There’s no denying the change that the Blue Wahoos have brought and will continue to bring to Pensacola. After years of planning, the city has a Major League Baseball Double-A team.
“It’s something for Pensacola to be proud of,” said Executive Vice President of the Blue Wahoos, Jonathan Griffith. “We just ranked number nine in the ‘SportsCenter’ top 10. I got calls from California to New York. And it’s a great community event.”
The Blue Wahoos aren’t just about hitting home runs.
“It’s about the whole community, not just a baseball team,” Griffith said from the road as he traveled to Knoxville, Tenn. with the team to the All Stars Game against the Tennessee Smokies.
Griffith proudly noted that the Maritime Park employs 400 employees.
“It helps the economy, it helps everybody,” Griffith said. Recruiters went out of their way to look for diverse and dedicated employees, reaching out to local churches and holding job fairs with the help of Lumon May, Rev. LuTimothy May, Rev. Lonnie Wesley and other ministers.
“I learned early on during my years with Baptist Hospital that we have a lot of talent in the minority community,” said Quint Studer, co-owner of the Blue Wahoos. “We wanted to tap into that talent base. Other employers had told us that, at times, they had trouble attracting minority candidates. Prospective African-American workers hesitated to apply because they had little chance of being hired.”
The Mays and the African-American ministers were critical in breaking down barriers. “We couldn’t have done it without their help and guidance,” said Studer. “The top compliment we get in our fan surveys is that our workers are unbelievable.”
“We really push for customer service,” Griffith said when asked about the surveys. “Employees feel a sense of ownership of the team.”
And the players must enjoy playing in a waterfront stadium.
“I’ve heard nothing but great things from the players,” Griffith said. “We have players from everywhere and they all love Pensacola. They of course love going to the beach and McGuire’s, but also just the city itself.”
Without too much of recent baseball history to look to, Griffith and the rest of the Blue Wahoos crew were left to their own devices when deciding what kind of impact they wanted to make in the community.
“We can help make a difference,” Griffith said.
The Blue Wahoos stadium has seen many nights dedicated to worthy causes—United Way, autism, wounded soldiers and flood victims—and thousands of dollars have been raised.
Maybe baseball fans were so giving because they didn’t have to spend so much to go out. With tickets as low as $5, free movie nights and frequent promotions, families don’t have to pinch pennies to enjoy time together.
“We’re a very affordable family outing and always will be,” Griffith said. “Folks enjoy being out there.”