The Coastal Plain League has announced Brandon Raphael of the Macon Bacon as the 2019 CPL Executive of the Year. This marks Raphael's first Executive of the Year award, he serves as the Bacon's Team President.
"Brandon really hit the ground running when he started with the Bacon and the CPL," said Coastal Plain League COO/Commissioner Justin Sellers. "His enthusiasm and strong work ethic were not only impressive but contagious as he made a quick and strong bond with his staff, the community, and others throughout our league. This honor recognizes his accomplishments thus far and we know there is more to come in the future!"
Raphael graduated from Marryville University of St. Louis in 2000 where he also played baseball before moving into the business side of the sport once his dreams of playing professionally ended. At 23-years-old he moved to Las Vegas to work for Mandalay Baseball Properties, which is where he first met current Bacon owners Steve Delay and Jon Spoelstra. He worked for with their Las Vegas 51s team and later the Frisco RoughRiders in ticket sales for six years before eventually moving over into college athletics for the 10 years prior to joining the Bacon.
"Over the past 20 years, Steve and I had continued to keep in touch and check in with each other on a monthly basis," explained Raphael. "When Steve and I chatted about the Macon Bacon opportunity again as the first year was finishing up, it was a no-brainer to reunite with Steve and make the move to Middle Georgia with my family. My 20+ career in the sports industry has been absolutely amazing and to see how it has developed has been very humbling - but, I truly believe it is the people you take that journey with and the mentors that help give you the guidance and push to take that next step."
Raphael was nominated alongside Carson Bowen of the Wilmington Sharks and Barbara Osborne of the Florence RedWolves. His nomination was a reflection of the teams jump in sellouts and attendance from year one to year two as well as a 24 percent growth in overall sponsorships, helping the team finish second in the CPL in attendance and 11th overall in the nation. He was also an integral part in the team's work within the community of Macon as they continued to grow their relationships in only their second year of existence.
Joining the Bacon in August of 2018, Raphael had a clear vision for how he wanted the organization to come together under his leadership. He noted a desire to build a positive culture for the staff help mentor and grow them both as people and employees.
"Growth was a word we used a lot in the past year," said Raphael. "And, we didn't just mean revenue growth. The entire organization to grow together and that was the important piece: together. We wanted to build a culture of positivity, inclusiveness and for everyone to believe in our mission and goals as an organization. Our success would not be defined by the play of the team on the field. We cannot control that. What we can control is how we treat our fans, our community and each other."
This mind set was extended to the community of Macon as well with Raphael noticing a need to establish the Bacon brand and name within the community. With Macon having had a number of teams come and go over the past decade plus, the community needed to understand the Bacon were here to stay and that they were an organization they could trust.
"When I first came on board it was very apparent from the onset that we needed to create our own footprint in Middle Georgia and beyond," Raphael explained. "In my first several meetings with fans, partners and the community, I would hear things like, "You coming back next year?" or "we'll see how you all hold up." Immediately, I knew we had to be more involved, as an organization, in our own community and backyard."
This become his number one initiative and he built it into every speaking engagement he had, even noting how he would share that the organization would love to adopt 'Community and Partnership' as the Bacon's middle name.
"It sounds funny, but we have an incredibly opportunity to make an impact on our Middle Georgia community," said Raphael. "We have a resource in the Macon Bacon that can help others and we have some natural partners to work with, such as Navicent and the Children's Hospital as well as the Boys & Girls Clubs of Central Georgia, but it goes way beyond that."
From here Raphael had his staff strategize how the Bacon could further become involved with the community from simple acts like Kevin being more visible around Macon to much larger initiatives such as the one Rapheal helped create, 'Teacher Tools."
"We are very much aware that many teachers, not just in Bibb County but all throughout the country have to dip into their own pocket to provide some of the necessary resources in their own classroom," outlined Raphael. "The idea of the Tools for Teachers program is to assist in providing resources for the schools, teachers and students. The program in the first year started with the 21 elementary schools in Bibb County. We worked exclusively with 5th graders, as this is such a big transition year for them getting ready for middle school."
The Bacon provided each classroom with general tools such as posters, bookmarks and pencils to kickoff the program, as well as attending assemblies and pep rallies with their mascot Kevin. From here the teachers were given a packet outlining the 'Most Valuable Bacon' program in which the teachers were able to choose how to incentives children throughout the year based on their behavior and performance in the classroom. At the end of the school year each teachers chose five MVB's and each of those were given a certificate and tickets to a specific Macon Bacon game where they were recognized on field and were given a free hat and the All-You-Can-Eat package.
Most importantly, at the conclusion of the year one teach from each of the participating 21 schools would be selected to receive a scholarship from the Bacon to help them with general classroom supplies. Those scholarships will be announced and handed out later this month.
"We heard some amazing stories during our time with the teachers this past year," said Raphael. "Many of them are in Title 1 areas and they have to spend their own money to have things that many classrooms you'd expect to have. One of the teachers said to us, 'I hope I win the scholarship. I have been wanting to get markers for my classroom.' That really hit home with us and the exact reason why we want to have this program and grow it to many schools districts around the Middle Georgia area."
Overall it was this dedication to the community of Macon that led to an increase in relationships and thus an increase in fans and sponsorships for the Bacon in 2019. All of which was a direct reflection of Raphael's leadership which earned him Executive of the Year honors.
"I have absolutely loved my first year with the CPL and the Macon Bacon and this award is a testament that we are moving in a great direction with our organization, community and our fans." said Raphael. "I am truly humbled that my peers have voted for me and I look forward to year two in the CPL and the growth of the league."
For more information on the Macon Bacon and all of the exciting new ideas Raphael and his staff have planned, stay tuned to www.maconbaconbaseball.com for news and updates all off-season long.
About Coastal Plain League:
The Coastal Plain League is the nation's premier summer collegiate baseball league. Heading into its 23rd season in 2019, the CPL features 16 franchises playing in Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia. To date, the CPL has had over 1,600 alumni drafted and 128 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.