SWB Yankees: Recognize the original investors
Steel for the reconstruction of PNC Field has risen quickly, along with the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees' efforts to reconnect with the local fan base, including those fans up here in Bradford County who support the team.
About 1,200 fans showed up at the Moosic stadium Tuesday to sign their names to the last beam to be put in place for the $43.3 million project, a turnout that's a good sign for the impending new era of Triple A baseball in the region.
As work progressed over the summer, the team itself spent the season on the road, often playing its "home" games in the visiting team's venue. Remarkably, the Yankees won the International League Northern Division championship, a great tribute to the skill and perseverance of the players, coaches and manager Dave Miley.
But local Yankees teams have performed well since the New York Yankees affiliated with the local franchise, making the playoffs in all but one year since 2007. Yet attendance fell because fans' problems weren't so much with the team on the field but with a distant, corporate management style. That sharply contrasted with the homey style to which fans had become accustomed when the team was operated directly by the Lackawanna County Multi-Purpose Stadium Authority.
Now, having bought the franchise as part of a broader deal to rebuild the stadium, SWB Yankees - a consortium of Mandalay Baseball Properties and the New York Yankees - has picked up its game regarding the fan base.
The first step was renegotiating the acquisition deal, which as first crafted in 2007 created great uncertainty about the franchise's future in Northeast Pennsylvania. The Yankees, in effect, invested significantly in the stadium and the region.
Then SWB Yankees named the energetic Rob Crain as general manager. He has orchestrated a host of fan-inclusive projects, most notably a contest to rename the team - itself a recognition of the value of local identity for the enterprise.
Mr. Crain has announced a long roster of promotions, which had been missing from the operation, and an array of ticket packages to accommodate a broad spectrum of fans.
There is at least one more thing that Mr. Crain should do to rekindle some lost interest. The original Triple A franchise and the stadium were made possible by about 4,000 original season ticket holders, who had been recognized with commemorative bricks near the old stadium box office. Mr. Crain should arrange for some recognition of those original investors, who bought tickets that provided seed money, and waited five years for the project to bloom.
Doing so would be another step toward the region again embracing the home team truly as its own.