ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- Minor League Baseball announced today that the Tennessee Smokies and the Lake Elsinore Storm, respectively, are the winners of the John H. Johnson President's Award and the Larry MacPhail Award. The Smokies and Storm will receive their major awards at the Baseball Winter Meetings™ Annual Banquet on Thursday, Dec. 8, at the Hilton Anatole in Dallas, Texas.
John H. Johnson President's Award -- Tennessee Smokies
The President's Award, Minor League Baseball's top accolade, has been presented annually since 1974 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. For the first time in its 38-year history, the John H. Johnson President's Award is going to a Southern League club.
The Smokies are an original member of the modern day Southern League that was founded in 1964.
Several staff members have been with the club for a decade or more, including general manager Brian Cox, who completed his 22nd year with the Smokies in 2011.
The Double-A club celebrated 100 years of baseball in the Knoxville area this season, and also welcomed its 3-millionth fan since moving into Smokies Park in Sevierville, Tenn., in 2000.
The club believes that if you want to relate to the community, you have to be involved in it. The Smokies are members of eight chambers of commerce and four lodging and hospitality associations. They also host community events, such as the Great Smoky Mountain Auto Fest and a Christmas Wonderland, at their ballpark throughout the year.
The organization has also made a strong commitment to giving back to the East Tennessee community, as the club has partnered with many area schools, churches, youth and non-profit organizations. Through the Partners in Education program, the Smokies have adopted two area schools, and staff members and players volunteer time with projects and participate in school contests and functions.
"For the Smokies to be recognized by Minor League Baseball as a 'complete' franchise is a significant honor for everyone involved in our organization," Smokies president, Doug Kirchhofer, said.
"As an original member of the modern day Southern League since 1964, the stability the Tennessee Smokies have achieved with strong ownership and several staff members who have been with them for more than 10 years has enabled them to foster and nurture the kinds of relationships necessary for long-term success that all of our Minor League Baseball clubs strive to achieve," Pat O'Conner, president of Minor League Baseball, said.
"The Smokies have firmly immersed themselves into the fabric of the Knoxville/Sevierville region through their involvement with many civic organizations and hosting of numerous community events throughout the year. They are truly worthy of becoming the first Southern League club to win our highest honor, the John H. Johnson President's Award."
Larry MacPhail Award -- Lake Elsinore Storm
The Larry MacPhail Award, symbolizing the top promotion effort in Minor League Baseball, has been awarded annually since 1966. The Storm once again garnered local and national attention this season, despite being located in the challenging Los Angeles market. Their Charlie Sheen-co De Mayo promotion, which contained a bobblehead giveaway and the retiring of the No. 99 jersey from Sheen's role in the movie "Major League," among other elements, was featured by national media outlets. The club also revamped its social media campaign for 2011, streamlining its several groups and companies to one location.
Every weekday home game featured a special promotion, and on Sundays kids got to perform various game operations duties, including PA announcing and running the scoreboard and video boards.
The Storm has several mascots and characters that entertain fans throughout the game, including Thunder, the Rally Cop, the Rabbit Jackpot, who celebrates every Lake Elsinore homer, and the Groundscrew Gorilla, who captured Minor League Baseball's Golden Bobblehead Award this season for best in-game promotion.
Lake Elsinore, the first California League club to win the MacPhail Award, stresses the importance of reading, staying in school and being environmentally smart to more than 60,000 kids through its reading program.
Participants who read "Thunder's 8 Tips to Going Green" book and nine others receive a ticket to a Storm game. Thunder and some of the staff also act out the book and go over the tips of going green during a 20-minute presentation.
The Storm's regular season attendance of 225,769 led the California League for the second straight year.
"We appreciate the recognition and feel pride in the accomplishment on being named this year's MacPhail Award winner," said Storm president, Dave Oster and vice president and general manager, Chris Jones.
"We understand there are many creative and talented organizations in Minor League Baseball, so this is a reflection of the hard work the Storm staff put in this season," stated Jones.
"Every year we strive to run an awesome operation in Lake Elsinore," added Oster. "This is why the Storm organization is way stoked to have won this award."
"The Lake Elsinore Storm has been successful with its think outside-of-the-box approach to garner attention and attract fans, given their location in the Los Angeles market, for quite some time," O'Conner said. "A testament to their efforts is the fact that the Storm logo has been one of the most popular ones in Minor League Baseball for a while.
"As one of the first Minor League Baseball clubs to 'Go Green' at its ballpark, Lake Elsinore has promoted a sustainable lifestyle to its fans and community, making them a deserving recipient of the 2011 Larry MacPhail Award."
Johnson President's Award Winners
1974 Rochester, International
1975 Tacoma, Pacific Coast
1976 Mexico City Red Devils, Mexican
1977 Fresno, California
1978 Iowa, American Association
1979 Denver, American Association
1980 Quad-City, Midwest
1981 Great Falls, Pioneer
1982 Tacoma, Pacific Coast
1983 Louisville, American Association
1984 Albuquerque, Pacific Coast
1985 Las Vegas, Pacific Coast
1986 El Paso, Texas
1987 Syracuse, International
1988 Indianapolis, American Association
1989 Durham, Carolina
1990 Pawtucket, International
1991 Albuquerque, Pacific Coast
1992 Buffalo, American Association
1993 Norfolk, International
1994 Billings, Pioneer
1995 Columbus, International
1996 Salt Lake, Pacific Coast
1997 Richmond, International
1998 Lynchburg, Carolina
1999 Tulsa, Texas
2000 Portland, Eastern
2001 Eugene, Northwest
2002 Iowa, Pacific Coast
2003 Reading, Eastern
2004 Rochester, International
2005 Trenton, Eastern
2006 Altoona, Eastern
2007 Midland, Texas
2008 Cedar Rapids, Midwest
2009 San Jose, California
2010 Billings, Pioneer
2011 Tennessee, Southern
MacPhail Award Winners
1966 Spartanburg, Western Carolinas
1967 Rochester, International
1968 Cocoa, Florida State
1969 Hawaii, Pacific Coast
1970 Wichita, A.A./Hawaii, PCL (Tie)
1971 Oklahoma City, American Association
1972 San Antonio, Texas
1973 Tucson, Pacific Coast
1974 West Palm Beach, Florida State
1975 Tacoma, Pacific Coast
1976 El Paso, Texas/Cedar Rapids, Midwest (Tie)
1977 Columbus, OH, International
1978 Nashville, Southern
1979 Columbus, OH, International
1980 Nashville, Southern
1981 Nashville, Southern
1982 El Paso, Texas
1983 Arkansas, Texas
1984 Columbus, OH, INT/Billings, Pioneer (Tie)
1985 Richmond, International
1986 Iowa, American Association
1987 Albuquerque, Pacific Coast
1988 Birmingham, Southern
1989 Buffalo, American Association
1990 Richmond, International
1991 Salt Lake City, Pioneer
1992 Ft. Myers, Florida State
1993 El Paso, Texas
1994 Reading, Eastern
1995 Kane County, Midwest
1996 Wilmington, Carolina
1997 Rochester, International
1998 Charleston (SC), South Atlantic
1999 Reading, Eastern
2000 Lowell, New York-Penn
2001 Tennessee, Southern
2002 Lakewood, South Atlantic
2003 Trenton, Eastern
2004 Altoona, Eastern
2005 Brevard County, Florida State
2006 Round Rock, Pacific Coast
2007 West Michigan, Midwest
2008 Ogden, Pioneer
2009 Chattanooga, Southern
2010 New Hampshire, Eastern
2011 Lake Elsinore, California
Next award announcements upcoming:
Warren Giles Award and Rawlings Woman Executive of the Year, Nov. 9
Sheldon "Chief" Bender and Mike Coolbaugh Award winners, Nov. 14
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.