I’m heading into my fourth season blogging about Minor League Baseball, visting stadiums and ocassionally giving a little history about the stadiums. My general rule is not to visit the same team or stadium more than once, but rules (like diets) are made to be broken. There’s one place in Florida that I keep going back to for both spring training and minor league action, and in my humble opinion, it’s THE best place to catch a game. And now that I know someone in senior management, I have one more excuse to go back!
When I resurrected this blog in early 2015 (two websites ago!), one of the first places I blogged about was McKechnie Field (now LECOM Park). Hey, old habits never die. Growing up in Florida, I always knew it as McKechnie Field, but I guess I should start calling it LECOM Park. When I did my end of season wrap up, McKechnie Field was mentioned as my best celebrity sighting, and the very knowledgable fans and the game that was going on in the bleachers. I’ve been back a couple of times as just a fan, as it’s a fantastic place to see a game! Also mentioned in that “best of” post was “the best on field experience” with the Clearwater Threshers. That’s where I first met Craig Warzecha, and where our story begins.
In 2015, Craig was working for the Clearwater Threshers, the high A affiliate of the Philadelphia Phillies. Craig was the Sales and Marking/Promotions& Community Relations Assistant. I ran into him before the game, and after telling him I did a blog about going to various MiLB stadiums, I recruited myself for an on field game. While the results of that game are forgettable, meeting Craig was definetely unforgettable!
Craig has been working in minor league baseball since 2012, starting as ticket sales assistant for the Lakewood Blue Claws, then joined the Threshers in 2011. Along the way, he also interned at MiLB’s headquaters in St. Petersburg, and then moved to the Bradenton Marauders in late 2015 as an Account Manager for ticket sales. In early 2017, he was promoted to Assistant GM for the Marauders. I had been keeping tabs on Craig over the years (ok, stalking via LinkedIn), and this spring, I met up with him in Bradenton to talk a little baseball and find out what it’s like to be an Assistant GM for one of my favorite minor leage teams!
Craig, you are heading into your second season as Assistant GM, how was your first year? Had to be a big step up from your previous roles?
It’s been a great experience. My role is really ticket sales focused, and there’s a lot of off season planning. When the Marauders on the road, it’s pretty much and 8 to 5 kind of job, but we participate in a lot of community events. We are constantly trying to keep our database of fans up to date, and focus a lot on group events.
How early did this season actually start for you?
We really only had a few days off after the end of the 2017 season. Especially with the hurricane (Irma), we had to prepare for that. Fortunately, we had no real damage from that. Just a little more rushed to get ready. Then we went right into group planning, and brainstormming later in September.
You went from a ticket sales person for Lakewood, to now being the Asst. GM for the Marauders, that’s quite a move up!
Yeah, this is my 8th spring training overall, I am actually starting to feel old! Haha. I started in Lakewood over the summer break, then moved to the Threshers while I was at the University of Tampa. I was constantly asking questions, like how can I learn from this, how can I help the club?
What was your internship like with Minor League Baseball? One of my favorite follows from MiLB is Ben Hill!
It was in their headquarters up in St. Petersburg, and was awesome. I was focused on promo seminars, and the winter meetings and other big events. There was a lot of planning involved in those. Ben Hill is really cool, I really like him!
Speaking of promotions, what’s big on your promotions list for this year? Any big bobblehead nights?
We aren’t a big bobblehead team, not much of a big impact for us. We did offer a bobblehead for season ticket buyers a couple of years ago, but that’s about it. We like to focus more on community events. We’ve got quite a few events that bring people out, like our fireworks, faith nights, pride night, Star Wars night, and first responder nights.
OK, one of the perks of working for a minor league team has to be free popcorn, right?
Haha, yeah, we have some great vendors here at the park!
The stadiums in Florida, for the most part, are MLB caliber, you have to feel lucky about working in great environments like that.
It’s great working here in such close proximity to all the parks. We get to go to a lot of different parks for our road games, it’s great team building, and to see what other teams do.
Being so close to other teams in the Florida State League, is it a pretty close knit group with other management teams?
Oh for sure, there’s a lot of continuity among the teams, but always seems to be an influx of new people. We all work well together to help each other out. We also do team building among other teams. We previously held an FSL intern bootcamp, now it’s called an assistant’s camp, where we bring in all the assistants in where we share ideas and collaborate on ideas, etc.
I couldn’t thank Craig enough for sitting down with me to chat for a while. He’s truly a class act! And a great salesman! While not originally on my schedule of spring training games on my trip, I then purchased a ticket for the Pirates for later in the week, and then bought a Marauders cap which I proudly wore that Saturday!
Thanks so much to Craig and the Marauders organization for allowing me to sit down with him for a few minutes. Craig is a class act, and certainly paid his dues working his way up in the organization. I can’t wait to make it to another Marauders game this summer, and looking forward to see Craig again. And longer term, I am excited to see how far he makes it up the organization. I hope to say one day, “I knew him when he let me make a fool of myself on the field trying to throw the ball at a minor league game!”