28 Jun Ripken Group will buy GreenJackets
With the 46th annual South Atlantic League All-Star Game in town tonight, the past few days have represented a good time to look back on Augusta’s baseball history.
On Monday, the city added to that history – announcing that an ownership group that includes baseball’s iron man, Cal Ripken Jr., will take over control of the Augusta GreenJackets, effective Oct. 1. The deal still needs approval from Major League Baseball and the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues, but that is considered to be just a formality.
“As a Northerner, I feel very loyal to Augusta,” said Mike Savit, who’s from Boston and has owned the team with his brother Jeffrey since 1998.
“I’ve enjoyed it, and I would not have done this if it weren’t for a company that I felt would really bring this team to the next level. I did what I could do, and these guys are going to do certain things a lot better.”
The Savit brothers sold the team to the Ripken Baseball Group, a sales and marketing company based in Baltimore that represents all business and philanthropic efforts of Mr. Ripken and his brother Bill Ripken. Ripken Baseball also owns the Aberdeen (Md.) IronBirds, a Class A team in the short-season New York-Penn League.
The Savits and their company, HWS Baseball Group, also own a minor league team in Mobile, Ala., recently sold a team in Battle Creek, Mich., and are in the process of buying an unspecified team. HWS will retain a 25 percent interest in the GreenJackets, but Ripken Baseball will handle the team’s day-to-day operations.
“It’s very important that we build on what they’ve done,” said Chris Flannery, the chief operating officer of Ripken Baseball. “It’s easy to do that when you’ve got those people still involved, so that was appealing to us.”
Mr. Savit said he began speaking with representatives from Ripken Baseball in January about selling the team and after one conversation “came to a meeting of the minds.”
The two groups had a deal finalized earlier this month but decided to wait until the All-Star Game to announce it.
That gave the two parties a chance to pitch their deal to the league’s executive committee and owners, who gave their approval Monday.
Longtime league president John H. Moss showed his support at a Monday press conference at the Radisson Riverfront Hotel Augusta.
“I think it goes without saying that Ripken Baseball has a tremendous record,” he said.
That record includes helping the IronBirds become one of only two minor league teams to sell out every home game through their first four years of existence. The GreenJackets, meanwhile, are 11th in the 16-team league with an average of 2,065 fans a game at Lake Olmstead Stadium, which has a seating capacity of 4,322.
“Over the past four years, we have found a successful model in the Aberdeen IronBirds,” Cal Ripken said in a statement. “As a result of that model, we have been able to watch the city of Aberdeen establish itself as a premier minor league community. We are very excited to expand on this success in other baseball cities and are confident that the Augusta GreenJackets will benefit from our proven model.”
Mr. Ripken did not attend the news conference but will be available to the media today through a teleconference. Mr. Flannery said the longtime Baltimore Orioles infielder and his brother are fairly hands-on owners.
“The Ripken brothers will be more than season-ticket holders to the GreenJackets,” Ripken Baseball Vice President Jeff Eiseman said.
While the new ownership group won’t officially take over until after the season, Mr. Eiseman said Ripken Baseball will send staff members to Augusta to talk to local business and residents to find out how to build support for the GreenJackets.
“Whether we’re able to change how people see this team in a year or two years, it’s hard to gauge,” Mr. Eiseman said.
Source: The Augusta Chronicle