TACOMA, Wash. -- Tacoma Rainiers President Aaron Artman has been named the 2017 Pacific Coast League Executive of the Year, the league announced this week. It marks the first time in 42 years a Rainiers executive has been awarded the league's most coveted postseason honor.
Under Artman's guidance this year, the Rainiers posted their third-best single-season attendance figure in franchise history, hosted the 2017 Triple-A All-Star Game and Home Run Derby for the first time in club history, and announced continued growth and success in licensed merchandise sales.
"Having the opportunity to help build something this special over the past 10 years has been a great privilege," Artman said. "It's an award for our staff, our ownership, and the community who has supported this journey. And I hope we are just getting started."
Despite two early season rain outs, the Tacoma Rainiers still welcomed 374,951 fans through the gates of Cheney Stadium, narrowly falling short of the all-time regular season attendance record of 378,518 set in 2011. An average of 5,434 fans attended each Rainiers game this season, an increase from the 2016 per-game average of 5,312. To top it all off, the Rainiers filled Cheney Stadium to an average mark of 83.6 percent capacity in 2017, the third-best mark in the PCL.
The team welcomed 6,658 fans for the Triple-A Home Run Derby, and 7,024 fans for the Triple-A All-Star Game, which was nationally televised on MLB Network. With those two events factored in, Cheney Stadium welcomed the most fans through the gates in franchise history, pushing the season's grand total to 388,633.
In June, the club announced that Rainiers licensed merchandise sales remained in the MiLB Top 25 list for the second consecutive year, with 29 percent growth in sales from 2015 to 2016 and an additional 10 percent growth in 2017. Perhaps more important than the sales growth is the way the 'R' logo has become an iconic mark that represents the South Sound.
This marks the second time a member of Tacoma's front office has been named PCL Executive of the Year, with Stan Naccarato receiving the honor in 1975.
"All I can say is: It's about time! I have worked closely with Aaron for the past seven years, and his focus today is the same that it was when we bought the team: Constant improvement in every aspect of the franchise and an undying emphasis on making the Rainiers an even more integral part of the Tacoma and South Sound fabric," Rainiers Chairman and CEO Mikal Thomsen said. "Huge congratulations to Aaron for this well-deserved honor."
The Rainiers have also been nominated to compete for the Charles K. Murphy Patriot Award. The award is presented to the Minor League Baseball team that best displays outstanding support of and engagement with the United States Armed Forces and veterans, both at the ballpark and in the community.
As the PCL's nominee for this award, Tacoma is up against representatives from all 16 MiLB leagues when the national honor is announced in December at the Baseball Winter Meetings. Two shining examples of the Rainiers dedication to the Armed Forces community are the USO Heroes Suite at Cheney Stadium, and the club's annual Salute to Armed Forces Day (SAFD).
With the Heroes Suite, the Rainiers are proud to partner with USO Northwest and local organizations to provide a completely free, family-friendly luxury suite experience for our local military organizations. On a nightly basis, the USO Heroes Suite includes a VIP game experience complete with a view of the game, complimentary ballpark fare, and non-alcoholic beverages to dozens of military members and their families.
On June 11, the Rainiers hosted their annual Salute to Armed Forces Day, an event that transformed Cheney Stadium into a dedication to honoring the members of the community who bravely serve our nation and keep us safe. As part of SAFD, the Rainiers players and coaches wore specialty jerseys that were auctioned off and raised $7,400 for USO Northwest.
"In my 35 years of military service, I have never experienced an organization more involved with the Armed Forces community than the Tacoma Rainiers," United States Air National Guard Chief Master Sergeant James Patrick Hunt said. "Through their group event opportunities, annual Salute to Armed Forces Day, and especially the USO Heroes Suite, the Rainiers bridge the gap between the local and the Armed Forces communities to create one great community - one Tacoma. The USO Heroes Suite provides the opportunity to meet with local groups and organizations which, through their generosity, have provided time and resources to treat military members and their families to an evening of memories that will last a lifetime."
The most up-to-date news and notes about the Tacoma Rainiers leading up to the 2018 season can be found by following the Rainiers on Twitter (@RainiersLand) and liking the team on Facebook.
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.