In March, Ripken Baseball announced it planned to sell a majority stake in the Aberdeen IronBirds in order to refocus the bulk of its efforts into the youth baseball arm of its operations. Six months later, nothing has changed. The group is still looking to sell, but is waiting for the right buyer and the right set of circumstances to come along.
“We’re just taking it real slow and waiting for the right partner, right person,” Joe Geier, a certified public accountant who is helping Ripken Baseball oversee the sale, said. “It’s not listed with a broker publicly. Everyone knows it’s for sale, but we’re just waiting for the right partner to come along. We’re just taking our time.”
There have been several inquiries into the team, and a couple of groups have done some initial digging and due diligence into the IronBirds, but right now no sale is imminent. There are also a few variables at play that may have cooled interest a bit.
First, the team’s attendance dropped by 7.3 percent from 2016 to 2017. That’s not a huge surprise when you consider that every team in the New York-Penn League except Williamsport saw decreased attendance this year, but it’s not helpful regardless. Plus, the team installed a new scoreboard and a new video board to the Ironbirds’ ballpark in time for the 2017 season and would like more time for those upgrades to take effect before taking a more aggressive approach to selling the team.
“Last year, the team had a couple of hiccups which could have affected the price,” Geier said. “We put a new scoreboard and a new video board in this year and made some big improvements, so (general manager) Matt Slatus asked ‘Would you mind slowing this down a little bit. I’d like the opportunity to really turn this around. I think it would have a lot more value,’ so we told Matt we would slow it down to give him the opportunity to really spruce things up and make it even that much better.”
With that in mind, it seems highly likely that the IronBirds will be still be owned fully by the Ripkens come Opening Day in 2018. This will give Slatus, who will be in his second year as GM, time to continue his efforts to boost attendance as the team spruces itself up for sale.
“The old GM may have taken his eye off the ball a little bit and ticket sales may have dropped a little bit,” Geier said. “There were some improvements that needed to be done to the stadium with the video board and some other things that spruce up the place, and we’ve done that this year. That will help with the sale tremendously.”