Sports Commentary 5/8/13
Changes coming “back” to the Rockcats
RE-ROCKING THE ROCK CATS
It’s rarely about one person. More often than not it’s about a management philosophy and, when that philosophy isn’t working the changes will be on the front line. It was evident early that the change in management philosophy with the minor league baseball New Britain Rock Cats following the sale of the team to the Solomon family was too much of a departure from the philosophy of the previous ownership group, headed by Farmington attorney Coleman Levy and former New York Yankees general counsel Bill Dowling, to make for a smooth transition. Levy and, moreso, Dowling were regularly visible at games, greeting fans, establishing personal relationships with season ticket holders, chatting up the media. Dowling took up a nightly position just inside the concourse entrance and spent most of his evenings at the ball park listening to, and heeding, input from the customers with a personality that brings to mind a favorite uncle at Christmastime. The extra mile was the shortest distance Dowling and Levy were willing travel to make every game a worthwhile experience for every fan. But business is business and the successful turnaround they’d engineered, taking a team from last place in Eastern League attendance to one attendance record after another, made the Rock Cats a sound investment and prospective investors saw areas where money was left on the table. A tighter bottom line could wring even more cash out of this cow, and in business a lot of attention is paid to that bottom line. Too many owners at every level make the mistake of making baseball too much about business and too little about the relationships with communities and fans that keep an enterprise successful. That money wasn’t left on the table by Dowling and Levy. When something broke, they fixed it, be it as simple as a pitch speed or time and temperature indicator or as important to their relationship with the major league parent Minnesota Twins as a covered batting cage to give their players a place to workout on rainy days. It wasn’t money left on the table, ten percent of the profit went back into the team, for promotion and ballpark ammenities that kept fans coming back in regular sellout numbers. Last Thursday the Rock Cats announced their first sellout this season, for an “Education in Baseball” promotion originally initiated by Dowling. Dowling maintained a minority interest in the team when it was sold, but he relinquished the president and general manager’s duties to former Rock Cats GM John Willi, an outstanding businessman, who’s bottom line management is the envy of many corporations. The new formula wasn’t nearly as successful as the former and the Solomon’s, to their credit, recognized this. Not wanting to lose Willi’s business accumen they yesterday announced he will continue in a major front office capacity, but the day to day operations will once again fall under Bill Dowling, along with Advantage Food and Beverage president Tim Restall, again seperating the ballpark operation and the food service, as they had been under Dowling and Levy. More people may split the profits, but when the paying fans are treated more like equal partners than customers there are more profits to split and everybody wins. With this restructuring everyone wins. With a comment from the sports world, I’m Scott Gray.