The Atlantic League has always been acknowledged as a haven for returning players to affiliated ball. Now, with the addition of its new president, it could be known for its technological advances.
Rick White, a top executive with Major League Baseball for more than 15 years, will oversee the eight-team league that could become a trendsetter with on-field portable cameras and semiconductor chips in equipment.
“We would be graphically illustrating stuff never shown to a fan before,” said the 61-year-old White of the prospect of on-field cameras. “We would be increasing engagement for fans both personally and on the web.
“It has great application as a teaching device. We can show a much different view of the game. We will continue to honor the game. We are just providing insight that no one in organized baseball has done before.”
White was selected to replace Frank Boulton, who resigned as president last summer to devote more time to running the Long Island Ducks, one of the more successful teams in the league.
Despite little prior knowledge of the league, White’s entrepreneurial resume and his association with Peter Kirk, the Chairman of Opening Day Partners, who also has ownership ties with several Atlantic League teams, made him an ideal choice for president.
“Part of our strategic plan was to find an individual who could work for the league,” Kirk said. “We talked to some executive search firms, but Rick (White) actually reached out to us.
“We want the league to continue to be in the high caliber of a sports business league.”
White served as President and Chief Executive Officer of Major League Baseball Properties which oversaw trademark licensing, corporate marketing, publishing, international and special events. He originated sports’ first head-to-toe authentic fan apparel (“Diamond Collection”), pioneered vintage products (“Cooperstown Collection”), created sports fan festivals (“All-Star FanFest”) and launched MLB Clubhouse Shops.
He recently served as President and CEO of Imperial Headware.
“Baseball tends to be franchise-driven and in the NFL everything is driven by the league office,” White said. “Our contention is there’s middle ground in crafting a marketing approach.
“My role is building on the founder’s legacy.”
In addition to some of the outside-the-box ideas White and the owners share, expansion will be at the top of the priority list. The 2014 season will be the third the Sugar Land (Texas) Skeeters will be playing in a remote Atlantic League outpost, where the rest of the teams are located in the Northeast and Middles Atlantic states.
Kirk said he and the other owners are working “very closely with a few Texas communities to get some partners for Sugar Land.” He hopes to have an announcement on the progress in the spring.
“They (owners) are being very methodical about expansion,” White said. “It’s highly unlikely that this group would move a team into a 75-year-old ballpark.”
Kirk also said that Virginia Beach is making progress as an expansion location.
“There is always ups and downs in this business,” he said, “but as the economy picks up that will help all of the minor leagues. The whole country has gone through a difficult five-year period.”
“There are some individual owners in affiliated baseball who feel tension about the Atlantic League, but it’s still the same 90-feet base paths and the same promotions and popcorn. The majority of the owners respect what we do.”