El Paso welcomes hundreds of MiLB executives to 2019 Innovators Summit

By Mary Marandi / Minor League Baseball | September 27, 2019 10:45 AM

This year's Minor League Baseball Innovators Summit returned to its roots in El Paso, Texas, where the first El Paso Promotional Seminar took place in 1977. Now, more than four decades later, Minor League Baseball executives are still gathering at this annual event, renamed the Innovators Summit last fall, for a week of educational programming, workshops, speakers, networking and FUN! If you couldn't make it to this year's summit, we hope you enjoy this recap of some of the week's notable events.

Monday, Sept. 23


More than 150 MiLB executives volunteered their afternoon at the Armed Services YMCA as part of this year's MiLBCommUNITY Service Project. (Courtney Nehls/MiLB)

2019 Minor League Baseball Ticketing Symposium, presented by Tickets.com - Ticket sales is the lifeline and backbone of every Minor League Baseball team. The Ticketing Symposium, presented by Tickets.com, now in its third year as an Innovators Summit event, kicked off this year's summit and presented attendees with a plethora of information on current ticketing trends, technology and processes.

MiLB CommUNITY Service Project, presented by Musco Sports Lighting and Uncle Ray's - Appropriately nicknamed "The Sun City," El Paso averages approximately 300 days of sunshine per year and gave volunteers the ideal backdrop for an afternoon filled with camaraderie, giving back to the community and in true MiLB fashion, lots of hard work. Nearly 150 attendees volunteered their afternoon at the Armed Services YMCA of El Paso for the MiLB CommUNITY Service Project, presented by Musco Sports Lighting and Uncle Ray's. Activities included painting indoor rooms and the exterior of the building, weeding, constructing a covered barbecue pit and adding solar panels to the building. As one volunteer put it, "I participate in the CommUNITY Service Project every year because I feel like it's a great way to start the week, giving back to one of MiLB's cities. This year was really special because we were helping the families of our military members who serve us every day."

Happy Hour, presented by Applegate - The first day of the summit concluded with Happy Hour, presented by Applegate, on the Trade Show floor where attendees got their first look at this year's more than 50 Trade show Exhibitors and enjoyed a delicious spread of Applegate hot dogs and hamburgers and a variety of sides and drinks. The MiLB Charities Challenge provided some entertainment for attendees as the three participating teams (Team American Cancer Society, Team ALS Association and Team Big Brothers Big Sisters) competed in their first challenge, "Dress Yo Dog." The teams went head to head in four events over the four days of the summit and on Thursday night, Team Big Brothers Big Sisters was declared the overall winner and received $500 on behalf of MiLB Charities.

Tuesday, Sept. 24: Celebrating the Past


Attendees donned their best '70s attire for the MiLB Mixer to celebrate the decade the original El Paso Promotional Seminar began. (Danny Wild/MiLB.com)

Newcomers Breakfast, presented by Destination El Paso - All first-time Innovators Summit attendees were encouraged to participate in this new event and network with other summit newbies. Each table included a moderator who led his or her table in a discussion asking a series of questions including, "What do you hope to learn and gain from this week?" and "What does innovation mean to you?" Attendees exchanged stories and made new friends over breakfast before heading off to another busy day of educational sessions at the El Paso Convention and Performing Arts Center.

Mountainside Chat with Jim Paul - Creator of the original El Paso Promotional Seminar and former owner and operator of the El Paso Diablos (1975-1996) Jim Paul shared how he established the first seminar in 1976 with a little help from his friends and told stories of MiLB days past. Known as one of the greatest minds in sports promotions, Jim discussed the importance of personal one-one-one relationships, using your imagination and getting fans emotionally interested in the game as some of his keys to success. Did you know that, when Jim bought the Diablos in the '70s, he paid a whopping $1,000 for the team? What a long way Minor League Baseball has come, yet it continues to learn from its past and pay respect to those who have worked tirelessly to build the MiLB of today.

MiLB Mixer - Donning their grooviest attire, Innovators Summit attendees paid homage to "The Me Decade" and danced the night away to '70s cover band Fungi Mungle at the Arts Festival Plaza and Sky Garden. Can you dig it? We can.

Wednesday, Sept. 25: Recognizing the Present

Women in Baseball: Coffee & Connections, presented by Jostens - The Innovators Summit started a brew-tiful Wednesday in El Paso with the third annual Coffee & Connections event, which welcomed women and men to discuss gender inclusion in Minor League Baseball and participate in an interactive workshop. Minor League Baseball President & CEO Pat O'Conner addressed the attendees, followed by a panel discussion titled, "The Future Is…?" To read more about this year's event, click here.

MiLB Charities Social, presented by Musco Sports Lighting - This year's auction proved to be another successful endeavor, raising $8,210 for MiLB Charities. The auction included something for everyone, with items ranging from sports memorabilia, to the latest tech items, to travel/vacation packages and everything in between. A few of the most popular items up for bid were an Aaron Judge signed baseball, a gameday field experience with the Miami Dolphins, a $500 Allegiant flight voucher, an Apple Watch and a Golden State Warriors hat signed by Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson.


The MiLB Charities Social auction offered attendees a variety of items on which to bid, all benefiting MiLB Charities. (Mary Marandi/MiLB)

Thursday, Sept. 26: Looking Ahead to the Future

2020 MiLB Innovator's Summit Host City Announcement - Before the Golden Bobblehead Award finalist presentations, Minor League Baseball announced the site of the next year's event. Click here to find out which Carolina League city hundreds of MiLB executives will be Dash-ing to next fall!

Golden Bobblehead Awards Finalist Presentations - This year's finalist presentations had no shortage of humor, drama and once again, tequila shots with emcee Allan Benavides and the presenting teams. Finalists in each category listed below made presentations to fellow attendees, who then voted for one winner in each respective category. This year's categories were:

  • Best Theme Night: Awarded to the club that conducts the best theme night (including giveaways in this category).
  • Best In-Game Promotion: Awarded to the club that conducts the best promotion during its games (on-field, between innings, etc.). Each in-game promotion must be submitted as its own unique submission.
  • Best Non-Gameday Event: Awarded to the club that hosts the best event held in-stadium on a non-gameday.
  • Best Community Promotion or Event: Awarded to the club that hosts the best charitable or community-related program, event or in-game promotion (reading programs, charity nights, volunteer initiatives, etc.). The winning club receives a $1,000 donation in its name to the charity of its choice, on behalf of MiLB Charities.
  • Best Digital Campaign or Activation: Awarded to the club that activates the best digitally-driven campaign. The campaign can be for a club, partner or overall MiLB initiative.
  • Best Overall Promotion: Attendees will select their favorite overall promotion from the finalists above, excluding Best Specialty Jersey.

Yappy Hour, presented by OC Sports - If there's one thing MiLB loves, it's dogs! While Chico was busy prepping his house for the Ballpark Outing, attendees experienced a new kind of happy hour, appropriately named "Yappy Hour," during their visit to the home of the El Paso Chihuahuas. Hosted on the Convention Center Plaza, attendees enjoyed drinks and played with some local furry friends before walking over to Southwest University Park for the summit's final event.   


The 2019 Golden Bobblehead Awards were presented at Southwest University Park during the Ballpark Outing. (Danny Wild/MiLB.com)

Ballpark Outing - The El Paso Chihuahuas and their staff graciously welcomed Innovators Summit attendees to Southwest University Park, giving them a first-hand look at one of Minor League Baseball's premier venues. The outing included a spread of foods unique to El Paso, plenty of majestic ballpark views and a behind-the-scenes tour of the state-of-the-art facility located in downtown El Paso. The highly-anticipated announcement of the winners of this year's Golden Bobblehead Awards were also made at the ballpark. Congratulations to all the winners!

  • NEW CATEGORY! Best Specialty Jersey: Moon Landing 50th Anniversary Night, Bowie Baysox
  • Best Theme Night: Salute to Cows, featuring Udder Tuggers, Wisconsin Timber Rattlers
  • Best In-Game Promotion: Beat the Fridge Race, Gwinnett Stripers
  • Best Non-Gameday Event: Play Like a Girl, Nashville Sounds
  • Best Community Promotion or Event: Teachers Appreciation Night, Lakeland Flying Tigers
  • Best Digital Campaign or Activation: This Is R City, Tacoma Rainiers
  • Best Overall Promotion: Salute to Cows, featuring Udder Tuggers, Wisconsin Timber Rattlers

The 2019 Innovators Summit proved to once again to be one of sports' premier offseason educational and idea-sharing events. We look forward to seeing you next year in Winston-Salem!

This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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