KODAK, Tenn. - The Tennessee Smokies, Double-A affiliate of the Chicago Cubs, was formally recognized from among over 160 minor league teams across North America as the "organization of the year" in Minor League Baseball. The National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues, headquartered in St. Petersburg, Fla., announced today the Smokies have been selected as the 2011 recipient of the John H. Johnson President's Award; which is given annually to the "complete" baseball franchise -- based on franchise stability, and significant contributions to the community, its league and the baseball industry.
This is the first such honor for Tennessee, who also becomes the first Southern League club to win the award since its inception in 1974.
"For the Smokies to be recognized by Minor League Baseball as a 'complete' franchise is a significant honor for everyone involved in our organization," said Smokies President Doug Kirchhofer.
The President's Award is the culmination of what has been a very impressive 2011 season for Tennessee, whose "Century of Memories" campaign celebrated 100 years of Smokies baseball in East Tennessee. On the field, the Smokies won their third consecutive North Division Championship. At the gate, the team enjoyed its highest per-game average attendance (3,960) in club history.
Tennessee Smokies Baseball has a tradition of providing the communities of East Tennessee with a top-notch baseball excitement and quality family entertainment. Since opening in 2000, Smokies Park has been one of the premier venues in Minor League Baseball - entertaining an average of over 250,000 fans over the past 12 seasons and welcomed its three millionth fan to Smokies Park in 2011.
"The John H. Johnson President's Award brings a meaningful conclusion to a season in which we celebrated 100 years of Smokies baseball in East Tennessee," stated Smokies General Manager Brian Cox.
The Tennessee organization has also made a strong commitment to giving back to the East Tennessee community, as the club 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 Smokies staff members and players volunteer time with projects and participate in school contests and functions.
"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."
Since being recognized by the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues in 1911, the franchise has had only 12 major league affiliates - Boston Bees (1936), Brooklyn Dodgers (1937, 1941), Pittsburgh Pirates (1938-1939), New York Giants (1940, 1948-1952), Baltimore Orioles (1956-1958), Detroit Tigers (1959-1964), Cincinnati Reds (1965-1967), Chicago White Sox (1972-1979), Toronto Blue Jays (1980-2002), St. Louis Cardinals (2003-2004), Arizona Diamondbacks (2005-2006), Chicago Cubs (2007-present). With 44 years as part of the Southern League of Professional Baseball, the Smokies are the longest tenured team in the Southern League. Tennessee has won three Southern League championships (1974, 1978, 2004).
Kirchhofer and Cox will accept this major award at the Baseball Winter Meetings Banquet at the Hilton Anatole in Dallas on Thursday, Dec. 8.
The Smokies will begin the 2012 campaign on Thursday, April 5 at AT&T Field against the Chattanooga Lookouts, and kickoff the home schedule on Tuesday, April 10 against the Jackson Generals at Smokies Park. Full and partial season tickets, group tickets and mini ticket packages are currently available by calling the Smokies Front Office at (865) 286-2300 or by visiting www.smokiesbaseball.com.
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.