The KC Royals rely on their minor-league affiliates to help produce major-league talent. The lowest affiliate, the Low-A Columbia Fireflies, is one of the first steps for a prospect toward the Show. There are plenty of intriguing players in Columbia right now, some with clear paths to the major-league club. But, fans should not forget the support staff those prospects have to foster their growth as ball players. The Royals do not underestimate that hard work and one way they can recognize that hard work is with internal awards. Each year, the Royals present the Matt Minker Award to a minor league employee who exemplifies qualities of leadership and dedication to the Royals organization. This year, they presented Columbia Fireflies Team President Brad Shank with the award, Saturday, May 27.
The KC Royals recognized Columbia's president for his work and resolve.
"Our partnership with Columbia and our experience with Brad has been nothing but a wonderful experience. The facility and community of Columbia is a great place for players, and Brad is an excellent steward to the community and the game," Kansas City Royals Director of Player Development/Field Coordinator Mitch Maier said. "That's what the Matt Minker Award is all about. Brad is an excellent ambassador of the game and the community and we couldn't be more excited for our future in Columbia."
Shank has been with the team since July 2015, when he joined as executive vice president. He was promoted to team president in 2021. He helped lead the team to a 38% increase in overall attendance over the previous season and a franchise record in group ticket sales in 2022. Fireflies manager Tony Pena Jr. & Maier presented the award to Shank in person, representing the two groups that Shank's actions touch the most.
"It’s an honor to receive the Matt Minker award on behalf of our entire staff that dedicates themselves to providing a big-league experience here in Columbia,” Shank said.. “Our goal every year is to make sure that the time these players and coaches spend in Columbia, South Carolina is the best stop on their road to the Major Leagues and Kansas City. We couldn’t ask for a better partner than the Kansas City Royals and look forward to many more years of success in our partnership.”
The Fireflies are on a roll to start the 2023 season, under Shank's presidency. Their 28-17 record leads the Carolina League South with a three-game lead. The team sports top pitching prospects like Frank Mozzicato and Ben Kudrna, with several surprise contributors. If Royals fans want to see the future of Kansas City baseball, the best place to start is with the glowing Fireflies.