Conversation with Dan Rajkowski
Professional baseball has been a mainstay in Charlotte since the first Charlotte Hornets buzzed through town in 1901. Over the years, the teams have changed as have the stadium locations (a new uptown stadium is planned for 2009), but the Queen City has never given up on America’s pastime. Now, the Charlotte Knights are poised to regain their glory with minor league baseball’s winningest manager, Marc Bombard, returning for his second season and longtime front-office guru Dan Rajkowski, returning for his third. Vice president and general manager Rajkowski shares whether he thinks this city is ready to truly embrace the Knights, who kick off their season this month.
What changes have you seen since you’ve taken the reins?
I think we've been able to stabilize the franchise from a financial perspective. We’ve been able to generate some more revenue and do some more things within our organization such as marketing and promotion. And, secondly, we’ve been able to promote the game of baseball with the Knights as well as provide a better event for our fans.
Does Charlotte have the potential to be a great baseball city?
I think it does. We’ve continued to promote baseball within the Carolinas and while it’s been popular with the youth, it’s important that we continue to promote summertime entertainment. With the addition of an uptown stadium in the future we’ll see tremendous support of the team.
Ahh, the uptown stadium. How are you hoping this will affect the Knights?
We’re going to see a huge spike in attendance because of the newness, but also because it will be in the center of the population and will have the ability for more people to attend games easily. We'll put a good product on the field, and off the field we'll see attendance double.
Are you going to have a kids play area at the new stadium?
We've gotta keep the kids play area! We’re targeting the families as being inexpensive entertainment and an enjoyable evening outdoors. With baseball being a slower, more patient game, we’re able to provide more entertainment, fireworks, a kids area, and activities all game long to complement what the players are doing on the field. We want to provide an environment where sometimes baseball is secondary to the enjoyment you’re going to have.
What is the biggest challenge you face overseeing a minor league club as opposed to a Major League club?
I think our job is easier in that we don't have to worry about massive player payrolls and trying to attract 30,000 to 40,000 people a night to pay our bills. We can provide the same game of baseball and the same type of entertainment and charge people $6 or $7. It’s a perfect niche for the Charlotte market because it provides the level of sports entertainment that fits right in with the Charlotte community.
And now you've got the right manager to do that.
[Marc Bombard] is a great guy to do that. He’s a proven winner and in today’s world you’ve got to be half psychologist, half coach, and he gets that. Baseball is a mental game moreso than any of the others.