PORTLAND, MAINE - The Eastern League of Professional Baseball is pleased to announce the league 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 National Harbor, Maryland.
The Akron RubberDucks 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 Ken Babby and General Manager Jim Pfander, the RubberDucks have become one of the model franchises in all of Minor League Baseball. The total four-year attendance increase during Ken Babby's tenure as owner is 28 percent. The club welcomed a total of 350,077 fans during the 2016 season, which ranked fourth in the league. That total did not include the more than 14,000 people that were in attendance for two days of events surrounding the Eastern League All-Star Game, which was hosted at Canal Park for the first time ever in 2016. In addition to the outstanding work the RubberDucks staff does providing their fans with family friendly entertainment, the organization has also become synonymous with their efforts within the community in northeast Ohio. The RubberDucks have helped hundreds of organizations raise thousands of dollars within their community, including a partnership with Habitat for Humanity of Summit County that has raised more than $90,000 in four years through an in-game 50/50 raffle. The RubbberDucks have also worked to turn Canal Park into a community asset with the ballpark playing host to numerous non-baseball events such as hosting the Akron Marathon and helping to create and host the Leadership On Main speaker series with Leadership Akron.
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 Reading Fightin Phils. The 2016 season in Reading was a year-long celebration of their 50th anniversary of their affiliation with the Philadelphia Phillies, becoming one of only three teams in the history of Minor League Baseball to reach the 50 season mark with their affiliate. That season long celebration kicked off when Reading played host to the first-ever Phillies Futures Game, an exhibition game between the Philadelphia Phillies and the top prospects in the Philadelphia organization which drew a total of 9,320 fans to FirstEnergy Stadium. The Fightins also filled their already jam packed promotional schedule with numerous items related to their 50th anniversary season, including 11 different Golden Bobblehead giveaways that recognized the greatest players in the history of the franchise and wearing special 50 Greatest Player Jerseys at select home games that featured the top 50 vote getters from a fan voting contest. In addition to these anniversary related promotions, the Fightins also found a number of other ways to keep their fans entertained, including hosting over 90 pre-game and post-game musical performances during the 2016 season. Along with provided their fans with the affordable family entertainment they've come to expect at FirstEnergy Stadium, the Reading organization also continue to be heavily involved in their community, including announcing earlier this season the Fightins, through Baseballtown Charities, will be launching a new campaign that will 100% fund the building of the Baseballtown Dream League Field, a stadium that will allow children with physical, intellectual and developmental challenges to play baseball.
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 Richmond Flying Squirrels. It is the third consecutive season Richmond has been the league nominee for the award. The Flying Squirrels raised more than $330,000 in donations and gifts in kind for over 800 different organizations in 2016. That was in addition to their executives, players, coaches and mascot making over 500 appearances within the community. The Flying Squirrels also continued to work through their non-profit organization, Flying Squirrels Charities, on their "Renovating Richmond's Recreation" campaign. That campaign, which is ongoing, includes plans to renovate 16 youth baseball facilities in the inner city of Richmond.
The Bowie Baysox are the first ever 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. The Bowie organization hosted numerous events and promotions geared toward honoring the military during the 2016 season, which included hosting appreciation nights for local military bases and hosting their annual Navy Night event with the United States Naval Academy, which features the entire 1,200 person incoming freshman class attending the game wearing their dress white uniforms. The Baysox also hosted their 4th Annual Amputee Warrior Softball Classic featuring members of the Wounded Warrior Amputee Softball team and NFL starts competing in a softball game to benefit organizations dedicated to helping veterans. The Bowie front office staff also participated in a season long promotion to help raise awareness for #22KILL, an organization dedicated to raising awareness to the 22 military veterans, on average, who commit suicide each day. Starting in May the Baysox front office staff did 22 pushups prior to each home game to raise awareness for this cause.
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 Reading Fightin Phils Controller, CPA, CGMA Kris Haver. Kris has been a key member of the front office staff during her 15 seasons with the Reading franchise, making contributions in numerous areas while overseeing financial operations for the Reading Fightin Phils and Baseballtown Charities, the 501(c)(3) charitable organization of the franchise. Kris has also served as a resource for other organizations throughout the Minor League Baseball industry, working to provide other clubs with information about topics such as POS systems, accounting systems and labor laws.