ROUND ROCK, Texas - The Pacific Coast League announced this week that Round Rock Express President Chris Almendarez has been named the league's Executive of the Year. In addition, the club was named the PCL nominee for Minor League Baseball's John Henry Moss Community Service Award.
Almendarez oversaw the club's best average attendance since 2009 while simultaneously becoming a leader of several philanthropic efforts following his wife Jana's diagnosis and passing of glioblastoma brain cancer on May 14.
"It has been a very emotional couple of days and an emotional season for myself and my family but I am very honored and humbled to receive this award," Almendarez said. "To be recognized by the Pacific Coast League is a testament to our great staff. Their support for my family this season has been nothing short of amazing."
While the Express celebrated a successful 2016 campaign that saw more than 613,000 fans pass through the gates at Dell Diamond, Almendarez became a vocal figure not only in the fight against brain cancer but also for disadvantaged orphans in Africa. Following Jana's passing, Chris began working alongside Ryan Sanders Baseball to meet a goal of raising $250,000 to build Jana's House, a home for orphaned girls in Zambia. The cause became close to Jana's heart following a family mission trip to the country in 2014.
With the support of Express players, coaches, staff, sponsors, fans and the entire baseball community, Almendarez has been able to use the sport he loves to keep his wife's legacy alive while also helping children in need halfway around the world.
"I can't thank our ownership group, fans and sponsors enough for all of their support this season. One of our slogans is #OneTeam and I couldn't be prouder of how everyone came together to live out that mantra every day," Almendarez said.
Back in Round Rock, the Express recorded four of the top 10 highest attendances in franchise history, including an Opening Day crowd of 13,212, the third-largest gathering since Dell Diamond opened in 2000. On average, the team saw 8,637 fans per game over the course of the 2016 season, a mark that led the Pacific Coast League and finished fifth in all of Minor League Baseball.
"We are so proud of Chris," Ryan Sanders Baseball CEO Reese Ryan said. "This has been such a trying year and there is no one more deserving of this honor."
Almendarez becomes the third member of the Round Rock Express front office to be named PCL Executive of the Year since 2010. Former President Dave Fendrick took home the honors in 2014 while former President Jay Miller won the award in 2010. Almendarez is also nominated for the Minor League Baseball Executive of the Year Award, which will be determined at the 2016 Winter Meetings in December.
For the second year in a row, the Express will also compete for the John Henry Moss Community Service Award at the upcoming Winter Meetings. The award is presented annually to a Minor League Baseball franchise that demonstrates ongoing commitment to charitable service and that provides support and leadership both within their community and in the overall baseball industry.
Round Rock was nominated to represent the Pacific Coast League and will be up against one representative from all 16 MiLB leagues for the prestigious national honor. Throughout the season, the Express dedicated countless resources, tickets, merchandise, time and money to causes that affect the Central Texas community. A few examples of the team's charitable outreach include:
- Cancer Awareness Night - On June 16, 2016, the Round Rock Express hosted the first-ever Cancer Awareness Night at Dell Diamond in conjunction with cancer treatment company Texas Oncology. Sixteen cancer-related nonprofit organizations lined the concourse as part of an organizational fair, and more than 400 cancer treatment specialists came to the game to support the cause. Specialty #TeamJana jerseys worn by players and coaches raised more than $3,500 for local childhood cancer care nonprofit B.I.G. Love Cancer Care while in-game presentations recognized survivors, those currently fighting the disease, and loved ones lost for a truly inspiring night at the ballpark.
- Covering Home - In 2016, the Express launched a new volunteer initiative called Covering Home that encouraged members of the organization to get involved in the community. So far this year, Express front office staff, players and coaches have donated more than 400 hours to local causes such as BookSpring, the Central Texas Food Bank, Hope Alliance, Habitat for Humanity, Meals on Wheels Central Texas, RBI Austin, and more through the Covering Home initiative.
- Donation Drives - Throughout the year, the Express hosted a number of donation drives for those less fortunate. More than 1,300 items were donated by Express fans to create 27 total care packages for troops deployed in Afghanistan while an excess of 200 items were collected to create birthday packages for local foster children in Central Texas. The annual Strike Out Hunger campaign collected an overage of 1,500 pounds of canned goods, equating to more than 1,000 meals for Central Texans in need. Additionally, at least 35 pairs of gently-worn shoes were collected and shipped to impoverished countries through YWCA's Stomp Out the Stigma campaign.
- Jana's House - After the passing of Express president Chris Almendarez's wife, Jana, in May of this year, Express ownership spearheaded an initiative to raise enough funds to build Jana's House, a home for orphaned young girls in Zambia, Africa. With a lofty goal of $250,000 to raise in just a few months' time, the Express' baseball family went right to work. As of September, the baseball and Central Texas community had committed more than $200,000 to the cause in Jana's honor.
Both the MiLB Executive of the Year and John Henry Moss Community Service Award will be announced at the 2016 Major League Baseball Winter Meetings, held December 4-8 in Washington, D.C.
For more information on the Express, visit www.RoundRockExpress.com or call (512) 255-2255. Keep up with the Express on Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and Twitter!