Who has the best lights in town? Vote now for your favorite in our holiday lights contest.
After a dozen years of working in the front office of Salem's minor league baseball team, local native Allen Lawrence begins what amounts to an 8 to 10 week audition for the permanent job.
The Roanoke Times | File July
Allen Lawrence (left), who is part of the Salem Red Sox management team, high-fives Mugsy, the team’s mascot.
MATT GENTRY | The Roanoke Times
Salem Red Sox interim general manager Allen Lawrence (left) talks with Sandy Mixon-Huff, a season ticket holder off nine years. “I appreciate all of the fans kind of rallying behind me,” said Lawrence, who is a candidate for the permanent Salem GM job.
Sunday, July 21, 2013
The other guys in the Fenway Park bathroom might have been wondering what Allen Lawrence was doing with his camera out a few weeks ago.
Yes, it was odd, but it was nothing creepy. He simply saw an informational sign on the wall that he liked.
“I thought it was a nice framed piece that they had it in,” Lawrence said. “I wanted to get the name of company that produced that sign.”
“That was one of the top 20 pictures that I took when I was at Fenway,” he said. “I’m probably the only one that can say that who was in the ballpark that day.”
Probably. But after a dozen years in the front office of Salem’s minor league baseball team, Lawrence views the game a little differently than most. When he visited Citi Field recently, other folks were taking photos of Mets star David Wright.
Lawrence snapped shots of the beer stand.
Anything to glean a concept or product that he can bring home, anything that could make the Salem Memorial Ballpark experience better.
On Tuesday, the 35-year-old North Cross School graduate assumed his role as the interim general manager of the Salem Red Sox. He replaces Todd Stephenson, who made an amicable split with the club this week to pursue other career opportunities.
For Lawrence, the next few weeks will be part job interview, part fact-finding mission, part — well, his normal routine. There’s very little he hasn’t done at this ballpark, where he’s been a fixture since his high school days.
He’s sold bottled water. He’s picked up trash. He’s rolled out the tarp. He’s served as an usher. He’s worn the mascot costume. He’s helped design promotions, help sell corporate sponsorships, overseen the food and beverage operations.
“The one thing I don’t have is the general manager experience,” he said.
He’s about to get a whole bunch of it — the search for a permanent GM likely will take eight to 10 weeks, ownership says — and it happens at a critical time for the club. For the second straight year, the Sox are on pace to draw their lowest average attendance since moving to Salem Memorial Ballpark full-time in 1996.
This isn’t something the Boston Red Sox plan to ignore.
“It’s a big deal,” said Tim Zue, vice president of business development for Fenway Sports Management and the Boston Red Sox. “I think about attendance every single day. Every time we have a game, I get an email from our ticketing vice president, Ryan Shelton, as to how many people were in the park and how many tickets we sold.
“I think we take pride in everything we do. And if that’s selling tickets to a Boston Red Sox game, if that’s selling tickets to a Liverpool football match, if that’s providing the best Fenway experience possible, if that’s providing the best Salem Memorial Ballpark experience possible — it doesn’t matter if the scale is a lot smaller. We want to succeed.”
Lawrence’s goal, as it has been for the four years the Red Sox have owned the club, is to help them do that. To that end, he often puts in 17-hour days at the park — a summertime grind that was among the reasons Stephenson cited for seeking a new line of work after 14 years in the organization.
“I kind of look at the alternative, and I look at what a lot of my friends do,” Lawrence said. “I look at what other people in the community do, and that is they go to work maybe from 9 to 5, they get in a suit and tie and they sit behind a desk, or whatever their job is.
“Every time that we come here and we work for 16 or 17 hours, I kind of take a step back and say ‘Hey, I am working long days, it is a grind, but I’m working at a baseball park.’ Not only that, but I grew up a Red Sox fan, so I’m working for a Red Sox affiliate, I’m working for Fenway Sports. What a tremendous opportunity it is for me.”
Stephenson said that Lawrence’s biggest challenge will be “not having an Allen” — a trusted, veteran lieutenant to absorb some of the many responsibilities of the GM. Ownership has said that Lawrence is a candidate for the full-time job, and Lawrence hopes to prove he’s worthy, both from what he’s accomplished over a dozen years (for three different parent clubs) and from the ingenuity he’ll continue to provide.
“I don’t want to move into that position because the general manager is leaving and I’m the assistant GM,” said Lawrence, who had been the senior assistant GM for four years. “I want to move into that position because it’s the right fit. And if they feel it’s the right fit, great. And if they don’t feel it’s the right fit, then I’ll respect that decision.
“Regardless, it’s going to be a great opportunity for me to go through that interview process. I’m going to gain some experience from it regardless of what happens. But I am excited about the possibility of it happening, and I appreciate all the fans kind of rallying behind me.”
One major edge Lawrence has on other candidates is that he knows his clientele. He’s from the area. He’s developed strong relationships with season-ticket holders and corporate sponsors.
“I told one of our fans the other night, my biggest plus is that I’ve been here for 12 years,” Lawrence said. “My biggest negative is that I’ve been here for 12 years.”
In other words, he doesn’t have the experience of having worked in other markets like other candidates will. But that’s why he reads whatever he can find on the Internet, talks to others in the industry and lugs a cameras to ballparks near and far.
Whoever gets chosen for the permanent GM role will see the real challenge begin when the season ends. Lawrence compares running a minor league baseball team to planning a wedding: The important work happens long before the event takes place.
In baseball’s case, the event is opening day.
“Really, I don’t see a whole lot of major changes coming in the next few months,” Lawrence said. “I think we’re going to ride out the season and look what next year has to bring us. We’ll make some small tweaks.
“I don’t know that it’ll be anything that the fans will see; it’ll be more internal, just trying to get a little bit better. I think that’s the goal: to get a little bit better each day and hopefully carry that momentum into the 2014 season.”
Weather JournalMix on Sat AM; coming blog changes