In the minor leagues, it's a different ballgame

The Baltimore Sun

Bowie Baysox general manager Brian Shallcross routinely hears from parents who plead with him to look at up-and-coming players or from fans who question strategic moves the Class AA minor-league baseball team makes.

They do not realize that his job is a different ballgame from that of the general manager of a major-league team.

While the GM of the Baltimore Orioles or the Washington Nationals spends much of his time tackling player personnel issues, Shallcross' role is more like that of a business owner, juggling ticket holders, sponsors, vendors at Prince George's Stadium and community events involving the team. The team, an Orioles affiliate, will open its 2007 season at home tomorrow.

"It's so much different in the minor leagues, where people think you have the decisions on who plays on your team," said Phil Wrye, an Annapolis resident who serves as the team's assistant general manager. "A lot of people think we're here doing player personnel and signing guys and trading for people, and I know that Brian and I have never traded, released or signed a player."

Fans also call Shallcross, in his third year as Baysox general manager, and demand to know why he did not take out a pitcher earlier in a game when the other team was getting several hits. Shallcross said the Orioles will give a directive telling Bowie to leave the pitcher in for a certain number of pitches, and that's what the Baysox must do.

"Sometimes that's tough for our fans to [understand]," Shallcross said.

The Baysox play in the 12-team Eastern League, which is two levels below the Orioles, and have a 142-game season that goes from April until Labor Day. A 70-hour week is the norm - not always ideal for the general manager who's been married for a little over a year.

A five-year resident of Annapolis, Shallcross, 31, grew up in Pottstown, Pa., and got into minor-league baseball by interning with the Reading Phillies, who play in the Eastern League with the Baysox, during college. At the time, he decided that minor-league baseball probably wasn't for him.

But Shallcross landed a job with Comcast Spectacor in Philadelphia after college, a company that once owned the Baysox, Frederick Keys and Delmarva Shorebirds minor-league baseball teams in Maryland. When company officials found out that Shallcross had experience in minor-league baseball, they assigned him to Delmarva in 2001 as director of ticket operations.

He stayed there about 18 months before getting transferred to Bowie while serving as senior director of ticket operations for the Baysox, Delmarva and Frederick in 2003. Shallcross eventually moved up to assistant general manager and then to his present job as general manager for the 2005 season.

"This position has been a rapid learning experience from the standpoint of managing different [things] and getting an appreciation of what the different people do in an organization," Shallcross said. "This is not easy, what they do, and [I see] what everyone does now and have a good understanding for it."

Shallcross wants the Baysox to be a big part of the community, so the team constantly pushes the use of Prince George's Stadium. The team has turned part of the ballpark into a haunted house at Halloween, which drew about 6,000 to 8,000 people over a 10-day run. It has hosted sleepovers in the outfield after a game, shown drive-in movies and put on carnivals in the parking lot to promote the Baysox.

"It's almost more of a sales position than anything," said Ryan Roberts, Bowie's director of communications. "It's kind of like marketing and everything to enhance the fan experience. You're the top dog when you're in that position as far as being responsible for everything in the ballpark. It's all at your plate."

Shallcross says his priority is making the stadium a venue for family entertainment in Central Maryland.

"Our ideal game is being where the family leaves and it's like, 'Who won?'" he said. "We measure our success on smiles, not wins and losses."

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