As many people know, Craig Stout, owner of the Cleveland Comets, was the longtime owner of the Akron Racers. This year, the Racers are re-named the Comets and the team moves up the road to Cleveland. Why the move, both in name and in location?
SD: After much consideration we determined a fresh start was necessary. The established business model and operations of the Akron Racers were no longer sustainable, and we felt immediate changes were needed. We did not make this decision easily, to walk away from the longest history’d brand in the league, as well as one of the finest softball venues in the state, and most importantly our passionate fans. However, our goal is to expand our reach into additional markets. We plan to pursue new ideas and initiatives in efforts to grow the franchise and our impact in the NPF.
What made this job seem appealing to you? What about it piqued your interest?
SD: For as long as I can remember, sports have been a driving force in my life. Growing up in my family, you had a ball in your hand and a jersey on your back before you could even walk. Although I may not have a bat in my hands anymore, the love to compete and the thrill of winning is what drives me to put my all into this job. I’ve always believed in the age old saying of “choose a job you love, and you’ll never work a day in your life.” Every day I wake up thankful for this opportunity and leave my bed with a bounce in my step. I think our league is right on the cusp of becoming something much bigger. I am proud and determined to help lead the way towards this goal as a team and a member of the NPF.
What are the biggest assets you bring to this job?
SD: In combination with my background in athletics, I will utilize my experience in marketing, advertising and sales, in efforts to bring in corporate partners and drive new revenue into the franchise. As a business owner myself, I have developed the skills required to manage all that comes with running a professional organization. There is no question that our sport has a passionate following by our fans and from its members within the NPF. I think for this league to continue to grow, we need more people who understand the importance of the business that is fastpitch.
What have been the biggest challenges you have faced since joining this team?
SD: The biggest challenge I’ve had so far, is learning to accept that some things will happen that are out of my control. Everyone outside of our organization has their own agenda, and understandably at times because of the competitive environment we are in, will say or do things that could negatively affect us. My job in these situations is to take those lemons and make lemonade. Although the task in itself may be a challenge, the opportunity to build a new franchise from almost scratch has been incredibly fulfilling.
What would you like to say to longtime Akron Racers fans who are concerned about the changes and the future of professional softball in their area?
SD: First and foremost I want to share our utmost appreciation for their longtime support. Although we may be changing our name and venue, we hope our Akron faithful will continue to support our team. We have been discussing the possibility of playing a majority of our home games at a singular venue within the greater Cleveland area, in combination with our remaining games taking place all over Ohio, including Akron.
Will any 2017 Akron Racers appear on the new lineup this year?
SD: Yes, we anticipate several players will be returning from last year’s roster. In addition, we are pursuing multiple free agents and will have a strong presence in the upcoming draft.
Have you had discussions with the players on the 2017 Racers team, and what has their reaction been to all of the changes?
SD: After I was introduced as General Manager my first priority was to reach out to our players. Understanding that there were widespread rumors and speculation floating throughout the softball community, I emphasized our commitment to the upcoming season and shared our vision of the franchise moving forward. I was extremely impressed by the professionalism our players showed and pleased to hear I had their full support.
What is your strategy in building this team? What can Cleveland Comets fans expect to see?
SD: As we begin to construct our roster, my goal is to bring in players who are committed to our vision moving forward. First and foremost, our goal is to be as competitive as possible in the NPF. We will be signing some very talented players, but more importantly the right players. Ones who bring a positive, professional and competitive attitude to our team. Our fans can expect to see a highly polished product, a team that shows up to the park every day expecting to win.
Speaking of CC fans, what’s in your plan to build a brand new fan base for professional softball in Cleveland?
SD: A large reason for the changes we’ve made are in efforts to attract new and untapped markets. We plan on expanding our presence by bringing our product to multiple venues around Ohio, and potentially across state lines. In addition, we plan on heavily increasing our activity in the social media space. The ability to acquire and engage with fans is critical to our mission. We are dedicated to providing our fans a fun and family friendly atmosphere, both at the park and for those watching from home.
What are you most excited about moving forward to the NPF College Draft and Opening Day?
SD: The part I’m looking forward to most in the draft, is the moment our name is called, and our picks are submitted. Knowing that we got the players we wanted and making a permanent connection with these young women for the rest of their careers. Opening day is always a special day but even more so this year. I look forward to seeing everything we’ve been working so hard on unfold right in front of us. I’m sure we will all be filled with pride, especially on that day.
How can fans find out more about the Cleveland Comets, and where can they find them on social media?
SD: We are currently bringing our website as well as our social media pages up to speed, stay tuned as we will be rolling them out shortly. You can find us at:
Website – www.clevelandcomets.us
Facebook – @ClevelandCometsNPF
Twitter – @CLE_Comets
Instagram – CLE_Comets
Snapchat – ClevelandComets