Heading into his second season with the Aberdeen IronBirds Short-Season A baseball team, General Manager Matt Slatus recently unveiled his vision for the ballclub and their major goals this year.
Yes, the IronBirds obviously want to win games, provide a great fan experience, and do well with ticket sales, but Slatus’ most prominent initiative leading up to Opening Day is to transform the attitude and identity of Aberdeen’s front office and sales team.
“There’s nothing ‘Minor League,’ about our business- I want to make sure our staff knows and remembers that every day,” Slatus said. Emblematic of this reinvigorated focus, the GM even had new signs installed around the office to instill this message.
“Over the last year, we’ve worked hard to change the #sportsbiz culture of the Aberdeen IronBirds to one that’s sales-focused, thinks like a Major League front office, and always puts its #fansfirst. The new office signage reminds staff to walk the walk.”
Slatus is essentially “rebranding” the business team, placing an emphasis on Major League-level learning, training, and professional development that goes on in the front office of a Minor League team.
Representing the Baltimore Orioles in the New York-Penn League, it’s not like the ballclub had been struggling- averaging almost 4,000 fans a game- but the General Manager did feel like it was time for a bit of a change. Comparing it to the updates made to Leidos Field at Ripken Stadium, Slatus felt like it was time to bring similar ‘renovations’ to the business team.
“Like Leidos Field, the club’s business operations needed a ‘fresh coat of paint.’ Just as the stadium got a new video board, improved amenities, revamped concessions…the front office needed the same.”
For the business team, that renovation means teaching the staff to “Think different; taking a new approach to sales strategies and a professional attitude to all areas of the business,” Slatus said.
The IronBirds General Manager wants to make sure his staff knows that they will have the resources, tools, and training to do a ‘Major League’-level job.
“Last year, improvements around the stadium taught the fans to think different. This year, the goal is to teach the sales staff and business team to think differently too, with newer, stronger strategies.”
As a Minor League baseball team, Slatus pointed out that “the IronBirds’ goal is to sell every seat…but the front office can’t do that unless we’re empowering employees and providing them with the tools necessary to do a high-level job daily.”
Recognizing the importance of a strong business culture, Slatus believes that all starts with a certain mindset and attitude. “There’s nothing Minor League about what we do.” The new office signage and emphasis on not being ‘Minor League,’ is not meant to besmirch the league or players on the field; it just recognizes the realities of the situation and that both parties have different aspirations. “
You can’t necessarily make a career playing Minor League baseball, but you certainly can make a career out of working on the business side for a team or the league. Slatus went on to say, “MiLB faces a problem in the name itself…look at how they do it in the other leagues, with the NBA and NHL…they call their development systems the ‘D-League” and ‘G-League.”
Slatus believes that “the players are here as a stepping stone to grow.” He’s there, “to make sure Aberdeen’s Minor League players to know that they have a Major League staff and facilities working behind them as they develop into the next ‘Derek Jeters.’”
In the IronBirds front office, Slatus sees it as his job as the General Manager to, “identify, hone, and develop the professional talent and stars in our industry,” and “help mold the future sports business leaders.” Unlike the players that eventually outgrow the league, on the IronBirds sports business team, there IS room to grow.
“There’s a real emphasis on looking to train and develop a quality sales and front office support staff here…even if that means eventually going on to other homes. They’ll go on to make us proud and recognized for the professional quality of our sports business operations- either by succeeding with the IronBirds or building a positive reputation elsewhere, working for other teams in the league.”
That’s why Slatus loves his job, and actually came back to the minors after holding positions in the Major League.
“It’s important to me to pay it forward…I’ve only been able to get where I am as GM by the mentorship of others, and wouldn’t have the privilege of running a professional sports team without those lessons and experiences along the way,” the benevolent leader noted. He did acknowledge that “success obviously requires a strong worth ethic and desire, but you also need that mentorship and tutelage to ignite and grow.”
In Slatus’ eyes, as a GM in the Minor League, “having such a profound impact on the community; young staff…that far outweighs the glitz and glamour of working in the big leagues.”
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As for what this new, reinvigorated business vision in the front office is aimed at achieving, Slatus recognized that “MiLB teams are only successful if they’re selling lots of tickets to families, helping their business partners grow, and being active and engaged community leaders.”
For the IronBirds, that means offering family fun at an affordable price; helping their partners like Leidos grow- both by promoting sales and literally helping with their actual business goals, like producing and distributing the company’s Deterra Pouches to combat the opioid epidemic; and continuing to increase the IronBirds charitable giving, set to grow from $158,000 in 2017 to a quarter of a million dollars this year.
Through his work as Aberdeen’s admirable GM, Matt Slatus gives back in more ways than one!