03/01/2013 8:40 AM
Adam Ehlert (right), along with coach Frank White and General Manager Chris Browne, honored long-time T-Bones scorer Lou Spry before a game in August 2012. (Photo by Matthew Hicks.)
The name Adam Ehlert might not be completely familiar with T-Bones fans. After all, as professional team presidents go, Ehlert, who co-owns the T-Bones with his dad John and his brothers, generally stays behind the scenes. Away from the field, though, Ehlert is active in the Wyandotte County area — that’s the way it’s been since he moved the T-Bones from Duluth (where they were the Dukes) to Kansas City. As the T-Bones have now been in Kansas City for a decade, it seemed like a good time to sit down with Ehlert for this e-mail interview with Matt Fulks of tbonesbaseball.com. The following is Part II.
Matt Fulks: We ended Part I mentioning how you grew up in Minnesota as a Twins fan. With that in mind, what’s your most vivid baseball memory (or memories) from your youth?
Adam Ehlert: I’ll try to dovetail this answer with one or two answers to this question. My most enthusiastic sports memory is the 1987 World Series. The Metrodome may be (or soon to be, may have been…) a goofy building, but the atmosphere for that series was beyond electric. Not to mention the forced heat or air conditioning, depending upon who was batting…but that’s another story. I fondly recall the story, partially to allow Kansas Citians to relish a Cardinals defeat, and also because it was my first real glimpse to fervent hometown pride. When we (the Twins) finally left the Metrodome, Jed Carlson and I spent what felt like hours hanging out of my father’s sunroof, slapping five with every screaming pedestrian in downtown Minneapolis. I have heard fantastic stories of Kansas City’s heyday in both baseball and football, and I hope we can get back to that in the near future. My other brief story involves the Royals. Also as a kid, I was at a Grapefruit League game (Twins vs. Royals). Walking through the concourse, a man who was clearly a Royals front-office bigwig (Chris Browne probably knows him), simply handed, unsolicited, a game ball each to me and to my friend, Jeff Sell. My allegiance was conflicted for several years (until I was forced to use that ball for pitching practice, and scuffed it up).
MF: As we approach the 2013 season for the T-Bones, we’re doing so with a new stadium naming rights deal in place with CommunityAmerica Credit Union, as we announced last season. Can you put into words what that relationship with CommunityAmerica has meant to this club?
AE: I am, frankly, honored that our team is associated with an institution like CommunityAmerica Credit Union. Ten years ago, we had high hopes for the relationship. I know from our side, and from our fans’ side, the relationship has exceeded our collective hopes. They are a dynamic and forward-thinking marketer, and in addition to being a significant advertising relationship for the T-Bones, it has also pushed us to continually improve our business. Additionally, it is simply fun to say — it is a great name, and those ten syllables, CommunityAmerica Ballpark, just roll off the tongue.
MF: Last June —on CommunityAmerica Credit Union Night, as a matter of fact — we had one of our largest crowds in the club’s history. Perhaps that’s another good sign of the relationship between the two organizations.
AE: Having such a strong relationship affords us both the opportunity to test the waters with some concepts. CommunityAmerica Credit Union Members’ Night is one of those. Our entire staff is on high alert and everything is spit-shined and the red carpet is rolled out. It’s a great marketing and customer appreciation event for the credit union, and it’s also a great atmosphere here for the other fans, and also for the players! Now…we just need Mother Nature to be a little more accommodating. She did ratchet down the blast furnace a little last year, but we’re hoping for sub-90s this year.
MF: With the exception of not making the postseason, overall it’s safe to say 2012 was very successful for the T-Bones. First-year manager Kenny Hook helped lead the club to one of its best regular-season records, and did so after taking over shortly before the season. What did you see out of last year’s club and Kenny’s managing style that you really liked?
AE: I am thrilled with Kenny’s success last year. He really jumped into a tough situation (with Tim Doherty getting the call to Boston in late March), and flourished. While Kenny sure had close knowledge of how the team was built, having been the bench coach in 2011, actually taking over and doing everything is another matter entirely. Managing the game on the field is only a small portion of an independent manager’s responsibility. Working a network of contacts, weeding out prospective players, checking references, lobbying for transactions and creating contingency plans, and administering a budget (and a closely-watched league salary cap!) are much more taxing. It’s funny to hear Kenny think back fondly (I think) about the North Face steepness of his learning curve. It’s exactly because of that, though, that I have very high hopes for this coming season. Go get ‘em, Skip!
MF: The American Association owners’ meeting was a couple of weeks ago. Any big news or great ideas discussed that you can share?
AE: I won’t report on any “news,” other to simply say that I am excited for our league, and still humbled to be a part of it. We’re made up of an eclectic group of entrepreneurs, baseball fans and dreamers. That’s maybe a nice way of saying that this business is a lot more fun than any banker would admit (or endorse). I need to give a great deal of credit to Commissioner Miles Wolff, who has kept a steady hand on the tiller since he rejuvenated independent baseball two decades ago.
MF: That’s about it. As always, thanks for your time!
AE: Thank you, Matt. I’m looking forward to a great 2013!
Part I of this 2-Part "Chat with Matt" with T-Bones President Adam Ehlert ran last Friday, Feb. 22. It can be read by clicking here.