MARIETTA, Ga. -- The Southern League of Professional Baseball Clubs announced four league awards on Friday, including the Jimmy Bragan Executive of the Year, Woman of Excellence, Organization of the Year and the Promotional Trophy winner.
Barons' Nelson named top exec
Birmingham Barons General Manager Jonathan Nelson has been named the Jimmy Bragan Executive of the Year, as voted upon by his peers. Nelson will officially be recognized for this honor at the Southern League Fall Meetings as well as the Minor League Baseball Winter Meetings in Orlando in December.
In his ninth season as Barons General Manager, Nelson earns his second Executive of the Year honor, having won the award in 2009. It is the sixth time a member of Birmingham's front office has won the award since 1982. Nelson, along with Barons owner Stan Logan, oversaw the design, building and opening of the award-winning Regions Field in downtown Birmingham. The 8,500 capacity stadium opened its doors to a sold-out crowd on April 10 to rave reviews from fans and followers over the entire baseball industry. Birmingham's attendance skyrocketed in 2013 with 396,820 fans (5,669 average per game) attending. The previous year's attendance was 204,268. The double-A Chicago White Sox affiliate has also garnered a winning team in 2013, with the Barons facing off against two-time defending Southern League Champions, the Mobile BayBears. The team produced ten Mid-Season All-Stars for the league's North Division as well as two Post-Season All-Stars.
Nelson, a native of Fairhope, Alabama, graduated from the University of Montevallo in 1993 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Speech. He first worked with the Barons as an intern in 1993, and then transitioned into Group Sales. After working with the Detroit Tigers in 1997, he returned to Birmingham in 1998 as the Assistant General Manager and became General Manager in 2005.
O'Berry named Woman of Excellence
Barbara O'Berry, Senior Director of Business Administration for the Jacksonville Suns, has been named its Woman of Excellence, as voted upon by the league's general managers. O'Berry joins fellow Jacksonville women January Squyres (2012) and Karlie Evatt (2007) in receiving this award. She is also the Southern League's nominee for the Rawlings Woman Executive of the Year Award, which is presented by Minor League Baseball at the Winter Meetings.
Barbara started with the Suns on April 1, 2002 and is the only front office staff member to come from the Suns' previous stadium in Jacksonville, Wolfson Park. She is a native of Jacksonville, has two sons, and three grandchildren. She and her husband, Ernest, enjoy going to Florida Gators football games. Barbara (Ms. B to the office staff) is responsible for all financial accounting for the team, as well as all administrative duties for the club.
The Southern League of Professional Baseball Clubs is pleased to announce the Birmingham Barons as the Don Mincher Organization of the Year as voted on by league general managers.
Barons named Organization of the Year
Named in honor of the late Don Mincher, who served as Southern League President from 2000-11, the Organization of the Year is awarded to the Southern League club exemplifying the complete baseball franchise. The Barons have demonstrated franchise stability after playing at Rickwood Field for 77 years, then moving to Hoover Stadium from 1988 - 2012, and again "coming home" to downtown Birmingham in 2013. By claiming this honor, Birmingham will be the Southern League's nominee for Minor League Baseball's John H. Johnson President's Trophy, which will be presented at the Baseball Winter Meetings in December.
The Barons follow the Pensacola Blue Wahoos, who were the inaugural winners of the award in 2012. With a brand new stadium, the Barons were able to reinvigorate their fan base as well as contributing to the revitalization of the downtown area. The 8,500 capacity stadium opened its doors to a sold-out crowd on April 10 to rave reviews from fans and others all over the baseball industry. It was awarded Ball Park of the Year by Baseballparks.com, which honored Pensacola with the same award in 2012. Birmingham's attendance skyrocketed in 2013 with 396,820 fans (5,669 average per game) attending, easily leading the league. The double-A Chicago White Sox affiliate has also garnered a winning team in 2013, with the Barons facing off against two-time defending Southern League Champions, the Mobile BayBears. The team produced ten Mid-Season All-Stars for the league's North Division as well as two Post-Season All-Stars.
Southern League Promotional Trophy
The Southern League announced the Jacksonville Suns as the second annual winner of the Southern League Promotional Trophy. By winning this award, the Suns will be the circuit's nominee for the Larry MacPhail Award. Honoring the team demonstrating the most outstanding promotional work in Minor League Baseball, the Larry MacPhail Award will be presented at the Baseball Winter Meetings.
Ranking third in the Southern League in average attendance (4,407), Jacksonville compiled a promotional schedule that featured everything from weekly promotions such as Thursday Throwdowns, Firework Fridays and endless give-away nights, to leprechaun wrestling and celebrity appearances. Jacksonville packed its promotional calendar as full as possible, working with a healthy mix of local and national sponsors, to ensure that every type of fan in Jacksonville had a reason to come out to the games. In hosting the 2013 Southern League All-Star Game and inclusive festivities, the club was able to set a new Southern League record with 9,373 fans in attendance.