COLUMBIA, SC - After an abundantly successful 2017 season, Fireflies President John Katz has been named the South Atlantic League's General Manager of the Year. Vice President of Marketing and Public Relations Abby Naas was named the league's Female Executive of the Year.
Naas will be the South Atlantic League's nominee for the Rawlings Woman Executive of the Year Award, an industry-wide annual award presented by Rawlings and Minor League Baseball.
"This recognition would not be possible without the dedication and hard work of our entire front office staff throughout the season," Katz said. "I'm honored to be chosen out of a group of so many incredibly bright and talented executives around the league, and appreciative of the award."
This is Katz's first SAL General Manager of the Year Award after having been named the Executive of the Year of the Carolina League in 2006 and the California League in 2000. Katz was also named the California League's Outstanding General Manager in 1999. The Canton, Massachusetts, native has overseen the New York Mets South Atlantic League affiliate since October of 2008 (the Savannah Sand Gnats through 2015), and was honored by the Mets with the 2009 Sterling Mets Minor League Executive of the Year Award. Locally, Katz has been twice named as one of the Columbia Business Monthly 50 Most Influential people in the Midlands.
"2017 was a thrilling season in Columbia and I'm humbled by the recognition from the league," said Naas. "I can't thank my co-workers in the front office enough for their tireless contributions throughout the year. It's truly a joy to be able to work with them on a daily basis."
Naas is no stranger to this award. The Davie, Florida, native was twice named the Midwest League Female Executive of the Year in 2010 and 2014 during her time as Director of Promotions and Community Relations for the Fort Wayne TinCaps. As the South Atlantic League recipient, Naas is now a nominee to be nationally recognized as the Rawlings Woman Executive of the Year Award for all of Minor League Baseball. That award will be presented during the 2017 Winter Meetings in Orlando in December.
"Abby is incredibly deserving of the Female Executive of the Year Award," Katz added. "Abby has been instrumental in building our brand from day one with the Fireflies, and took the lead in planning some of this year's highlights, such as Total Eclipse of the Park and Purple Game 2.0. It is truly an honor to have Abby as a key member of our senior management team."
Katz and Naas, along with the Fireflies front office and senior management teams, have overseen the incredible growth of Columbia's first professional baseball franchise in over a decade. The Fireflies moved into Spirit Communications Park in April of 2016 and, in each of the first two seasons, have set a new attendance record for a Columbia professional baseball organization. The Fireflies have hosted 576,168 fans for games and tens of thousands more for non-game events. The team's per game attendance average rose from 3,785 fans per game in 2016 to 4,773 a night this year - a 21% increase from the Inaugural Season.
The 2017 season was Katz's 25th in Minor League Baseball, and his 19th as a team's top executive. He has previously worked for the Savannah Sand Gnats (2009-2015), Salem Avalanche / Red Sox (2006-2009), Stockton Ports (2001-2005), Modesto A's (1997-2001) and the Carolina Mudcats (1994-1996). Katz began his career as an Operations / Marketing Manager for Major League Baseball's Arizona Fall League. He has led the successful opening of two minor league ballparks: Spirit Communications Park in Columbia last year and Banner Island Ballpark in Stockton, California, in 2005.
Naas, a Florida Gulf Coast alum, just completed her 10th season working in professional baseball. Naas has been the architect behind the coordination of community engagement events, organization of in-game promotions and management of theme nights for the Fireflies. Naas previously worked with the Fort Wayne TinCaps (2009-2014) and the Fort Myers Miracle (2006). In honor of her dedication to Spirit Communications Park and the entire city of Columbia, Naas was named one of the 11 Women of Influence by the Columbia Regional Business Report. According to CRBR, the award is given to young women who are setting the pace in their professional careers as well as working to make the Midlands a better place.
About the Columbia Fireflies
The Columbia Fireflies are the South Atlantic League affiliate of the New York Mets. Winners of Ballpark Digest's Best New Branding and Logo Award in 2016, the Fireflies play games across the southeast and mid-Atlantic regions, including against in-state rivals in Charleston and Greenville. The team partnered with the city of Columbia and Hughes Development to construct Spirit Communications Park, a multi-use outdoor sports and entertainment venue at the center of the BullStreet development. The Columbia Fireflies are owned by Hardball Capital, owners of the Fort Wayne TinCaps of the Midwest League and the Chattanooga Lookouts of the Southern League. For more information, visit ColumbiaFireflies.com, or follow the Fireflies on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.
About Spirit Communications Park
Spirit Communications Park, the 2016 Ballpark Digest Ballpark of the Year, is a 365-day per year multi-use sports and entertainment venue located in the heart of downtown Columbia, SC. Spirit Communications Park is the home ballpark for the Columbia Fireflies, the South Atlantic League affiliate of the New York Mets. Designed for baseball, concerts, football, soccer and a host of other activities, the venue can accommodate approximately 9,000 for sporting events and up to 15,000 for major outdoor concerts. With 16 luxury suites and a 7,000 square-foot Club Level Lounge, Spirit Communications Park can also host everything from business meetings to wedding receptions, and everything in between. The venue is open 365 days a year and serves as a public park with the wrap-around concourse representing 1/3 of a mile for walkers and joggers. For more information, visit www.SpiritCommunicationsPark.com.
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.