Throughout the years, the Omaha Storm Chasers affiliation has been as consistent as the crown in the Kansas City Royals logo.
Martie Cordaro serves as the General Manager and President of the Omaha Storm Chasers, the Kansas City Royals Triple-A affiliate, but his job is about way more than baseball. His story in baseball began after a short stint out of college playing music professionally as a drummer. He dropped out of Louisiana Tech after his freshman year, and after about three and a half years, he returned.
“I went to the baseball coach, Randy Davis, he was new there, and I shared my story with him,” Cordaro said. “I told him I was going to be a volunteer assistant coach for him.”
Davis had a different idea. He didn’t have any openings on his staff, but he was looking for someone to promote and market the Louisiana Tech program.
Cordaro wasn’t thrilled. He wanted to play or coach, not sell baseball.
“I told him that sounded like the worst thing in America,” he said. “But he convinced me to say yes to the business side, getting to know him, and then if he were to have a student assistant spot open up, I would be first in line.”
The position shifted his academic focus from education to marketing, and after graduating in November of 1998, Cordaro headed to Nashville for the winter meetings.
“I went through the job fair, and I was offered, I don’t know, three or four minor league sales jobs, all in group ticket sales,” Cordaro said. “I ultimately ended up going to Jackson, TN, which at the time was Double-A for the Cubs. I learned most of what I still practice from General Manager, David Hersh, at that time.”
His journey ultimately landed him in Omaha with the Storm Chasers in 2007.
“I think one of the things that is special about the Royals/Chasers relationship that goes beyond the 51 years, goes beyond the proximity of Omaha to Kansas City is the connectivity to the minor league system,” Cordaro said. “We have the longest affiliation out of all Triple-A teams and the third longest affiliation out of all 160 Minor League clubs; only Lakeland and Reading have longer ones.”
The Omaha Storm Chasers organization has changed in the time Cordaro has been at the helm, and he has also become involved with the Omaha community.
“I quickly realized I needed to put my fingers in projects and get to know companies and organizations in the charitable world,” he said. “I believe I have been fortunate to do that as a volunteer, a donor, and a board member for a number of organizations. None of us are perfect, but we can absolutely try to help others that are struggling and we can absolutely do our best to mentor others, to donate time, talent and treasures,”
Not only does he do that in the community, he also takes the time to help mentor those interested in eventually working in minor league baseball. He put in the hard work it took to ascend the ladder, and he is willing to help others reach their goal as well.
“We’ve had high school kids come in to do internships to learn about what we do,” Cordaro said. “I have a high school senior this year flying in from Louisiana to spend a week with me to job shadow and really learn about what we do.”
Working in baseball has given him a lot of great memories, but he is more concerned about the memories his organization makes for other people.
At the groundbreaking for Werner Park, Warren Buffett, Hall of Famers George Brett and Bob Gibson, the Governor of Nebraska Dave Heineman, the team owners, and Branch Rickey III were all in the same vicinity shoveling dirt, which is one of Cordaro’s favorite memories as part of the Storm Chasers organization. He also had the opportunity to throw out the first pitch at Werner Park, and he remembers playing host to acts like Selena Gomez for concerts.
The Chasers also have gone to the playoffs four years straight in his time, had four straight appearances in the Pacific Coast League Championship, and won championships three of those years. But for Cordaro, the best memories are seeing those around him succeeding.
“Seeing our staff that are truly in this business to learn and grow to go on and run their own clubs or go on to run their own departments in larger corporations and seeing our former players succeed,” he said. “About 70% of Triple-A rosters either have played or will play Major League Baseball. We just finished our 50th season, and 76% of players in this organization went on to play in the MLB.”
He cited the successes of Whit Merrifield, Lorenzo Cain, Eric Hosmer, and Danny Duffy, and all others who once spent time in the Chasers organization as special to him.
The business of Minor League Baseball is a memory making one. Cordaro has his memories, but his goal is to make memories that last for anyone who ventures into Werner Park, whether it be for a baseball game or for one of their 125 special events.
“Whether that’s memories for baseball fans checking out the upcoming top prospect of the Royals or it be a grandson or granddaughter walking around the ballpark taking on sights and sounds,” he said. “My favorite thing about working in minor league baseball is that it does so many great things for the communities in which our 160 teams reside.”
Aside from baseball, he is also a big Star Wars fan. He likes collecting the toys, especially vintage ones, and The Empire Strikes Back is his favorite film.
“It is something from my childhood that I did with my father in addition to baseball,” Cordaro said. “And it’s something that I’ve been able to do with my boys as they grow up.”
Much like the traditions he is continuing to pass from generation to generation in his own family, the Kansas City Royals and Omaha Storm Chasers affiliation has been a long-standing tradition, and that’s part of what makes working in Minor League Baseball, especially in the Kansas City Royals organization, so special for Martie Cordaro.
“A lot of people don’t know Minor League Baseball outdraws the NBA and NFL combined in attendance, more than 41 million fans for a dozen plus years,” Cordaro said. “It continues to grow, the only sport that outdraws us is our parent sport, Major League Baseball. It’s another reason I love working in this business. As it is Minor League Baseball, there is really nothing minor about it.”