Promoting the Baysox calls for a utility player

PR, marketing, whoopee cushions - Wrye does it all

April 05, 2006|By JEFF SEIDEL | JEFF SEIDEL,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

It would be an understatement to say that Annapolis resident Phil Wrye's job with the minor-league Bowie Baysox involves doing a variety of tasks.

Wrye is the director of marketing for the Baysox, the Double-A Eastern League affiliate of the Baltimore Orioles, and he's done a laundry list of tasks since joining the team in 1999. The Massachusetts native's job involves getting people to Prince George's Stadium to see the Baysox play, and Wrye will stop at nothing to do that.

The 31-year-old has often helped pull the tarp during rain delays or threats of bad weather, and he has served as the on-field voice for Bowie's in-game promotions. He oversees public relations, marketing, kids' clubs, getting players out into the community, handling the team mascot (Louie) and taking care of game day operations.

The bottom line: Everything that happens on the field and relates to the Baysox drawing fans comes through Wrye. It's the big reason that 12- to 14-hour days are the norm rather than the exception when Bowie has home games.

But that's just fine with Wrye.

"I tell a lot of people that I get to open up the back door of my office and see a 10,000-seat baseball stadium with green grass and trees," Wrye said. "If I'm having a bad day, I can go out on the field and throw the ball around or take some batting practice. I've done it, and it helps."

Wrye also does a lot of things that people wouldn't expect from a director of marketing, but minor-league baseball's world has different expectations. When the Orioles were getting ready for their season opener with Tampa Bay two days ago, Wrye was down in the Bowie clubhouse putting nameplates on lockers and jerseys in them.

"He's made a tremendous leap from where he started," said longtime Bowie official scorer Jeff Hertz. "He's very enthusiastic, and his enthusiasm transfers to the people he works with, and to his job and to the crowd."

Wrye started his baseball career after he went to the Baseball Winter Meetings Job Fair that the minor leagues held in late 1998. He was at the Nashville conference looking for a full-time job and found a group/ticket sales position with Bowie.

"I had never been down to this area before in my life," Wrye said. "I was basically just packing up and seeing what happened."

Wrye found himself facing a wild two weeks from the time he gave notice at his previous job as a college admissions official. He needed a place to live in an area he'd never been in, and he was getting advice from people he barely knew.

Some Baysox employees told him to look at Annapolis. He flew in from Massachusetts, took a look at several apartments and picked a place to live. He flew back that night and returned permanently a week later.

He likes downtown Annapolis, with its brick streets and stores reminding him of historic Faneuil Hall in Boston.

Meanwhile, Wrye quickly moved up the Baysox ladder. After two seasons, he became assistant director of marketing in 2001. Wrye was promoted to his present position in 2002.

"He's a stabilizing influence," said Eastern League President Joe McEachern. "He's the carry-over, he's the one constant and reliable. He's very flexible and can handle any job you give him."

Wrye was then surprised to find out that he'd be handling on-field promotions during the game. He learned about that the day before Opening Day, but quickly took to that job. Minor-league baseball is different from the majors in that there are loads of in-game gimmicks, most of which happen between innings.

In his early days with the team, Wrye spent a lot of time on the field doing that and became known by fans. Wrye doesn't do it nearly as much anymore but spends a lot of time developing marketing strategies for the Baysox to gain more attention.

For example, Wrye helps with programs such as "Read & Hit A Home Run." Aimed chiefly at middle and elementary school pupils, the program gives children free Baysox tickets for reaching reading goals. Wrye also goes for silly promotions, like last July 4, when the team drew 4,439 people to become the largest group of people simultaneously sitting on whoopee cushions.

Wrye said he enjoys Bowie and would like to become a minor-league general manager one day - which involves mostly business and marketing decisions and not baseball issues - and will use the experience he has gained with the Baysox.

"I like the aspect of entertaining fans and knowing who they are when they walk in," Wrye said.

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