I’ve had the pleasure of following and “twittering” with the Royals AA affiliate Naturals’ GM on Twitter for several months now. His name is Eric Edelstein, and he’s a great guy who loves talking with the Naturals and Royals fan community. If you aren’t following him on Twitter, I strongly encourage you to.
Eric’s been working in baseball since 1996, when he interned with the Indians. He’s been a GM with the single-A Jamestown Jammers before spending three seasons with the Wichita Wranglers prior to their relocation to Northwest Arkansas as the Naturals. In 2008, Eric was the co-Executive of the Year in the Texas League.
I wanted to get some thoughts from Eric regarding the Naturals, being a GM, and life in Northwest Arkansas, so I sent off a few questions and he replied with some great responses. So, without further ado…
When and how did you know you wanted to work in sports management?
It started early for me. I kept stats for myself as a 12 year old, and hit .250 that summer in little league. I knew right then and there that playing on the field wouldn’t be my path. (I did get better and played in high school, but you get the point). At first I explored sports broadcasting, but similarly to playing, there was an opportunity to get passed by for someone with more natural talent. I was drawn to sports management because I knew I could outwork the next guy and really take control of my career. Lucky for my the degree program was really built in Ohio, where I was from, so there were some great options in the 90′s when sports management was still really in its infancy.
What’s your favorite part of working with the Naturals? The hardest part?
There are lots of favorite parts for me. I love seeing a big crowd letting loose and having a great time during a game. I love working with the Royals front office and coaching staffs, especially where we can help with the development process of the players. I love being an ambassador for professional baseball and talking about the Naturals and Royals in the community. I love the opportunity in Minor League Baseball to have freedom to try new things, be willing to fail, and hopefully help build young staffers into future GM’s.
The hardest part….. School Night games in April when its 42 degrees at 1st pitch. Rain outs. 100 degree days in August, and basically any reason that someone gives me NOT to come to a Naturals game. The greatest challenge we have is finding new and unique ways to keep as many people coming through the gates as possible every single night over 70 games.
Over your seasons with Wichita and NWA, who are your top five players you’ve had the pleasure of watching with those teams? (by performance, character, or both – your choice)
A great part of my job is getting a little background on the players. My favorites have not always been the most talented, but I appreciate their work ethic, attitude, and solid character. And…. since I deal with both our teams and the other teams in the league, I can tell you without a doubt that the character of the Royals players is second to none. This is especially evident with Dayton Moore’s front office. Every single person associated with Dayton, player, coach, or administrator, is a class act. Its been absolutely remarkable.
In no particular order
Cory Aldridge- 05 and 08 – Very easy going guy, but also a clubhouse leader. Joy to be around in every way. Was really excited to see him get back to the big leagues this year with the Angels.
Alex Gordon – Quiet and determined, I never saw anyone work harder. A player told me in May of ’06, while gordon was hitting around .300, that he’d end up hitting .260 because he worked too hard and would burn out. Gordon ended the season at .330. He’s going to be a productive big leaguer.
Mike Moustakas – infectious leadership. Kid at heart. Plays as hard as anyone, but plays for his teammates. If you can’t get up for a game with Moose in the dugout, you probably need to give up the game.
Cody Clark – great organizational guy. Plays very hard, is very smart, and loved having him around for 08/09 seasons.
Vance Wilson – He was a huge piece of the 09 team that got to the finals. I swear he willed us there at times. We really didn’t have the pitching that year, but he wouldn’t give in. Excited to see him get a chance to manage.
*wild card – Andres Blanco – The 1st Big League callup that I’ve had as a GM of a team. Frank White let me sit in the room when they told him. I’ll never forget being there, and will also root for Andres.
Is it difficult to market a team to fans when the roster can change significantly throughout the season?
It’s difficult to market the players, which is why we usually don’t. Minor League baseball is all about affordable family friendly entertainment. $1 dogs, kids eat free, $1 beers, fireworks, giveaways, mascots, on-field games, and on and on and on. We spend a lot of time educating on the entire Royals organization so fans can understand that players aren’t sent into the abyss when they leave. Our fans do, for the most part, understand the process. It will come full circle when half of our 2010 roster is in the big leagues in the next 3 years.
What was it like to experience the Wranglers’ relocation to Northwest Arkansas? Was it a difficult transition or did it just feel, well, natural?
I was too naive to recognize how big a challenge it was, and just did it one day at a time. I love baseball as much as anything in the world, so I just spent every day sharing that and building the excitement every which way I could. It was tons of work, tons of minor details that play a major role in our operation. It was a whirlwind, and I wouldn’t trade the experience for anything.
Everyone has goals for their career’s future. Where do you want your current GM position to lead you?
I can honestly say that I love what I do and have achieved what I set out to do. Its a lot easier to get the job of your dreams than keep the job of your dreams. Who knows what the future holds, but if I can do this the rest of my career, I’d have accomplished all I could ever ask for.
If you had to give one tip to youth that want to follow a career path like your’s, what would it be?
Get your foot in the door, don’t ask for a paycheck. Do every job that no one else wants to do. Don’t ask for a paycheck. Show them value. Don’t ask for a paycheck. Once you’ve brought value, the paycheck will come. And, if you wanna move up, you gotta be willing to move around.
If Royals/Naturals fans were to make the trip to see Northwest Arkansas play over a weekend or even one day, what else in the area would you suggest they see before heading home?
Spend some time driving around the University of Arkansas campus (10 minutes from Arvest Ballpark). They have some amazing facilities and a gorgeous campus. Take a drive up to Beaver Lake and enjoy some wonderful state parks. For food…… Mama Z’s for Italian, Osegueras for Mexican, and AQ chicken house for the best fried chicken around.
Bonus: What do you think of the new team name and logos at Omaha?
Like anything new, it takes some time to grow on you. When I first heard the name, I wasn’t wild about it. But, I think their logos and uniforms are sharp, and they’ve applied the new brand very well. A couple days later, I can say that I really like it, and will likely be dropping some cash to get myself some new Storm Chasers gear.
Thanks a lot for the responses, Eric. Have a great offseason!