Wilmington, DE- The Wilmington Blue Rocks were honored by the Carolina League this week with the 2016 Matt Minker Community Service Award as well as the league's Marketing and Promotional Award. Blue Rocks director of ticket and group sales, Stefani Rash, was also named the Carolina League Female Executive of the Year. The honorees were selected by a league-wide vote.
"I could not be more proud of the entire Blue Rocks' organization," said managing partner Dave Heller. "To win any one of these awards would be a great day for the Blue Rocks; to win all three is a spectacular year. I am especially happy for Stefani Rash, who exemplifies everything that it means to be a Blue Rock, and for my partner and friend Clark Minker, since the community service award bears his late father's name. These are great team awards, and I am so delighted for everyone with the Blue Rocks who worked so hard all season long to earn these great accolades."
The Minker Award goes to the club that best demonstrates an outstanding, on-going commitment to charitable service, support, and leadership within its community. The award is named after the Blue Rocks' founder, who owned the club until his death in 2007. Minker, whose construction company built Frawley Stadium, is still the team's honorary president. It is the third year in a row that the Blue Rocks have earned this honor.
The Blue Rocks won the award thanks in large part to their numerous school programs, charitable endeavors and hospital visits.
As an organization the Blue Rocks work with area schools to promote academic achievement (DSEA Rocky's Reading Challenge), citizenship (Outstanding Student Program), active lifestyles (Titus Sports Champions Physical Health Program), and overall knowledge (Discover Baseball and Education Day).
The team helped raise tens of thousands of dollars for good causes through partnerships with Habitat for Humanity, Fight for the Gold, Delaware Breast Cancer Coalition and many other charities in 2016. Several times during the season the team's players and mascot also visited the HealthSouth Rehabilitation Hospital of Middletown, brightening the spirits of that facility's patients and their families.
"Matt Minker was instrumental in laying the foundation for the Blue Rocks and for the franchise's success in the years to follow," said Blue Rocks director of community affairs Kevin Linton. "It is fitting that this award bears his name and we are absolutely thrilled as an organization to honor his legacy for a third consecutive season by earning this recognition."
As the Carolina League's recipient of the Matt Minker Award, the Blue Rocks received the eight-team league's automatic nomination for the John Henry Moss Community Service Award, given out by Minor League Baseball at its annual national convention, to be held this December in National Harbor.
The marketing and promotional award honors a club that demonstrates outstanding and creative marketing and promotional efforts within its community, its ballpark, in media and other promotional events.
The committee valued that the Blue Rocks added new and exciting promotions to their schedule in 2016, such as an appearance by Nick Jr.'s PAW Patrol characters, without losing touch with traditional fan favorites like Fireworks Fridays and the Cowboy Monkey Rodeo. The team also revamped how the organization promoted events in 2016, with a major investment in digital advertising that centered around an increased emphasis on social media, email campaigns and event-specific marketing. The team also embraced analytics that provided traceable, data-driven returns on investment.
" Our goal in 2016 was to modernize our marketing efforts by taking advantage of and embracing technology," said Blue Rocks director of web and creative services Mike Diodati. " This helped us better communicate with our current fans and reach out to new demographics. In that same vein, we worked hard to build upon promotions that our long-time fans have grown to love while creating new and exciting events to attract additional fans. It's gratifying to see these efforts recognized by our peers."
The Rocks are now the Carolina League nominee for Minor League Baseball's Larry MacPhail Award, which will be announced at National Harbor in December.
Rash was honored thanks to stewarding a ticket and group sales department that increased season seat and mini plan memberships, redeveloped sales for all hospitality spaces and increased luxury suite sales by over 35 percent in the last three years. She also grew her department from four to seven full-time employees since 2014.
The Destin, Florida, native began her Blue Rocks tenure in 2006, climbing the ladder from a merchandise intern to office manager, and group sales associate before accepting her current role overseeing tickets and group sales. Rash restructured all sales and training efforts and focused her team on sales initiatives and marketing programs designed to increase online ticket sales. It worked, as the organization posted record-setting online sales numbers in each of the last two seasons.
"Stefani Rash represents what makes this organization special," said Blue Rocks general manager Chris Kemple. "She's been with us for over a decade, filling multiple roles along the way as she learned all aspects of Minor League Baseball. There was no task she wouldn't take on and gave everything her full concentration and absolute best effort. As she grew into a leadership role I watched Stefani blossom into a progressive thinker who is always willing to try new ideas. On top of that, she has built a strong relationship with our fans, earning their trust that she always has their best interest in mind. I am incredibly proud of the work she has done and am so pleased that she has received this well-deserved honor."
Rash is now the Carolina League nominee for Minor League Baseball's Rawlings Female Executive of the Year.
The Blue Rocks drew 276,199 fans to Frawley Stadium in 2016, an average of over 4,300 per game. The organization will celebrate its 25th season in 2017 and has plenty of fun in store for its fan base. Season tickets for the upcoming campaign are on sale now, while mini plans will be available on November 1 and group packages go on sale November 9. For more information, please see the team's website at BlueRocks.com.