in games impacted by weather, Pensacola still averaged the fourth best attendance total in the Southern League. The Blue Wahoos commitment to fan satisfaction and overall quality has become legend in Northwest Florida. As the winner of this award, the Pensacola Blue Wahoos will be the Southern League’s nominee for MiLB’s John H. Johnson Presidential Trophy.
Southern League Promotional Trophy – Montgomery Biscuits
The Montgomery Biscuits earn the Southern League’s Promotional Trophy following a successful season that resulted in nearly a five percent boost in attendance. Their strong promotional schedule was highlighted by “Millennial Night”, which captured both local and national attention from outlets including CBS, Fox News, ESPN, NPR, The Daily Show, and more. Additional community oriented nights like “Pink out the Park”, “Military Appreciation Night”, “and First Responders Night”, continued to draw well and support worthwhile causes. The Biscuits also increased the number of promotional giveaways from less than five in 2017 to more than 30 in 2018, including different themed t-shirts every Thursday Night, kids’ giveaways on Sundays, and military themed giveaways on Wednesdays. As the winner of this award, the Montgomery Biscuits will be the Southern League’s nominee for MiLB’s Larry McPhail Award.
Southern League Community Service Award – Pensacola Blue Wahoos
For the third straight season, the Pensacola Blue Wahoos have won the Southern League’s Community Service Award. Between their “Home Run for Life” initiative as well as a planned renovation of Showalter Park, the Blue Wahoos have made an effort to not just be a part of the same community projects; but to find new ways they can give back to their community. Many non-profit organizations including the Manna food pantry, Autism Pensacola, the March of Dimes, and the H.E.R. Foundation have seen the benefits of the Blue Wahoos efforts in the community. Whether it’s through raising funds and awareness for these organizations, hosting in-stadium walks, or participating in fundraising events offsite, the Blue Wahoos have shown their commitment to the Pensacola area. Additionally, the Blue Wahoos again saw success with “Kazoo’s Grand Slam Reading Program” this season, reaching 5,000 elementary school children and encouraging them to read four books per month. As the winner of this award, the Pensacola Blue Wahoos will be the Southern League’s nominee for MiLB’s John Henry Moss Award.
Southern League Patriot Award – Montgomery Biscuits
For the second consecutive year, the Montgomery Biscuits have been declared winner of the Southern League’s Patriot Award. This year, the Biscuits had 14 nights on the schedule directly dedicated to the Armed Forces. Highlights included the Maxwell AFB Centennial Celebration (April 6th), dual giveaway of a C-130 Aircraft Figurine (June 2nd) and F-35 Aircraft Figurine (August 8th), Military Appreciation Night complete with on-field enlistment ceremony (May 12th), Gathering of Eagles in which nine legends of the military were recognized on the field (May 29th), and Military Wednesday promotions every Wednesday home game. Montgomery has a full-time staff member, Jay Jones, dedicated to managing all military accounts and ensuring high quality service, as well as the weekly Military Spotlight. As the winner of this award, the Montgomery Biscuits will be the Southern League’s nominee for MiLB’s Charles K. Murphy Patriot Award.
Sports Media Award – Darrin McAllister, WEAR-TV Pensacola
Known to many as simply “Mack”, WEAR’s cameraman Darrin McAllister is as much of a guarantee at Blue Wahoos Stadium as the bay that sits behind right field. He is there for every home game and on the nights he’s not working; he is still in attendance with his family cheering on the Blue Wahoos as a fan. Mack is the consummate professional; arriving early to capture batting practice, recording from the first pitch to the final out, and securing postgame interviews with Blue Wahoos coaches and players in order to provide Pensacola locals access to their baseball team.
Radio Broadcaster of the Year – Roger Hoover, Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp
In his seventh season with the Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp. Roger Hoover is named Radio Broadcaster of the Year for ability to produce content on Jumbo Shrimp players while providing one of the most professional broadcasts in the Southern League. Additionally, Hoover’s radio call following the destruction of his own laptop stood out this season. The unfortunate foul ball in Mobile and the ensuing media coverage (including ABC’s Good Morning America, CBS This Morning, FOX & Friends, Deadspin, MLB.com, Sports Illustrated, USA Today and Yahoo Sports) only bolstered the Jumbo Shrimp brand, and Roger did an excellent job capitalizing on the opportunity to provide additional exposure for Jacksonville.
Best Clubhouse Attendant – David Fountain, Tennessee Smokies
For the second season in a row, a member of the Tennessee Smokies staff has been recognized as the Southern League’s Best Clubhouse Attendant. This year, the league would like to recognize David Fountain for his exceptional work and service toward the umpire locker room, while also assisting the home and visiting clubhouses as needed. Additionally, the Southern League would like to provide an honorable mention to Mississippi’s Chris Minshew for his work as Mississippi’s visiting clubhouse manager.
Batboy of the Year – Terry Williams, Pensacola Blue Wahoos
While often going unnoticed, batboys serve an important role in helping the game of baseball move along at the proper pace. This season, the Southern League recognizes Terry Williams of the Pensacola Blue Wahoos as Batboy of the Year. A self-proclaimed “batman”, the 66-year-old Williams has been with the Blue Wahoos organization since their inception and a batboy since the 2014 season.
Sports Turf Manager of the Year Award – Zach Van Voorhees, Birmingham Barons
Following his first season with the Birmingham Barons, the Southern League has awarded Zach Van Voorhees the Sports Turf Manager of the Year Award. As the Southern League’s Groundskeeper of the Year, Van Voorhees will be the Southern League’s nominee to the Sports Turf Managers Association as they select the overall winner for Double-A Groundskeeper of the Year.
Athletic Trainer of the Year (chosen by PBATS) – TJ Saunders, Mississippi Braves
The PBATS’ Minor League Athletic Trainers of the Year Awards are presented annually to one athletic trainer of each of the 16 leagues in Minor League Baseball, as well as one award for the Dominican Summer League. The awards are voted on by fellow peers. On August 14, PBATS named TJ Saunders of the Mississippi Braves the Southern League Athletic Trainer of the Year. Saunders joined the Atlanta Braves organization in 2017 and has spent the past two seasons with Mississippi.