2022 Freitas Awards: Wisconsin Timber Rattlers (Class A)

Sometimes, simple is best.

For the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers, the approach took them all the way to winning the Class A Freitas Award, capping off one of the more memorable years in the history of a storied franchise.

“If the customers like it, we continue to do it,” said Rob Zerjav, the Timber Rattlers’ president, CEO and managing partner. “If they say they don’t like it, we figure out a way to change it.”

Even on the heels of an announcement that more than $10 million is set to be invested to improve Neuroscience Group Field at Fox Cities Stadium, fans have shown there’s little they want changed in an organization that prides itself in wanting to provide a family-friendly entertainment option at an affordable cost.

“That’s our mission statement—pretty much in a nutshell—to create the best entertainment experience in Wisconsin, to make sure that every guest walks away with a smile on their face and a desire to return,” Zerjav said.

“It’s everybody’s job to wow the fans at every game. What’s it going to take for you to wow somebody today? . . . It doesn’t really take a lot to wow people these days. Sometimes, it can just be a smile. Sometimes, it happens when somebody drops their nachos on the concourse and we replace it at no cost.  

“It’s about how you make somebody’s day, and that’s what we try to encourage everybody to do. Come to the ballpark and have fun at work, but it’s always nice when you can make other people smile.”

Off the field, that has been a successful recipe since the inception of the Appleton-based franchise in 1958, but particularly since joining forces with the home-state Brewers in 2009. 

Case in point: Milwaukee sent 18-year-old Jackson Chourio, one of the hottest prospects in baseball, to Appleton in 2022.

“I remember watching on the concourse those first couple of days he was here, and there was a dad walking with his little boy. It was the bottom of the first, and Jackson was up, and he was like, ‘Hey, son. This is why we came. Let’s stop and watch,’ ” Zerjav recalled.

“Jackson coming through was very exciting for our fanbase. When he arrived (on July 26), that’s when it was really exciting. 

“Our staff did a really nice job of capitalizing on the Chourio-mania, but we don’t always have the opportunity to have a Jackson Chourio on the field, so we do everything we can off of the field.”

Zerjav said it’s not always about wins and losses. It’s about creating this great entertainment experience. 

“Everybody takes it to heart,” he said. “We feel we do it really well, where we make sure people are going to have a really good time at the ballpark. 

“We come up with some crazy themes. Everything we come up with, it’s not about shock and awe, like some teams do. It’s about, ‘How do we draw fans? How do we make sure we’re having fun at the ballpark, and that fans are walking away with a smile on their face and hopefully want to come back?” 

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