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Jax Daily Record Thursday, Sep. 21, 200612:00 PM EST

Business side of minor league baseball has short off-season

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by: Max Marbut Associate Editor

by Max Marbut

Staff Writer

When the minor-league baseball season comes to an end each year, the players hang up the spikes and disperse. Some move up to the Big Leagues, some head for a winter league somewhere — usually in a Latin American country — and others go home and look for work.

The concession staff can empty the coolers and turn off the beer and soda taps.

The groundskeepers can take a breather after the last game and by the time the cold weather arrives, the infield and outfield grass goes dormant.

However, there isn’t an off-season for the front-office staff. For the Jacksonville Suns, baseball is virtually a year-round business.

“I’m playing golf about once a week in September,” said Peter Bragan Jr., president of the club. “I’m also planning to spend four or five days on a pheasant hunt in the Dakotas. I’ve done that four out of the last six years. I like to shoot birds. It’s fun.”

Bragan added that only one thing might make him skip this year’s hunting trip.

“If the Dodgers get to the World Series – which I don’t know if they’re going to – I’ll cancel the pheasant trip and go to L.A,” he said.

By the time the first pitch is thrown in this year’s World Series, 24 days will have passed since the Suns’ first staff meeting for the 2007 season.

“The first of October is when we start our Monday morning sales meetings. Our first meeting is at 8 a.m. on Monday morning, Oct. 2,” said Bragan.

The Suns get an early start because with few exceptions, sponsorships are single-season agreements.

“Coca-Cola is a long-term sponsorship because they had to put a lot of equipment in here and they wouldn’t do it without a long-term deal,” said Bragan.

He knows that the types of businesses that want to promote their products or services can change from year to year.

“Banks and hospitals are two of the best sponsors,” he said. “There was a time when hospitals never spent any money. They bought a few tickets, but that was it. Now they’re in a very competitive period. What helped was that the very first year we were in the new Baseball Grounds, we got Mayo Clinic to sponsor an entire weekend. Then the others started to sponsor games.“

Bragan is also planning new 2007 promotions the Suns will offer sponsors.

“I’d like to have what I call, ‘Throwback Saturdays’,” he said. “I want to have the players wear uniforms from the 1967 season. I want to get them a set of those baggy, loose pants that blouse over. I think the fans would love that. I just need to find a major sponsor for that promotion.”

No matter what new promotions are on the field next year, Bragan said those that have become the most popular with fans are going to return.

“We would never change $1 beer on Thursday, Friday night fireworks or giveaways for the kids every Sunday,” he said.

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