The Sports Sitdown: Q&A with Fisher Cats’ Mike Ramshaw

  • Mike Ramshaw is the team president of the Fisher Cats, the Double A affiliate of Major League Baseball’s Toronto Blue Jays.

  • Mike Ramshaw is the team president of the Fisher Cats, the Double A affiliate of Major League Baseball’s Toronto Blue Jays. Courtesy

  • Samuel Habib, left, interviews Mike Ramshaw, team president of the Fisher Cats, on Zoom earlier this summer.

For the Monitor
Published: 8/22/2020 12:34:14 PM

Mike Ramshaw is the team president of the Fisher Cats, the Double A affiliate of Major League Baseball’s Toronto Blue Jays. He oversees the entire operation at Northeast Delta Dental Stadium in Manchester from ticket sales and advertising to the customer experience. Earlier in his life, Ramshaw wanted to be a police officer but ultimately moved into sales. His start with the Fisher Cats came in 2006 when his son’s godfather, who worked for the team, told Mike about an opportunity. Ramshaw became director of ticket sales that year, and a decade later, he had worked his way up to president. Ramshaw sat down for a virtual interview on June 23. One week later, the team’s season was canceled due to COVID-19.

Samuel: How did you begin your career?

Mike: Great story. Great question. I was at the time working for Poland Springs, or Nestle under the Poland Springs brand. I’d worked there for 10 years. I said, ‘Sure who wouldn’t be interested interviewing for a baseball team?,’ and I gave it a shot. I interviewed and started as the director of tickets sales. I’m kind of a unique story where I didn’t grow up wanting to work in sports. I actually wanted to be a police officer and life kind of happened and I ended up getting into sales and working here and look at me now. I have zero regrets. I love my job. I love what I can do. I love helping staff grow. I love working with the community and I know that’s a long-winded response but that’s how I got started. I got started from my son’s godfather introducing me to baseball and I’m not even a baseball fan. You know, I love people, that’s why I do what I do is because normal times puts me in front of all people that we get to give back to whether it’s entertainment or community-based, you know, supporting nonprofits through donations.

Samuel: What are some common career paths in your field?

Mike: A lot of people will work their way up. What’s unique in our business is that you see a lot of people that bounce all over the country trying to get to their dream job. Whether it’s be becoming a general manager or president, radio broadcaster or turf crew and go where the opportunity is. Typically, you’ll see people go from AA to AAA to the majors and so on and so forth. Whether you want to be on the radio, a lot of those guys that are the radio broadcasters, those guys started in A and worked their way up. Think about it, there’s only 160, for minor league teams, 160 teams currently. There’s only 160 of those particular jobs. A lot of times you’ll see in those scenarios are ongoing and sometimes they only make it to AA, sometimes they’ll only make it to AAA, or they leave the baseball industry altogether and go into a different sport.

Samuel: What kind of challenges do you experience at work?

Mike: I’ll answer that two different ways. I’ll answer it pre-COVID and I’ll answer it post-COVID. Pre-COVID challenges, there’s a lot of moving pieces and it’s a very fast-paced environment. Keeping morale and staff energized, morale high, keeping employees engaged can definitely be challenging. When you get towards the latter part of the summer because we’re working 70 games, a lot of times we’ll come in the morning at 9:30 and we don’t leave till 10:30 at night. That is a tendency to get people to burn out. There are things that we’ve done as an organization to help staff like long weekends, come in late, different events that we do together as a staff to build that bond. Just keeping staff happy. That’s probably one of the biggest challenges and I love it. I love to see growth. I love to see people thrive in their positions and move on. If somebody leaves me for a different job, or the organization, I feel good about helping that person take their next step in their career.

 

Post-COVID or during COVID, two words that I use now are adapt and adjust. We have an idea we’re trying to figure out. We’re trying to reinvent ourselves. We’re trying to come up with ways to generate revenue and still be there for our community and let them know that we’re here without having baseball. We are definitely reinventing ourselves whether it be hosting graduations at the ballpark. A movie night on a Saturday where people come here and sit on the field and in the stands and we can provide the social distancing. Meet the guidelines and just give people an outlet to do something. The big challenge now, it’s really still staying on the employee end and being the upbeat optimistic person. ‘Hey, we’re going to get through this. I’m going to do it.’ At the same time, juggling the moving pieces every day something changes, and you just have to be very well informed and stay on top of it, so you don’t fall behind.

Samuel: What has been your most memorable moment as team president of the Fisher Cats?

Mike: There are so many. The first thing that popped into my mind was when we won the championship in 2018. That was a really special group of guys on the field as well as guys and girls off the field, you know, for front office staff. Going and having Vladimir Guerrero, Bo Bichette, and Cavan Biggio. Having those three, two of them Hall of Famers children and with Dante, a former Red Sox. These are high caliber players and on top of that just tremendous coaching staff led by John Schneider. That was probably my most memorable moment. Being in the dugout after they won the championship, having my kids with me, having my staff with me celebrating that we did it. Every seven years is what it seems to take. We won in 2004, 2011 and then in 2018. That’s probably the one that sticks out the most. It’s the most favorite moment, probably the most recent. It’s just to be a part of a championship team like that both on and off the field.

Samuel: How has COVID-19 impacted your life?

Mike: It’s impacted my life in many ways, Samuel. From a personal standpoint, I’m a father of four kids aged 7 to 18. I have a wife that is a high school educator so being there for them, being a leader for them, providing for them with this uncertainty. Same thing, with the staff, just being there. Trying to, as I mentioned earlier, reinvent ourselves, adapt and adjust. The anxiety, the stress, it’s all there, it’s all real and this pandemic has taught me a lot. I think that every single one of us ... what we are going through with this from a personal and professional standpoint, is going to make us a better person in the long run. But right now, it’s been hard to still be optimistic. It’s a lot of energy and you just, you just got to remember why. I have to remind myself why are you here, what are you doing, what do you want to come out of this pandemic for yourself, your family and your staff?

I’m just trying to turn over every rock. Find out everything that we can do. Ask the questions, so at least, when we get to the end, I know that I tried but it hasn’t been fun but we’re trying to make the best of it. Trying to be there for our community and our fans and I couldn’t be more proud of the staff we have working for me through this. Working remotely is something, especially in this industry, we never thought in a million years that this is what we would be doing. Zoom, right? Who knew what Zoom was six months ago? I had no idea and now I love getting on Zoom because you get to see somebody. As everything starts to slowly open back up, you start to see people but it’s not this huge increase and who knows if it ever will be? It’ll change our business, kind of the way that we go about running our business from transactions, ticket office, concession stands, to how we seat fans in the ballpark. It’s gonna impact us for years to come.

Samuel: How has COVID-19 affected your job and organization?

Mike: It has made it hard. The organization, we live and survive off of baseball games and putting butts in seats. When people are in the ballpark they’re buying merchandise, purchasing tickets to get in, buying concessions and seeing the advertisements from the sponsors. Without baseball we have zero revenue coming in. Which is why we’re trying to come up with these other ideas to reinvent ourselves because we gotta strive to survive. When you’re counting on 350-plus-thousand people a year coming out to the ballpark and it goes to zero, it impacts us a lot and that’s why it’s important for us to stay relevant with the community because if we don’t play baseball this year, eight months without baseball, professional baseball, in the state of New Hampshire and that’s a long time.

Samuel: Are you working from home now due to COVID-19? Have you been able to keep in contact with the players and members of your organization?

Mike: We just opened the office (in June) so I had been working remotely every day with the exception of one day a week I would come in, stop at the post office to get the mail. I only had two or three people that were here on a regular basis for field crew and stadium operations to make sure that the building was okay and that they were taking care of odds and ends. Thank you to Zoom, we have been able to stay in touch with our front office staff. We have stayed very much engaged with them. Just talking through things together. From the player standpoint, we’ve had several guys on our media team reach out to players for interviews and content to put on social media. I’ve stayed in contact with the Blue Jays just to let them know we’re here if they need anything. If they call me for a question or if I have something for them they can help me. Although it’s been different, I think we have done a good job staying in touch with the front office staff and our parent club the Toronto Blue Jays. If I can add to Samuel, I think my staff that we have here working on ticket sales from our account executives and our sales academy have done an unbelievable job staying connected with our fans. This pandemic hit, our plan was all right. We’re not selling anything, but we just want people to know we’re here for them. We called every single person from season ticket-holders, the sponsors, mini-plan holders, and eventually to individual ticket holders to just let them know that we are here for you, just talk and let you know we’re gonna get through it together. We’re gonna be here on the backside. Communication was key right and was the most important thing that we could do from a business perspective by just letting people know that we understand that there’s a pandemic going on and that we are going to work with them and make sure that everybody’s taken care of.

Samuel: How have the Fisher Cats players been impacted due to COVID-19?

Mike: Ironically, I don’t know who the players would be yet because this happened before spring training was over. It was before they were even able to split the players into major league and minor league camp. You have an idea of some of the players that would potentially be coming back, but we didn’t have a roster and had no idea who we would be getting except for the coaching staff. We were excited to welcome Cesar Martin to New Hampshire to show him what we’re all about and what our fans were like. But as far as the players, I really can’t speak to them because I don’t know everyone that we’d have and we don’t know who we’d have on the roster but I know that those guys, at least through May, I can’t, I don’t know where they are now within the Blue Jays, but I know that the Blue Jays have kept some of them up through the month of May. I just don’t know how many players on the minor league level that are still with the team right now due to COVID.

Samuel: What did a typical workday look like for you before Covid-19 and what does it look for you now?

Mike: A typical workday during a homestand, I would come in the morning, get my emails, make sure that we were all set up for our fans coming out to the ballpark later on the day, reach out to the sponsors, getting them set up for the homestand that we were about to head into. Actually, looking ahead for the future homestand and then two hours before game time, so if it was a seven o’clock game I would put on my game day hat, go out and greet our fans, and welcome them into the ballpark. So that was the game. It was busy, right? You were always doing something that was very fast-paced. We’re now during COVID, we’re working remotely. We don’t have baseball so it’s a lot different. Work 8:30 to 4:30 or 5 o’clock. We have a graduation and we’ll stay later or come in later. You’re not working the typical hours that you would normally work in a minor league season. It’s definitely affected it that way. It’s not as much going on. We’re trying to find different ways, different things to do.

Samuel: Due to the pandemic and without baseball, has it been more difficult maintaining the team’s connection with the local community?

Mike: Yeah, I think it has been different, right? We’ve done a good job as I mentioned earlier, staying in touch with the community by doing our reading challenge program. When this pandemic hit, that was the actual day that the governor made the announcement that we were gonna close things down. We decided that was a day that our reading challenge was going to end. We had to extend it. Let’s be there. We know these students are to be home, let’s extend it for 30 days and give the parents another tool to keep kids engaged with the community. We immediately reached out to all of our restaurant partners when we knew that was going to change. How can we help you if you’re open for take-out? We take our email database and we email out once a week the different restaurants that we partner with and what they’re offering for takeout to help them out. Because it wasn’t about us, it was about helping everybody that’s been there for us. I think with having the people here on the front lines reaching out to the ticket holders, we also did backyard baseball videos on social media where our radio announcers, they dubbed someone playing baseball in their backyard, and they would announce the game for them. They send the recording and then we posted on social media. We’re trying to do a lot of fun things that way to keep people engaged. Moving our STEM education, moving that virtual. We did that. I’m proud of the staff for what they’ve come up with. They engage with the community during this time because we know it’s so important to do so.

Samuel: Have you been able to utilize the Northeast Delta Dental Stadium for socially distanced events?

Mike: Yes. Graduations were the first events that we were able to host. We’ve done several graduations and were able to socially distance. We have our baseball clinics here. There’s a lot of things that we have already been able to do and there’s a whole bunch of other events that we’re working on trying to get here at the ballpark. It’s kind of unique the way that we’re set up where we can have events of a good size and properly social distance. Our fans can be safe about it. It’s a matter of getting that word out and getting for us to be able to do that.

Samuel: What kind of safety and health guidelines do you expect for fans when they can eventually come back to watch baseball?

Mike: I think it’s constantly changing. I can only speak to the guidelines, safety guidelines that are put out now. Proper social distancing, wearing face masks when moving about your seat to prevent the potential spread of COVID-19. Wiping down high traffic areas, countertops, making sure the restrooms are being cleaned even more routine than they are now. Stepping that up, disinfecting the stadium after every single event, working with our cleaning company to make sure that that gets done. Wiping down railings throughout the game. We care about our fans; we care about their safety. Safety has always been our number one priority when it comes to fans and our staff and that was pre-COVID and that certainly isn’t going to go away. It’s only going to be enhanced post-COVID. We need to prove that our fans know that when they choose to come out to the ballpark that it’s a safe environment for them.

Samuel Habib is a college student at NHTI. Samuel is an avid sports fan and lives in Concord.


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