After a record-setting season at the turnstiles and a promotional calendar that continued to turn heads, the Charleston RiverDogs have been honored as the Class-A recipient of the Bob Freitas Award, recognizing the top overall operation at each level of the minor leagues by Baseball America.
“The Freitas Award is one of the most sought after honors in all of MiLB, recognizing an organization’s overall accomplishments and commitment to their community. Ownership takes tremendous pride in the first-rate operation that Dave and his staff have built, establishing the RiverDogs as cutting edge leaders in one of the country’s greatest markets. We’re honored and humbled to receive this recognition from Baseball America,” said Jeff Goldklang, President of the Goldklang Group.
The Freitas Awards are Baseball America’s annual accolades honoring the best operators in MiLB. Named after Bob Freitas, a longtime ambassador of minor league baseball who helped teams and minor league owners around the country, Baseball America has recognized the top overall operation at each MiLB level since 1989. This year marks Charleston’s second-ever Freitas Award, and the club’s first since 2000.
“This is a great honor for the RiverDogs organization,” said President and General Manager Dave Echols. “When you consider all the successful franchises and respected operators across the Class-A level, to be singled out by a prestigious publication like Baseball America is a testament to the dedication of our ownership and entire front office staff working toward a common goal, and having fun along the way.”
The RiverDogs accomplished a longtime organizational goal in 2017, eclipsing the 300,000-mark in attendance for the first time in franchise history, breaking their previous high of 293,161 set the year prior. After a crowd of 5,000-plus during their final home game, the club’s record tenth sellout, Charleston pushed their total up to 305,622, marking the third consecutive year that the RiverDogs broke an attendance record.
In addition to welcoming more fans than ever before, the Charleston club continued to entertain with unique promotions that have become synonymous with the RiverDogs brand. A finalist for a “Golden Bobblehead,” awarded to the top promotion in MiLB each year, “Silly String Night” delighted fans with a world record-setting spectacle at The Joe on Saturday, April 22. During the seventh inning stretch, RiverDogs fans simultaneously unloaded 4,025 canisters to set the world record for the largest silly string fight during that night’s contest against Asheville.
Other promotional highlights included the club’s salute to longtime ballpark vendor Tony the Peanut Man on April 12, Umpire Appreciation Night on July 22, a sellout crowd to view the full solar eclipse on August 21, and “It’s All Been Done: An Exhaustive Celebration of Minor League Baseball themes and promotions” on August 5, when the RiverDogs wore a mash up of all the baseball promotional themes they could fit onto one jersey.
Also new in 2017, the RiverDogs and the Goldklang Group introduced the most significant building upgrade to The Joe in the ballpark’s 20-plus year history with the opening of the Riley Park Club. Offering an unmatched gameday experience, with luxury furnishings and upscale food offerings in a conditioned indoor space on the first base side of the ballpark, the Riley Park Club gave fans an entirely new way to experience RiverDogs baseball in 2017. With the field of play on one side and breathtaking sunset views over the Ashley River wetlands on the other, the Club showcased one of the best vistas in Minor League Baseball while providing a year-round event rental venue unique to the Lowcountry.
The RiverDogs’ food & beverage department also enjoyed one of their most successful seasons to date in a year highlighted by several new food options, and even a visit by the Travel Channel, who spotlighted the club’s Shrimp ‘n Grits Corn Dog and “Chucktown Hot Brown” featured items as part of a minor league baseball special. Spearheaded by Food & Beverage Director Josh Shea, the RiverDogs introduced two brand new hot dogs to their “Dog World” lineup (the Nawlin’s Dog and Dorito Nacho Dog), the Jacked Cotton Candy Burger featuring cracker jacks and cotton candy on a picturesque burger, and the Angry Apple Pie Shake, another chapter in the storied history of beer shakes at The Joe.
A pristine playing field once again provided a scenic backdrop for another record-breaking year for the RiverDogs. The Joe was named the top playing surface in the South Atlantic League for the fifth time in the past nine seasons. Head Groundskeeper Mike Williams was also named the top sports turf manager in Class-A ball by the Sports Turf Managers Association.
This is an unedited press release