Bob Flannery officially took over as Augusta GreenJackets general manager a week before the season started, but the 45-year-old veteran baseball executive said he knew he belonged here even before then. He previously worked with a minor league hockey team in Oklahoma.
“They have something great there, but I couldn’t stand it,” he said. “I’ve been doing this so long, I actually missed pulling tarp. I’m 45, and I knew this is what I like to do.”
Flannery was originally hired in December as the team’s new assistant general manager. When then-general manager Nick Brown announced publicly a week before the season that he was leaving the team, Flannery took over.
“I certainly was hired as the assistant GM. When that was the case, the scope of responsibility was still big and huge and overwhelming,” he said. “When I became GM it became that much larger, bigger and overwhelming. It’s not that I haven’t been involved with the baseball team, it’s that I haven’t been involved in Augusta for long, so that’s going to take some time for me. Nick’s been very helpful.”
Taste of success
Flannery got his first taste of Augusta’s appetite for minor league baseball this weekend when Lake Olmstead Stadium kicked off another year of GreenJackets baseball. Thursday’s home opener saw more than 4,600 fans in attendance. Friday’s game drew in a little more than 3,100 and Saturday’s drew a record 5,858.
“He’s brought a lot of good, solid promotion ideas behind him,” said Jeff Eiseman, Ripken Baseball’s vice president of sales and marketing. “He’s doing some things that are going to create a lot of value for people coming out to the ballpark.”
Eiseman’s remarks came as he pointed to the scoreboard, where he said it was Flannery’s idea to plant fireworks for GreenJackets home run celebrations.
Flannery said such small improvements are more in line with his strategy for leading the team this year.
“No, we’re not looking at any wholesale changes from what was going on when Nick Brown was here to me being on board,” he said. “Him and I were on the same page as far as what we were working on. It’s about ticket sales, customer service and taking care of our business and corporate sponsors and making them feel comfortable out here.”
The days ahead
Ripken Baseball representatives, including Eiseman, have pinned Lake Olmstead Stadium as a difficult place to keep fans comfortable because of its lack of space, parking limitations and luxuries, such as sky boxes. Flannery, who previously served as a minor league baseball general manager in Columbus, Ga., and Hagerstown, Md., has experience running ballparks with limited luxuries.
Flannery said working with businesses that are still cautious about the economy will also be a challenge.
“Things in business have changed since 2008, 2009,” he said. “I know one thing is making sure that we continue – because it is a continuation – of going back to not just our current partners and looking at them to stay on board longer but finding new businesses in the market. Sometimes the first things businesses cut is the marketing budget. That’s not my preference to do that, but that’s what businesses do instead of cutting people but it hurts them when it comes to growing your businesses.”
The GreenJackets have seen attendance growth under Ripken Baseball. Eiseman said he expects that to continue with Flannery leading the way.