At Home With the JetHawks

Red Sox affiliate flying high in a fast-growing California community

(Lancaster JetHawks)

March 31, 2008 4:00 AM

The Minor League Baseball landscape is endlessly diverse, and encompasses everything from rookie league clubs nestled in mountainous rural areas to Triple-A teams located in the heart of major urban centers. Accordingly, each club must develop marketing and promotional strategies that resonate with its unique fan base. Each week, MiLB.com profiles a Minor League club in order to spotlight just how interesting and varied the world of professional baseball can be.

Today, we speak with Brad Seymour, general manager of the California League's Lancaster JetHawks, Class A Advanced affiliate of the Boston Red Sox. The JetHawks, who compiled the best record in the league last season, are sporting new logos and uniforms in 2008.

MiLB.com: How would you characterize your team's fan base? Has it grown or changed in recent years?

BS: Our fan base is constantly evolving in that our market is the fastest growing area of Los Angeles county. Thus, we are challenged with introducing our product to new members of the community. We are fortunate to maintain a very loyal fan base that has been with us since the beginning, however. Through large-scale community programs such as our Reading Challenge and fundraising event, we have the opportunity to gain exposure with large segments of our population base. This year, we grew at 7 percent, which was up from the 2-3 percent gains we had experienced in prior years.

MiLB.com: Working in a Minor League front office is all about getting people in the seats. What type of marketing strategies do the fans respond to? What are some of your team's most effective recurring promotions?

BS: Each weeknight features an ongoing theme. The most popular weekly promotions are Feed Your Face Monday, where fans can enjoy all-you-can-eat hamburgers, hot dogs, peanuts and popcorn and a game ticket for only $10. The other popular promotion we introduced in 2007 is Cheers Buck Beers, when we offer $1 draught beers through the sixth inning. We also host Tumbleweed Tuesday, when we price tickets based on the wind speed the previous day and pay tribute to the Antelope Valley's windy conditions. New in 2008 will be Weight Loss Wednesday, which will encourage fans to live a healthy lifestyle and win prizes throughout the season with weight loss. On this date, fans will "Pay What We Weigh," when we will weigh a different staff member each week and fans will pay a penny per pound that the individual weighs. In addition, fans can register their weight on the first Wednesday game they attend and then weigh-in on the final Wednesday home game. Whoever has lost the largest percentage of their body weight will win great prizes.

At a Glance: Lancaster JetHawks

First season: 1996 (prior to that, the franchise was located in Riverside, Calif.)

Affiliation: Boston Red Sox (2007-present)

Stadium: Clear Channel Stadium (1996-present)

League Championships: None

City Population: 144,000 (2007 estimate)

Notable JetHawks Alumni:

  • Jose Cruz Jr.
  • Brandon Webb
  • Brian Fuentes
  • Dan Uggla

People who've called Lancaster home:

  • Judy Garland
  • John Wayne
  • Frank Zappa
  • Douglas Fairbanks (swashbuckling silent-film star)

MiLB.com: How has the Internet affected the way your team is run?

BS: Our Web site is the No. 1 tool we use to keep our fan base informed, and also to spread news about our club. The most important tool within our site is the e-mail database, which we use approximately once a week to make announcements and inform our fans about special offers, etc. We have seen Web traffic increase dramatically in the last two years, and we make it a top priority to constantly change and keep our Web site fresh. Often, during the slow times of the year, we simply change a photo for a related story, with the goal that some change is made at least once per day so that fans keep checking back. In looking at the data behind our site, we receive visitors from all over the country and from several countries around the world. The affiliation with the Red Sox has certainly helped our club's recognition and driven traffic to our site, allowing us to promote our brand.

MiLB.com: Has your team staged any notable creative or offbeat promotions in recent years? Any that just didn't work?

BS: Our annual Aerospace Appreciation Night, honoring a local pioneer of air and space, is the biggest promotion we do each season (besides the annual Independence Day fireworks). During each event, we give away a limited-edition bobblehead doll honoring an individual, and this becomes a true "community" event as it attracts many non-baseball fans. Past honorees include Buzz Aldrin and Chuck Yeager, and the only criterion is that the individual has worked or been involved with the local aerospace industry. This represents the best promotion a team can do, in that it attracts a wide base of the community and honors the people and industry that are most important to our market.

MiLB.com: Does your concession stand serve any regional specialties or otherwise remarkable items?

BS: We have an entire concession stand devoted to Mexican Food, called "Senor KaBoom's Cantina," which has done very well since it opened in 2007. The cantina offers hand-rolled burritos made of fresh ingredients, and we will introduce a couple of Mexican-style hot dogs in 2008, including a Nacho Grande Dog and Chili Cheese Burrito Dog (a hot dog topped with chili, cheese and onions and wrapped in a tortilla). We also offer great barbecue fare in our "Hot Corner BBQ" stand, featuring signature tri-tip, pulled pork and shredded chicken sandwiches, barbecue nachos and a new Smokey Dog, which is a hot dog wrapped in bacon and topped with chili, nacho cheese and onions. In our "Hot Dog Nation" stand, we offer several varieties of jumbo dogs with unique toppings, including a half-pound, nine-inch "Monst-Ah Dog."

MiLB.com: What type of merchandise sells the best at the team store? Are there any offbeat or unique items available for purchase?

BS: The traditional items are what sell best in our stadium store. In addition to caps, T-shirts, sweatshirts and jackets, anything with the Red Sox logo on it seems to do well, considering their large fan base. We try to keep designs simple across the board, and obviously offer a wide selection of affordable clothing and caps, so that any fan can wear the JetHawks logo with pride. Our new team identity, which we introduced in October, has helped to spur sales, naturally, and we expect sales to trend upward as the overall design and color scheme is much more in tune with today's styles.

MiLB.com: How large of a role does your mascot play, both at the stadium and within the community?

BS: KaBoom, our mascot, is the face of the organization and the biggest ambassador we have in terms of getting into the community. It is imperative that we utilize the mascot to its fullest extent in terms of appearances and overall exposure, because it draws crowds and represents the entertainment found at our ballpark. During games, we strive to ensure that the mascot is always visible and entertaining the crowd, something that we are always looking to improve upon. We use the mascot as the ambassador for two of our largest programs, the Reading Challenge and Junior JetHawks Kid's Club, both of which reach thousands of local children. This is important as we develop new fans and introduce them and their families to our product.

MiLB.com: Minor League stadiums often vary greatly from one another. What are the positives of playing in your facility? Any drawbacks?

BS: Our facility was built in 1996, so it is a modern stadium with all of the amenities that sports fans and players have come to expect. The overall layout and our city's commitment to maintaining a first-class stadium are the biggest positives. Last season, we replaced the infield dirt midseason, resulting in a great playing surface, and the grounds are always in top shape. The biggest drawback is the lack of a large indoor meeting area, which would be ideal to host large corporate functions on non-gamedays. When we do host private parties and other fan events, we do so in our home clubhouses. These are very spacious and are set up nicely for both teams, but can provide some challenges when we want to host large numbers in an enclosed environment.

On a side note, the full-size FA-18 NASA test jet mounted in front of the stadium is certainly the signature spot for the facility and draws people of all ages throughout the year who take photos and gaze at this tremendous piece of aviation history.

MiLB.com: What are some of your favorite on-field moments since you've been with the team?

BS: During every game, in the eighth inning, we host the Kids Fun Run, which involves all children age 10 and younger running across the outfield grass from right field to left field. There is not a greater visual than to see hundreds of kids running as fast as they can across the field. I like this promotion the best because I believe that we, in the front office, oftentimes forget that it is a magical experience for kids (and adults!) to be on a professional baseball field. Watching the kids scream as they run across the field is truly a highlight each night.

On the field, in 2007 we had two players hit four home runs in one game, on two separate occasions. This marked the first (and second) time in California League history that anyone had accomplished this feat. It was incredible to see it happen once, when Aaron Bates did it in May, and to have Brad Correll come back weeks later and do it again in front of the home crowd was something that no one who was here will ever forget.

Next Week: Portland Beavers

Benjamin Hill is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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