FOCUS: Magazine names RiverDogs as top Class A baseball operation

Sunset at Joseph P. Riley Jr. Stadium in Charleston.

Staff reports  |  After a record-setting season at the turnstiles and a promotional calendar that continued to turn heads, the Charleston RiverDogs have been honored as the Class-A recipient of the Bob Freitas Award, which recognizes the top overall operation at each level of the minor leagues by Baseball America magazine.

“The Freitas Award is one of the most sought-after honors in all of minor league baseball (MiLB), recognizing an organization’s overall accomplishments and commitment to their community,” said. said Jeff Goldklang, president of the Goldklang Group which owns the team.  “Ownership takes tremendous pride in the first-rate operation that Dave [Echols] and his staff have built, establishing the RiverDogs as cutting-edge leaders in one of the country’s greatest markets.  We’re honored and humbled to receive this recognition from Baseball America.”

The Freitas Awards are Baseball America’s annual accolades honoring the best operators in MiLB. Named after Bob Freitas, a longtime ambassador of minor league baseball who helped teams and minor league owners around the country, Baseball America has recognized the top overall operation at each MiLB level since 1989. This year marks Charleston’s second-ever Freitas Award, and the club’s first since 2000.

“This is a great honor for the RiverDogs organization,” said Echols, president and general manager of the team.  “When you consider all the successful franchises and respected operators across the Class-A level, to be singled out by a prestigious publication like Baseball America is a testament to the dedication of our ownership and entire front office staff working toward a common goal, and having fun along the way.”

In 2017, the RiverDogs accomplished a longtime organizational goal by surpassing the 300,000-mark in attendance for the first time in franchise history.  The franchise broke its previous high of 293,161 set the year prior. After a crowd of 5,000-plus during their final home game, the club’s record 10th sellout, Charleston pushed its total attendance to 305,622, marking the third consecutive year that the RiverDogs broke an attendance record.

The Charleston club also continued to entertain with unique promotions that have become synonymous with the RiverDogs brand. A finalist for a “Golden Bobblehead,” awarded to the top promotion in MiLB each year, “Silly String Night” delighted fans with a world record-setting spectacle at The Joe on April 22. During the seventh inning stretch, RiverDogs fans simultaneously unloaded 4,025 canisters to set the world record for the largest silly string fight during that night’s contest against Asheville.

Other promotional highlights included the club’s salute to longtime ballpark vendor Tony the Peanut Man on April 12, Umpire Appreciation Night on July 22, a sellout crowd to view the full solar eclipse on August 21, and “It’s All Been Done: An Exhaustive Celebration of Minor League Baseball themes and promotions” on August 5, when the RiverDogs wore a mash up of all the baseball promotional themes they could fit onto one jersey.

Also new in 2017, the RiverDogs and the Goldklang Group introduced the most significant building upgrade to The Joe in the ballpark’s 20-plus year history with the opening of the Riley Park Club, a press release said.

The RiverDogs’ food and beverage department also enjoyed one of its most successful seasons to date in a year highlighted by several new food options, and even a visit by the Travel Channel, which spotlighted the club’s Shrimp ‘n Grits Corn Dog and “Chucktown Hot Brown” featured items as part of a minor league baseball special.

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