NYPL's new general manager for Muckdogs says league committed to Batavia, promises solid fan experience
Dave Chase is the new general manager of the Batavia Muckdogs and the way Chase sees it, it's a sign of the New York Penn League's commitment to Batavia that a veteran baseball man with his level of experience has been hired to be the team's general manager for 2018.
This season running the Muckdogs will be the 41st in baseball for Chase. His career includes stints with six minor league baseball teams, work in a baseball broadcast booth, a term as commissioner of the Prospect League, 14 years as director of the Minor League Baseball Museum, and 17 years as publisher of Baseball America.
"I've done just about everything in baseball," Chase said. "I've taken on teams that were just starting out and those going through internal changes, so when I heard the New York Penn League was taking over the franchise in Batavia, I reached out to Ben Hayes (president of the NYPL) in early December and told him if he needed somebody to come and unlock the gates every couple of days, I'd be happy to do that."
Chase said he's been hired to do more than just unlock the gates. When asked about the NYPL's commitment to Batavia, he noted the team could have been moved this season or the league could have hired an inexperienced manager to come and unlock the gates on game days.
"My marching orders from Ben Hayes is to make sure we present a solid fan experience and a solid experience for the Marlins players," Chase said. "That could have happened in other places. That could have happened in other places in 2018. But Batavia is where the NYPL wants to be."
Chase steps in to run a team that has had the executioner's ax hanging over it for more than a decade, with every mid-June opening game bringing fans to the ballpark wondering if this could be the final year for professional baseball in Batavia.
In a short conversation, Chase didn't talk like a man coming in to be a caretaker for a final season in Batavia. Though neither did he pretend he could speak for Hayes and the league's directors.
"My primary focus is to take care of the Miami Marlins players and make sure they have a quality experience in Batavia," Chase said. "It's also my job to re-establish the team in the mind of the fans."
For the past 10 season the Rochester Red Wings have operated the Muckdogs but in October, the league declined a request by the Red Wings and the Genesee Genesee County Baseball Club to continue that arrangement.
In December, the Club announced it transfered control of the franchise to the league. If the team is ever sold, 50 percent of the proceeds will go to the Red Wings (which gained a 5-percent share of the sale price during its 10 years of operation of the team), with the league getting 10 percent, and the Club will receive the remainder of the proceeds. The Club retains ownership of the team name and logos.
Chase hasn't visited Batavia yet -- he arrives Sunday and will hold a press conference Monday -- and asked if this was a turnaround effort, he said it was partly that but also partly like running a startup business.
He said it is his understanding that "there's not much left in Batavia."
He noted that there are apparently needs at the ballpark to be addressed, citing specifically the playing field and clubhouses.
He said the team's loyal fans can expect him to work to deliver a quality ballpark experience.
"I met my wife in Durham (N.C.), so I understand the power of the ballpark," Chase said. "Baseball is not like any other sport. It's all about community. It's about bringing the community together. There are not many cities in the country like Batavia and the team has been there for a very long time, since 1939. We want to make sure the Batavia fans understand this is their team. We want to honor that tradition."