Dave Echols, who grew up in a baseball house and is entering his sixth season as general manager of the Charleston RiverDogs, talks about his love of the game, the team's wacky promotions and what it likes working for the likes of Mike Veeck and Bill Murray, when he went One-on-One with The Post and Courier's Andrew Miller:
What kind of baseball player were you growing up?
"I was a pretty good fielding shortstop, an average pitcher, but not very good with the bat."
What was the highest level of baseball you played?
"I played all the way through high school. I probably could have played at a smaller school in college, but I decided that's about as far as my baseball talents would take me and decided to hang up my spikes."
Is that where the love of the game started for you?
"I think so. You look back on all the Echols' family photos and baseball is a consistent theme. My dad was a high school administrator, a teacher and a coach. I've always been around the game and I was always in my front yard with my dad playing a game of catch."
Was baseball your best sport?
"I played golf and basketball in high school, but baseball was my best sport."
How did you get into sports management?
"I went to college thinking I was going to come out an accountant, but after a few weeks of that I realized that's not what I wanted. After looking around and seeing what my different options were in college, I just kind of fell into sports management. It was a no-brainer for me."
So you've been able to combine your love of baseball with your love of business?
"Absolutely. I love my job. This is my 18th year working in minor league baseball and I think I could count on one hand the number of days I didn't want to come into work, and of those days it had nothing to do with work itself. I get paid to come to the ballpark every day and I think there are a lot of people that would trade places with me."
What is Mike Veeck like to work for?
"Incredible. What you see from Mike in public, you see from Mike in private. He truly lives his life like 'fun is good.' When I first got into the business I worked under a very serious management team for about eight years. They stressed, make your sales calls, chase the money, no laughing. Always serious. Mike is the exact opposite. You're having fun and taking care of the fans. When you do that the dollars will follow."
Is Bill Murray ever serious?
"Yes (laughing). When he comes out to the park he does his part and signs autographs and talks with the fans. He's usually here with his kids and he'll soak up the atmosphere and then we'll hear from him a couple of days later and he's got a really good idea about making the RiverDogs experience better for our fans."
The RiverDogs have had so many wacky promotions. What's the strangest?
"Yes, we've had so many. Tonya Harding Night. Vasectomy Night. Nobody Night. Pope on a Rope. We've had a lot of good ones."
Any promotions you regret?
"Not really. Pope on a Rope I thought maybe we came close to crossing the line. We actually never did Vasectomy Night. As Mike loves to point out, that one got snipped. We did a Voodoo Night in conjunction with Savannah that we thought was a good idea, but we scheduled it on Good Friday, so that didn't work."
In the current economic climate how does a minor league team survive?
"We stay as close as we can to Mike's philosophy of 'Fun is Good' and try not try stray too far from that."
You guys have a new promotion: 'Be Your Own Fan.' What's that about?
"It's a new branding initiative. We want to know why fans are coming out to The Joe to watch the RiverDogs play. We want to connect with our fans and we want to hear from them. We want to know what the fans like or don't like about coming to the ball park. And then respond accordingly. We're really trying to let people know that we understand what they're going through and we care about what their likes and interests are."
The RiverDogs are affiliated with the New York Yankees. I guess the only other team that would be better than the Yankees would be the Atlanta Braves?
"When we decided to part ways with the Devil Rays a few years ago, we had probably 10 or 15 Major League teams wanting to come to Charleston. We couldn't have a Braves team because the Braves own all of their minor league teams. So, what was our second option? Easy, the most recognizable name maybe in all of sports -- the New York Yankees. That was a no brainer."
Best player you've seen play in a RiverDogs uniform? "Josh Hamilton. He was by far the smoothest player I ever saw play here. You only had to watch him swing a bat a couple of times to realize he was going to be in the major leagues one day. We had Carl Crawford that year as well. Carl has turned into one of the best young players in the league. They were fun to watch."
"Dancing with the Stars" or "American Idol?"
" 'American Idol.' "
Last DVD or movie?
" 'Sherlock Holmes.' "
Favorite baseball movie?
" 'Field of Dreams' because of the underlying message of father and son and the connection that baseball has between them. I think my dad is a major reason why I'm in the business of baseball today."
Derek Jeter or Alex Rodriguez?
Your house is on fire, but everyone in your family is safe. What's the one material thing you can back into the house to get?
"My baseball card collection."