In his multi-tasking roles with the Charleston RiverDogs over the past 10 years, Harold Craw promoted the organization’s signature “Fun is Good” brand while helping many Lowcountry kids realize baseball dreams. Now Craw is a national inspiration, joining the Quad Cities River Bandits as general manager.
Craw is believed to be the only active black GM among minor league baseball’s 200-plus affiliated teams. The River Bandits are a Class A Midwest League team and Houston Astros affiliate located in Davenport, Iowa.
Mike Veeck, the RiverDogs’ co-owner and president, was beaming Wednesday.
“The RiverDogs’ African-American attendance was 31/2 percent when Harold started with us,” Veeck said. “We’re somewhere north of 10 percent. I mean, one man, one belief, can make such a difference.”
Craw, 35, was the South Atlantic League’s 2008 sales executive of the year and 2009 community relations director of the year.
He also co-founded and guided Charleston’s Reviving Baseball in Inner-Cities (RBI) program, which offers tournament play and mentor opportunities for kids.
“This should be a place where people walk out of with a smile on their face, saying ‘See you tomorrow’ or ‘See you next homestand,’ ” Craw said Tuesday in Davenport upon his official introduction. “This organization already has that reputation. I’m here to build on it.”
Minor league baseball has reached out to minorities with programs aimed at historically black colleges, but its overall front office hiring record has been shoddy.
It is no coincidence that Veeck mentored Craw. Mike’s late father Bill Veeck, as owner of the Cleveland Indians in 1947, signed the first black player in the American League, Lary Doby.
In tribute, the RiverDogs have retired Camden native Doby’s No. 14.
“Harold has been my muse,” Veeck said. “He’s been a huge asset to our operation in Charleston, and it’s time we share him with the world. Larry Doby would be proud.”
Craw’s new baseball home, Modern Woodmen Park along the Mississippi River in Davenport, is one of the oldest and most iconic facilities in the minors. Opened in 1931, it has seen renovations and survived major floods, most recently in 1993 and 2001.
“I am thrilled for Harold and his family,” RiverDogs General Manager Dave Echols said. “Harold has had a tremendous impact on our organization and the community here in Charleston for the past decade. While he will be missed, it is certainly a well-deserved and earned opportunity. The RiverDogs wish the best of luck to the entire Craw family.”
Craw is a native of Chattanooga, Tenn., with a bachelor’s degree in physical education from Emory and Henry College in 1999. He earned a master’s degree in sport leisure and management from East Tennessee State University.
Along with the RBI program, Craw’s Charleston community involvement included a role on the Charleston Air Force Base Honorary Commanders’ Advisory Board and the Charleston Metro Chamber of Commerce Military Relations Committee.
“I want to thank Dave Heller and Main Street Baseball for the opportunity to join an organization that exemplifies Minor League Baseball, and work in Modern Woodmen Park, one of the best stadiums in baseball,” Craw said. “I only have fond memories of my decade with the RiverDogs, and I’m forever grateful to the Goldklang Group and everyone in Charleston for making the past 10 years so great.”
Craw and his wife, Angie, have two daughters, Cameron, 5, and Jasmine, 14 months.
With Quad Cities, Craw takes over for Stefanie Brown, who moves from GM to executive director of Modern Woodmen Park.
Follow Gene Sapakoff on Twitter @sapakoff.