A search Quad Cities River Bandits co-owner Dave Heller admitted starting late concluded with what he believes to be the perfect hire.|
Harold Craw was named Bandits general manager during a news conference at Modern Woodmen Park on Tuesday less than two months before the season opens. Craw replaces Stefanie Brown, who resigned last month from the post but will remain with the organization.
"He's somebody who will take us to another level," Heller said. "He will continue the upward trajectory of the River Bandits. We're thrilled with that."
Believed to be the only current African-American general manager in minor league baseball and first in Midwest League history, Craw spent the previous 10 seasons with the Charleston (S.C.) RiverDogs in the low-A South Atlantic League. The Chattanooga, Tenn., native ended his tenure there as the assistant general manager.
During his time, he also worked in sales and operations with the club. Craw was named the South Atlantic League's 2008 Sales Executive of the Year and 2009 Community Relations Director of the Year.
He started his professional baseball career with the Johnson City Cardinals in the rookie-level Appalachian League.
While working in Johnson City, he learned about other Cardinals affiliates and continued to keep tabs on them. When the Bandits position opened last month, he knew the opportunities the Quad-Cities presented.
"Friends told me it was a great place, a true hometown team," Craw said. "I'm a community guy. I thought that was fantastic."
In the interview process, that was a selling point for both parties.
Heller said two things helped separated Craw from the "hundreds" of applications the Bandits received. Craw worked his way up front-office ladder and, as Heller put it, "immersed" himself in the community during his time in Charleston.
Both were appealing.
"That's something we pride ourselves and something we looked for," Heller said.
Knowing that sold Craw on the Bandits.
"The community sees it as 'our' team," said Craw, who holds a bachelor's degree from Emory & Henry College and a master's from East Tennessee State. "That's something that was really important to me. Without the community, there would be no baseball team."
Craw hopes the community involvement extends beyond the Modern Woodmen Park gates. He co-founded and co-chaired a Reviving Baseball in Inter Cities (RBI) chapter in Charleston, an endeavor he would like to see in the Quad-Cities.
Within MWP, he wants to make it "as friendly and as customer-service oriented as possible." Craw also wants to make sure the Bandits set an all-time franchise attendance record this season and "maybe introduce people to things they've never seen before."
Those ideas coupled with the Bandits' affiliation with the Houston Astros make this season something both the ownership group and front office anxiously await.
Now the Bandits have the right person leading the charge.
"We have the best front-office team that anyone's ever had in the Quad-Cities," Heller said. "We're going to have what I think is going to be the best team of players we've ever had. You're talking multiple No. 1 draft picks (potentially) on the same team.
"The marriage between great players and a great front office staff serving the best fans, you don't get any better than that."
Brown named executive director of MWP
Despite resigning as the Quad Cities River Bandits general manager last month because of personal reasons, Stefanie Brown will remain with the club. Brown officially was named executive director of Modern Woodmen Park on Tuesday.
According to Bandits co-owner Dave Heller, the position will have Brown "in charge of anything and everything that has to do with our fans to have the single best experience" each time they visit Modern Woodmen Park.
"I'm very excited," Brown said. "It will allow me the opportunity to kind of come out from the back of the desk more and work more with the staff."