After more than 40 years of being managed by the Simones, a new general manager has taken over control of the Syracuse Chiefs. With that title, he also takes on the challenges facing the team. Those include poor attendance and financial troubles. Sarah Blazonis has the latest.
SYRACUSE, N.Y. -- Jason Smorol has an extensive history working in baseball. It started during his days as an intern with the Watertown Indians in the early '90s. He's worked in several positions since then, from concessions, all the way up to general manager of the Auburn Doubledays. It's partly that experience that he says will help him bring fans back to this ballpark.
It's been a rough year for the Syracuse Chiefs. Getting fans into the stadium continued to be a challenge and the team saw a financial loss of more than $500,000.
"On the surface, you look at this and some people may see a daunting task. I think it's awesome. I think it's an opportunity," said Syracuse Chiefs General Manager Jason Smorol.
Jason Smorol may be the team's new general manager, but this isn't unfamiliar territory. He was also GM of the Auburn Doubledays in the early 2000s. At the time, that team had a set of problems the Chiefs now know all too well.
Smorol said, "Not great public relations within the community, bad years financially, so that's the same and I'm going to do my same thing, which is listen and talk and build a great team."
Smorol's first priority? Sorting out the team's financial situation. He says the team had reserves and is still on solid ground despite that half million loss. The next step is touching base with those who could further invest in the Chiefs' future.
"They're our advertisers that have been with us for years, they're season ticket holders that've been with us for years. We need to start generating some revenue, so we need to reach out to these people that believe in this ballpark," Smorol said.
Bringing fans into the ballpark is another story. Smorol says he's planning to put together sponsorship nights. Advertisers will be invited to take part in special promotions, like giving away bobbleheads or baseball caps, to help draw in people. He says the team's success ultimately comes down to that overall experience.
Smorol said, "It's giving them a great time and keeping the hot dogs hot and the sodas cold and the ice cream cold and that's it. If you do that and you give the people what they want, dollar value, they're going to come and give us a shot and hopefully they like what they see."
Smorol is taking over for former general manager, John Simone. Simone and his father, Tex, had led the Chiefs for more than four decades.
Smorol credits Tex with saving baseball in Syracuse and John with preserving it.
We still have awhile to wait to see exactly what the next season will bring for the Chiefs. Opening day is April 3, 2014.