The Coastal Plain League announced today, August 24, that the Macon Bacon, located in Macon, Ga., have been selected as the 2018 CPL Organization of the Year. Macon is owned by Steve DeLay and Jon Spoelstra of SRO Partners, this was the team's first year of existence.
"Baseball came back to Macon this summer in the form of the Bacon, and it's safe to say fans were not disappointed," said Justin Sellers, Coastal Plain League COO/Commissioner. "From the stadium renovations and nightly entertainment to the strong team on the field that not only made the postseason, but became family to the community that had waited a long time for the boys of summer to return. Congratulations to Steve, John, and their entire organization! They should be proud with the successful first year the Macon Bacon had and this award recognizes their efforts, as well as the support from everyone in Macon-Bibb County. This is just the start and we look forward to seeing what the Bacon have in store for next year."
Macon was chosen after collecting input on every facet of an organization from game-day operations to overall hospitality and community involvement, from team owners, general managers, umpires, players and league officials. Other teams in contention were the Morehead City Marlins and Savannah Bananas.
"It's a testament to the hard work from the staff and most importantly, the tremendous enthusiasm from the Middle Georgia community," said DeLay.
This was an enthusiasm that seemed almost immediate, and not just in Georgia - as the team went national from the day the logo and name were unveiled on September 27, 2017. That night SportsCenter ran a segment on the team name and uniform mocks, and within weeks the Bacon had sold merchandise in all 50 states.
Even with this "sizzling" start, the organization knew they needed to build a staff that could revamp Macon into a baseball hub once more. A city that has been home to greats such as Vince Coleman and Chipper Jones deserved a new team to call theirs after almost a decade without one. With this history in mind it was important to DeLay and Spoelstra that the franchise hit the ground running as they knew they would need to reignite the community around the Bacon.
"We immediately hired five salespeople to get out and get involved in the community, meeting business leaders, group leaders and baseball fans," explained DeLay. "That took place nine months before our first game and that outreach paid huge dividends with enthusiasm across the community and beyond."
The community took note as the team announced the franchise home opener as sold out weeks in advance of the season and the sellouts kept coming from there. By season's end the Bacon had soldout 11 of their 23 home games in 2018 and hosted almost 50,000 fans on the year to finish 10th overall in summer league attendance, and second in the Coastal Plain League. In true Macon style they gave their season ticket holders an extra special bit of love with Bacon themed ticket packaging, a marketing move that once again garnered the team national attention.
"Ticket sales really started to take off in January and February as the construction started to take form," noted DeLay "Then, as we sold out the first two games, fan interest began to snowball from there."
Before any of this could happen however the organization first had to give the historic Luther Williams Field a bit of a facelift - a 2.5 million dollar facelift to be exact. DeLay and Spoelstra wanted to create new seating areas that were appealing to a wide range of fans as well as upgrade the concessions, bathrooms and other fan amenities to improve overall fan experience at the park each night. It should also be noted the team had to overcome the damages of the remnants of Hurricane Irma that tore down the outfield walls and damaged other structures at the park in early September. None of this stopped them however from creating a beautiful mix of new-age elements with the beer garden and party deck (complete with cabana suites) down each line, while still maintaining the historic nostalgia that makes the park so unique.
Not only did fans get to enjoy the new Luther Williams, or as many began to call it "The Skillet", they were also catered to some of the best baseball talent in the country with the Bacon finishing the season second in the South Division. Led by head coach Danny Higginbothom, Macon clinched a playoff birth in their inaugural season, eventually being knocked out by their rivals from the east the Savannah Bananas. Even so it was a successful year for the franchise on the field as they saw two players (Riley King & James Williams) participate in the All-Star Show festivities in Lexington, S.C. in early July as well as two players (Andres Perez & Jordan Dubberly) named to the CPL Select Team that lost a close one 3-2 to the USA Collegiate National Team in late June. Additionally, both King and Williams were recently selected to the All-CPL Team, recognizing the top players in the league all season.
Macon was sure to spread the success outside of the team itself, as community outreach was a top priority - evident by the Bacon raising over $40,000 for various fundraisers and charities. These included groups such as the Boys and Girls Club of America and Macon RBI Baseball along with many churches and schools in the area. In addition to the money raised, they did their best to give back in experiences as well with their Home Town Hero and Home Run For Life initiatives being some of the most memorable moments of the season.
"We wanted to deliver fun, family entertainment at a ballpark that was near and dear to a community that was starving for baseball and wonderful memories," said DeLay when asked what him and Spoelstra envisioned for Macon.
It would be safe to say they accomplished just that in year one and there is little reason to doubt that this is only the beginning for what is sure to be one of the best organizations in the country for years to come. Never ones to sit idle, the Bacon have even bigger things in store for 2019 as they have already began planning additional improvements to the ballpark, more entertainment ideas and will be growing the Bacon staff to further their reach into the community.
In the mean time fans can stay tuned to yet another area the franchise has excelled - their ever growing online presence, including the year-end wrap up video from the team's Twitter account that can be found below. Fans can also visit www.maconbaconbaseball.com for ticket information and all team related news.
About Coastal Plain League:
The Coastal Plain League is the nation's premier summer collegiate baseball league. Heading into its 22nd season in 2018, the CPL features 16 franchises playing in Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia. To date, the CPL has had over 1,450 alumni drafted and 116 alums – including 2017 ALCS MVP, 2017 World Series champion, 2011 AL MVP and Cy Young award winner Justin Verlander, as well as 2017 NLCS MVP Chris Taylor – make their Major League debut. For more information on the Coastal Plain League, please visit the league website at www.coastalplain.com, and be sure to follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat @CPLBaseball.