The International League has named Durham Bulls General Manager Mike Birling as 2015 Executive of the Year. Under his leadership, the Bulls set back-to-back single-season paid attendance records in 2014 and 2015, ending this past campaign with an all-time high of 554,788 cumulative fans. This is the second International League Executive of the Year award for Birling, who took home the honor after his first season as Bulls GM in 2003.
"In recent years Mike has led the Bulls staff through the successful hosting of the 2012 Gildan Triple-A National Championship Game, the 2014 Triple-A All Star Game, the jaw-dropping renovation of Durham Bulls Athletic Park and now capped it off with another record-breaking attendance season," said International League President Randy Mobley. "He has gone from being one of the new guys in the League to becoming one of the experienced veterans who is highly respected for not only his team's accomplishments in Durham, but for his overall contribution to the success of the International League."
In addition to hosting both signature Triple-A events and spearheading an award-winning remodel of the DBAP, Birling and his staff have amassed a string of noteworthy accomplishments over the past several seasons. The club earned the John H. Johnson President's Award in 2014 as Minor League Baseball's most complete franchise. In 2015, Durham Bulls Athletic Park began a four-year run as the host site of the annual ACC Baseball Championship. The DBAP's 20th Anniversary season also saw the creation of Bull City Hospitality, a new food and beverage company fully staffed and operated by the Bulls. Since 2012, the Bulls are the only International League team to increase their average per-game attendance in each of the last four consecutive seasons.
"This award can be directly attributed to the hard work and dedication of our talented staff," said Birling. "I am honored to share this recognition with them and am extremely proud of our collective achievements these past few years. Of course, this type of accolade isn't possible without amazing fan support and we are so thankful for the special bond between the Bulls and the Triangle community."
A native of Kimberly, WI, Birling began his career with the Bulls in 1998 as the team's Assistant General Manager before being promoted to GM in December of 2002. Prior to joining the Durham staff, he was General Manager of the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers (Class A) and was named the Midwest League Executive of the Year in 1998. Birling will receive his award at the 2015 Baseball Winter Meetings this December in Nashville, TN.
"The Tampa Bay Rays congratulate Mike Birling for being named IL Executive of the Year. It is such an honor to be recognized as the best by your peers. We are proud of Mike and the entire Bulls staff for this well-deserved award," added Mitch Lukevics, Tampa Bay's Director of Minor League Operations.