Cal League announces Executive Awards

Circuit names Org of the Year, Exec of the Year and other honors

September 28, 2016 3:23 PM ET

Oxnard, CA - The California League is proud to announce its Executive Awards for the 2016 season. Teams submitted nominations and winners were voted on by their peers.

Organization of the Year: The Bakersfield Blaze had the best season since D.G. Elmore originally bought the club back in 2006.

Using a combination of new staff, new community relations department, a bulked-up media relations outfit, and a sustained sponsorship push, the Blaze set marks in almost every category. Advertising revenue increased by 10 percent despite the continued oil recession. In-ballpark attendance increased by 40.4 percent. This stemmed in large part from the club's community outreach and among the best in the league this season. The Blaze boasted 119 team community appearances (including 35 at high-impact locations like hospitals and foster homes), raised over $27,000 for local non-profits, worked with five local service groups and attended little league ceremonies for five leagues. In addition, the team was able to reach fans through traditional and social media efforts. The Blaze pioneered Facebook Event Page usage, and utilized cross-promotional relationships with media in town to blast news of the team's games and promotions across Kern County.

Tickets sold increased by 21.5 percent.

In-ballpark revenue increased by 46.8 percent. This is important because it is not only higher than the increase in tickets, it is also higher than the increase in fans through the turnstile. This signifies a bump in dollars spent per fan. Moreover, this number improved despite a greater number of deals on food and tickets, at least partially debunking the theory that more deals can lead to fewer dollars.

The Blaze saw improvements in every relevant statistical category, though the team had but seven full-time staff members and dealt with the departure of the club's longtime GM in the middle of the season.

Excellence in Marketing and Promotions: In 2016, the Rancho Cucamonga Quakes promotions incorporated three areas of focus: celebrating the Quakes Cal League Championship, growing the reach of giveaways and adding variety to theme nights.

On the heels of their 2015 title, the Quakes opened 2016 with Championship Weekend, handing out flags on opening night and then replica rings to commemorate the pre-game ring ceremony. Once again, five highly-sought bobblehead giveaways highlighted the Quakes promotional schedule and led to the largest Quakes boom in ticket plan sales, adding 550 guaranteed giveaway ticket plan add-ons and new ticket packages. On July 2nd, the Quakes honored their Cal League Hall of Fame Inductee, Fernando Valenzuela, with a bobblehead and pre-game recognition. The night/bobblehead landed the headline in's July 6 Cal League Notebook.

In 2016, the Quakes celebrated the third annual Star Wars Night at LoanMart Field, welcoming 4,823 fans for photos, crafts, costume contests and interactions with 40-plus authentic Star Wars characters and groups. The Quakes also added Christmas in July, combining a "Red-Bearded Santa" Justin Turner Bobblehead with a Santa Clause-themed Jersey auction, complete with carolers and ukulele-playing Santas. In total, the Quakes gave away 11,500-plus bobbleheads to fans, more than in any previous season, with four jersey auctions including a Dora the Explorer jersey.

As in previous years, the Quakes promotional nights were scheduled on a weekly cycle, highlighted by Healthy RC Recycle Tuesday and U.S. Bank Youth Clinics which hosted more than one thousand local little leaguers and their families for on-field instruction and a Sunday afternoon game. Fans were also treated to fireworks shows 13 times this season.

For their marketing efforts, the Quakes continued to see growth on Social Media, introducing the Quakes Snapchat in April and becoming the only Cal League club to surpass 10 thousand followers on Instagram (currently at 19.7K).

The Quakes are the Cal League's nomination for the Larry MacPhail award given to a Minor League team who demonstrates outstanding and creative marketing and promotional efforts within its community.

The Inland Empire 66ers were named the winner of the Excellence in Community Service Award.

San Bernardino Strong - On December 2nd, tragedy struck San Bernardino when 14 people were killed and 21 others injured after terrorists attacked the Inland Regional Center. San Manuel Stadium, became the location for the community to gather and become SB Strong.

Less than 24 hours after the mass shooting, thousands gathered at San Manuel Stadium to attend a candlelight and prayer vigil to begin the healing process. On this night "SB Strong" came into existence and an organic fundraising opportunity happened after multiple attendees asked where they could buy tee shirts with the SB Strong logo. Orders came in from all over the country ending up in over 2,000 t-shirts sold with proceeds in the amount of $36,620 being donated to the San Bernardino United Relief Fund.

66ers Baseball hosted a lunch for the first responders of the attack. The 66ers served over 500 personnel from local police, sheriff, fire and EMS organizations. The San Bernardino business community hosted a SB Strong Charity Picnic and Blood Drive at San Manuel Stadium. Over $30,000 was raised and more people than could be accommodated showed up to donate blood.

The 66ers, along with the San Jose Giants, wore SB Strong themed Jersey on April 15th which created an environment to celebrate those who lost their lives. Throughout the game first responders, families of victims and survivors were honored. Revenue from tickets purchased by San Bernardino County employees, a jersey auction and other in-game opportunities added another $7,495 in donations.

In total, $74,115.26 was raised for the victims and their families.

In addition, the 66ers continued their excellence in community service by working with over 200 partners with an impact of over $400,000 in donations during the 2016 season.

The 66ers will also represent the League as the nomination for the national John Henry Moss Community Service Award which is Minor League Baseball's top service award in the industry.

The 2016 Executive of the Year is Mike Candela, General Manager of the Bakersfield Blaze. Candela is best understood through the lens of the almighty number.

-3.3 - League average attendance change from 2015 to 2016.

21.5 - Percentage attendance increase from 2015 to 2016, the largest positive growth number for any California League team, and the only team to increase by more than 4.7 percent.

40.4 - Percentage "turnstile" increase from 2015 to 2016, indicating a higher percentage of tickets sold were then used at the stadium.

46.8 - Percentage increase in actual in-ballpark revenue from 2015 to 2016.

11 - Percentage increase in "bodies through turnstile" over ANY previous season between 2006 and today.

2 - Days of warning before Candela was promoted to GM in the middle of the baseball season.

1668 - Number of actual humans inside stadium on July 4th, the highest single-game "turnstile" number in 2 decades. 6 - Number of consecutive days of over 1,000 tickets sold, the first time this has occurred since the Dodgers occupied Sam Lynn Ballpark.

7 - Full time-staff of Bakersfield Blaze, plus a groundskeeper.

What Mike Candela has been able to accomplish has been truly incredible.

No one arrives earlier and no one stays later than Mike Candela.

The Cal League Woman of Excellence is Visalia Rawhide's GM, Jennifer Pendergraft.

In 2007, Jennifer Pendergraft started as an Executive Assistant for the Visalia Oaks. She quickly fell in love with the town, Top of the Third ownership philosophies and what the ballclub had planned for the future. Jennifer has been in Visalia ever since. After assisting with the ballpark renovation process & team rebranding, she was named Assistant GM in 2009.

Continued ball club growth led to Jennifer's promotion to General Manager after the conclusion of the 2012 season and it has not stopped. She has continued to build an outstanding brand of family entertainment at Recreation Park which, in 2016, set an all-time attendance record for the fifth time in seven years as 123,079 fans came through the turnstiles.

Last year, the Rawhide won the California League's Excellence in Community Service Award. They achieved such an honor by Jennifer's leadership in making their community feel like they are a "Rawhide Family". Pendergraft also shared the "family love" with the entire California League when she told teams how to gain grant access from Strategic Business Solutions, LLC. She gave clubs a way to make their employees better while saving money at the same time.

The recent success of the Visalia Rawhide is due in no small part to Jen's dedication to the organization and the community of Visalia.

The Lancaster JetHawks were named the winner of the Excellence in Patriotism Award. This is a new award in Minor League Baseball and the Cal League Winner will go on to be the nomination for the Charles K. Murphy Patriot Award. The award was named after long-time Florida State League President and former Army Colonel, Chuck Murphy. The award will recognize an individual or club for its outstanding support of military branches and level of engagement with veterans.

Below is a list of promotions the JetHawks did in support of the troops in 2016:

- During the holidays the JetHawks visited the Pete Knight Retirement home with Santa Claus & KaBoom, the JetHawks mascot.

- Sundays were Military Appreciation Day. During the game, different services were asked to stand to be recognized and the players also wore military camouflaged jerseys.

- Every Sunday the Antelope Valley Young Marines volunteered to perform the Color Guard.

- In 2016, the JetHawks installed and dedicated a POW-MIA seat. Congressman Steve Knight & Assemblyman Tom Lackey unveiled it as service members from Edwards AFB and OATH (Operation All The way Home) conducted the dedication from the field. During home games veterans would gather around the seat and salute during the National Anthem.

- Before every home game a Military Family of the Game was recognized.

- The JetHawks participated in Edwards AFB's Youth Baseball & Softball Opening Ceremonies.

- The team signed on with Beers for the Brave where fans could thank active duty military service members at The Hangar and buy them a beer. The JetHawks also recognized a Gold Star Family.

- There was a fundraising night dedicated to the helping the Bob Hope USO and Edwards AFB Teen Center.

- The US Army had tents on the concourse throughout the season. There were also games where recruiters re-enlisted and new soldiers were sworn into the Army on-field.

- If you know Chuck Murphy, he signed off every correspondence with God Bless America and the JetHawks installed a 30-foot banner at the stadium exit, with those exact words.

Cal League President, Charlie Blaney, stated: "The winners of these prestigious League Awards were voted by their peers in the league, and they have been submitted as the Cal League's Nominees for National Honors to be awarded at Baseball's Winter Meetings in December. The Cal League is very proud of our winners."

About the Cal League:
The California League was founded in 1941 by a combination of Major League and Pacific Coast League clubs. The League currently plays a 140-game season starting in April with the regular season wrapping up on Labor Day. Over the years, the California League has produced 19 Hall of Famers, 16 MVP winners, 19 CY Young recipients, and has 32 Rookie of the Year awards. The California League has become the premier Single-A League in Minor League Baseball. See today's Minor League stars on their way to becoming tomorrow's Major League legends.

View More