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August 26, 2010

Minor Issues

Tampa Yankees and the FSL, with Julie Kremer

by David Laurila

The Florida State League is a challenging baseball environment, and Julie Kremer understands that as well as anyone. Kremer has spent the last seven years as the assistant general manager of the FSL’s Tampa Yankees, who play in a league known as much for steamy temperatures and small crowds as it is for competitive baseball. The wife of Yankees assistant director of amateur scouting John Kremer, she holds a Bachelor's Degree in Communications, with a minor in Business Administration, from the University of Evansville.

David Laurila: You’ve been the assistant general manager of the Tampa Yankees for the past seven years. What has the job entailed?

Julie Kremer: The job has evolved for me. At first, I was more of a liaison with player development, coaches and players. I focused more on their needs and wants, whether it was stat packs, pitching rotations, and the like. My role slowly evolved to more of the business side of baseball. Finding out what is going to sell tickets and draw people to the stadium -- more strategic management -- until just recently, when I relinquished the assistant GM title and have been focusing primarily on my role as director of fantasy camps for the New York Yankees

For people who don’t know much about the Florida State League, it can be tough to draw fans, especially for the spring training facilities that host the major league guys in March. It can be difficult, but exciting at the same time. You’re always looking for the next big idea to draw larger crowds and create more excitement. This may be easier to do in cities where there’s not much going on. Here in Tampa, we have the Rays, the Bucs, a soccer team, and we have hockey. So it can be tough.

DL: Marketing is obviously a big challenge.

JK: It certainly can be. Right now, one of the most successful trends in minor league baseball is having the baseball game as the secondary form of entertainment. Teams want to provide family-fun entertainment through many different avenues. From the moment they walk into the gates, the sights, sounds, food, music, and on-field activities should ooze a feeling of “fun“. We are at the beginning stages of this approach, but it has already paid off for us the past three seasons.

DL: Do you market big-name prospects that are on the team in any given season?

JK: This is something that is always a blessing to any minor league marketing department. The past couple of years we’ve had Pat Venditte, a pitcher who throws both right-handed and left-handed, and a few other marquee names. The challenge for players like Pat is many fans don’t really understand who these guys are and how they could potentially impact the big leagues. You really have to publicize and push to make a name for them. Again, the everyday fan is probably here for the entertainment and not to see the first-ever ambidextrous pitcher.

DL: Do you market “the New York Yankees” brand?

JK: Honestly, it happens by default. It never hurts to piggyback the Yankees, but we have to be careful since we are in the Rays’ market.

DL: Can you elaborate on what it means to be in the Rays‘ market?

JK: It has never been a big issue, but it did come to light for the Florida State League’s Clearwater Threshers two years ago. The Threshers were going to be giving away a series of bobbleheads to commemorate the Phillies World Series victory. The Rays got wind of it and told them they were in violation of MLB’s marketing rules. That is something that fell into the territorial rights -- the territorial marketing rights -- that big league clubs have.

DL: When it comes to running the team, what are the Tampa Yankees responsible for, and what is the parent club responsible for?

JK: Many people may not realize, but minor league players are paid by their affiliate team via their PDC (player development contract). In our case, the affiliate being the New York Yankees. The buses, hotels, and uniforms are also paid through the contract.

DL: Any final thoughts?

JK I think fans should understand how hard people work in the minor leagues. A significant amount of time is spent promoting a team in the hopes of seeing success. And it isn’t just from the time the season begins in April until it ends in September. Year round, staff is working hard promoting the team, attending community events, selling sponsorships, selling groups, talking strategy, etc. Here at Steinbrenner Field, staff members wear many different hats. Never knowing what the day will bring is what’s exciting, even if the “not knowing” means having to pull the tarp.

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<< Previous Article
Premium Article Prospectus Perspective... (08/25)
<< Previous Column
Minor Issues: Family M... (08/21)
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