The Class AA Eastern League has unveiled its nominations for the 2018 Minor League Baseball awards. That includes nominees for the Rawlings Woman Executive of the Year Award, the Charles K. Murphy Patriot Award, the John Henry Moss Community Service Award, the Larry MacPhail Award, and the John H. Johnson President’s Award. The winners of these awards are selected by Minor League Baseball and will be honored at the Baseball Winter Meetings in Las Vegas, Nevada.
The New Hampshire Fisher Cats are the Eastern League nominee for the John H. Johnson President’s Award, which is used to honor a “complete” baseball franchise that has demonstrated franchise stability while making significant contributions to its community, its league, and to the baseball industry. Under the guidance of owner Art Solomon, President Mike Ramshaw, and General Manager Jim Flavin, the Fisher Cats have become one of the model franchises in all of Minor League Baseball. The 2018 season marked the 15th season in New Hampshire Fisher Cats history. The team celebrated that anniversary by welcoming a total of 319,099 fans to Northeast Delta Dental Stadium, a 12-percent increase from the 2017 season, including welcoming the 5-millionth fan in franchise history on August 22nd. That attendance total didn’t include the thousands of other people that made their way to Northeast Delta Dental Stadium for non-game day events such as food truck festivals and comedy shows. In addition to the outstanding work the Fisher Cats staff does providing their fans with family friendly entertainment, the organization has also become synonymous with their efforts within their community. Through the Fisher Cats Foundation, the organization has provided more than $5.6-million in monetary and in-kind donations to thousands of non-profit organizations since 2006, including generating over $1.65-million through their annual Granite State Baseball Dinner that raises money for the Children’s Hospital at Dartmouth-Hitchcock. Among the numerous other charitable contributions made by the New Hampshire organization is their Velcro Companies Reading Challenge, which became the first reading program in Minor League Baseball to be nationally commended by the American Association of School Librarians. The reading program has reached over 535,000 students in New Hampshire and Massachusetts since 2007, with over 3-million books having been read as part of the program.
The Eastern League nominee for the Larry MacPhail Award, which is given to a club in Minor League Baseball that has demonstrated outstanding and creative marketing and promotional efforts, is the Hartford Yard Goats. The Hartford organization built off an incredibly successful inaugural season at Dunkin’ Donuts Park in 2017 by raising the bar even higher in 2018. The Yard Goats welcomed a league-best 408,942 fans through the turnstiles at Dunkin’ Donuts Park during the 2018 season. That total included 47 sellouts, including a streak of 19 consecutive sellouts to close out the season. The Yard Goats have made Dunkin’ Donuts Park a true community asset, as in addition to their regular season games, the organization also hosts numerous high school and college games while also playing host to a number of non-baseball related events such as their upcoming Links At The Yard event where the stadium will be converted into a 9-hole, target-style golf course. Beyond providing their fans with the fun family entertainment they’ve come to expect every night at the ballpark, the Yard Goats organization has also demonstrated a strong commitment to their community. Among the many ways the organization has given back to their community is through the creation of the Aetna Community Center, a 1,300 square foot space at Dunkin’ Donuts Park that has been utilized by a number of community partners. In addition to outside partners, the Yard Goats also utilize the space for a number of their own community programs, including their Young Ambassadors Program, which is a program used to provide leadership training and education to 30 local high school students.
For the John Henry Moss Community Service Award, which is given to a club that demonstrates an outstanding, on-going commitment to charitable service, support and leadership, the Eastern League is nominating the Reading Fightin Phils. The Reading organization certainly fits that description, as they have made giving back to their community a focus of their franchise. This past April the organization held their inaugural opening day at the brand new Savage 61 Dream Field, which is a facility that provides children with physical and developmental disabilities the opportunity to play baseball. The unique rubberized surface is the first field of its kind to be built in Berks County. The $1-million project was fully funded by Baseballtown Charities, the charitable organization of the Reading Fightin Phils. In addition to funding the construction of the facility, the entire Dream League is fully funded and organized by Baseballtown Charities. The first Dream League season took place this past spring and a new fall season recently kicked off. Savage 61 Dream Field is the second $1-million stadium project that has been funded by Baseballtown Charities, as they also built Gordon Hoodak Stadium at Lauer’s Park, a field which has provided hundreds of children with the opportunity to play baseball. These major projects are in addition to the everyday contributions the Reading Fightin Phils make to their community, which help raise money and awareness for numerous charitable organizations.
The Eastern League nominee for the Charles K. Murphy Patriot Award, which is presented to a club or individual employed by a club for outstanding support of and engagement with the United States Armed Forces and veterans, both at the ballpark and in the community, are the Altoona Curve. The Altoona organization has always made recognizing and appreciating active members and veterans of the military a top priority. This includes having two separate areas at Peoples Natural Gas Field dedicated to recognizing the military. The first of those areas came in 2013 when the Altoona Curve began working on a statue to honor and recognize “Children of Pennsylvania’s Fallen Warriors”. The statue depicts two children climbing a hill with an American flag and it has become a place where the children of fallen military members remember their parents and family members. As a follow up to the project an education foundation was created that benefits children of fallen service members in Central Pennsylvania. In 2014 the Curve dedicated a seat from the Toyota Diamond Club at Peoples Natural Gas Field to those American soldiers that are unaccounted for with a POW/MIA seat, which is painted black and affixed with the POW/MIA decals and also includes a plaque with a description of the seat. These dedications at the ballpark in Altoona are in addition to the numerous other ways the franchise works to support active military and veterans such as ticket discounts and in-game recognition. This past season Altoona Curve Chief Operating Officer David Lozinak was recognized by the Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States as a Patriot’s Circle member “for faithful support of America’s deserving veterans and their families”.
The Rawlings Woman Executive of the Year award is given out annually to one woman who has made an outstanding contribution to her club, league or to baseball. For this award the Eastern League is pleased to nominate Ashley Grotte of the Harrisburg Senators. Ashley originally joined the Harrisburg organization as an intern in 2010 and has filled numerous roles in the organization before receiving a promotion to her current position as the Director of Marketing two years ago. In her role as Director of Marketing Ashley oversees all of the social media and marketing for the organization while also placing and evaluating the media presence of the club. Under her guidance the team has grown greatly increased their social media presence and grown their number of followers while also increasing their marketing database. Ashley, who is a 2009 graduate of the University of Missouri, fills numerous other roles for the organization, including supervising the Community Relations Department and supervising and scheduling the part time employees of the club.