JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - The Southern League announced on Wednesday that Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp General Manager Harold Craw is the 2017 Southern League Jimmy Bragan Executive of the Year, and the Jumbo Shrimp also are the winners of the 2017 Southern League Don Mincher Organization of the Year and 2017 Southern League Promotional Trophy. Award winners were selected by a vote of the league member clubs' general managers.
"While many of our hardworking, creative and passionate front office and ballpark staff, as well as the Jacksonville community, are working to recover from Hurricane Irma, these come as special credits to Northeast Florida," said Harold Craw. "It is an honor to be recognized by your peers, but there are many on our team who made major contributions to the success of the inaugural season of the Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp."
A 16-year Minor League Baseball executive, Craw has led the Jacksonville club since Fast Forward Sports Group officially took over the franchise in September 2015. The native of Chattanooga, Tennessee, started his Minor League Baseball career in 2002 and has worked for the Johnson City Cardinals, Charleston River Dogs - where he was twice recognized by the South Atlantic League as Sales Executive of the Year and for community relations - Quad Cities River Bandits and Chattanooga Lookouts prior to coming to Jacksonville.
In the inaugural season of the Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp presented by Community First Credit Union, the club welcomed 325,743 fans to the Baseball Grounds of Jacksonville - an increase of 61,342 that was the largest increase for a Double-A ballpark from 2016 to 2017, the largest in the history of the Baseball Grounds of Jacksonville and second-largest of any ballpark in domestic Minor League Baseball. The club's average attendance of 5,171 was the highest per-game average in nine years at the Baseball Grounds of Jacksonville and an increase of 23 percent over 2016.
"We continue to be humbled and honored by the Jacksonville community, whose resilience at this challenging time impresses and inspires us as an organization and residents of this special city," said Jumbo Shrimp Owner Ken Babby. "Northeast Florida's amazing response to Affordable Family Fun has put Crustacean Nation on the national landscape."
The Jumbo Shrimp drew nationwide attention in the days, weeks and months following their Nov. 2, 2016, rebranding announcement. Merchandise items had been shipped to all 50 States and more than a dozen countries before Opening Day in April. Fans submitted more than 2,000 names for the new mascot. Scampi was voted the winner. A dog from local nonprofit K9s for Warriors, Sgt. Scampi, served as the team's bat dog one inning each Friday. The new ballpark menu featured more than a dozen shrimp options and was selected to appear on the Travel Channel show "Food Paradise." Affordable Family Fun at the ballpark included the JAXSPORTS Jumbo Shrimp Neck Pillow Giveaway - named the top Minor League Baseball giveaway item by MLB.com Cut4 - and Silent Movie Night, which won awards, respectively, as June and August Minor League Baseball Promotion of the Month. The team hosted three free military appreciation nights for a second straight year and several local fundraisers at the ballpark. The club also celebrated Jacksonville's Negro League legacy with throwback Jacksonville Red Caps uniforms and a fan jersey giveaway.
ABOUT EACH AWARD:
SOUTHERN LEAGUE AWARD WINNERS
Named in honor of the former Southern League President, the Jimmy Bragan Executive of the Year Award is given to the Executive who, in the estimate of his/her peers, has made the most valuable contribution to his or her club.
Named in honor of another former Southern League President, the Don Mincher Organization of the Year is the club that most exemplifies the standards of the complete baseball franchise. As the 2017 winner, the Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp club is the Southern League nominee for the John H. Johnson President's Award. Named after the former president of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues, Minor League Baseball's top award that is presented annually to honor the complete baseball franchise based on franchise stability, contributions to league stability, contributions to baseball in the community, and promotion of the baseball industry.
The Southern League Promotional Trophy is the club with the most outstanding promotional work during the season. As the 2017 winner, the Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp club is the Southern League nominee for the Larry MacPhail Award. Named after a longtime baseball executive, the award recognizes the top promotion effort in Minor League Baseball.
The John H. Johnson President's Award, Larry MacPhail Award, and each league's Executive of the Year Award are presented in December at the annual Baseball Winter Meetings, which will take place Dec. 10-14 at the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Resort in Orlando, Florida.
HISTORY OF MINOR LEAGUE BASEBALL AWARDS
UP NEXT: The Jumbo Shrimp open the 2018 season presented by Community First Credit Union on April 5, 2018, in Jackson, Tennessee. The 2018 home opener is Wednesday, April 11, 2018, at the Baseball Grounds of Jacksonville. Season ticket renewals and new packages for the 2018 season may be reserved with a nonrefundable 25 percent deposit by calling a Jumbo Shrimp account representative at (904) 358-2846 or at the box office, which is open Monday through Friday, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., and during home games for the remainder of the 2017 season.
ABOUT THE JUMBO SHRIMP: The Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp are beginning a new era of affordable family fun with the 2017 season presented by Community First Credit Union at the Baseball Grounds of Jacksonville. With a new lineup of ticket and group options, there is a reason for everyone to get part of the action by calling the Jumbo Shrimp at (904) 358-2846 or visiting www.jaxshrimp.com.