2018 will mark the Williamsport Crosscutters’ 20th season, and the team will be celebrating the milestone in a number of ways during the upcoming season. Although the Crosscutters have been in existence 20 years it has been 25 years since Gabe Sinicropi, the team’s vice president of marketing, relocated from Geneva, New York when the team was a Chicago Cubs affiliate.
With a new season approaching, Sinicropi reflected back upon his Williamsport experience.
“I was excited to come to Williamsport. It was a bigger community from where we were in Geneva, and it was the biggest place I’ve ever lived in, believe it or not. For me, it was exciting, but I had no expectations if we would be successful or not or how long we might be here. I wouldn’t have expected that we would be here 25 years. Even five years in I don’t know that I would have expected that. But I am very glad that it has worked out like it has.
“So I really didn’t know what to expect overall. Here we were, starting a new team in a new city with a very, very old stadium, and in a place that hadn’t had baseball for two years before we came. Truly, at that point, I didn’t have expectations, but it has worked out pretty well.”
Asked what has meant the most to him, Sinicropi quickly pointed to his relationship with the community.
“I’m not someone to move around a lot number one. To be able to put down roots, to really know people and develop friendships and business associates in this place and stick with one job the whole time has been my favorite part. Other than that, my favorite part is those 38 nights during the season when we have home games. That is the payoff for the other 327 days a year that we work for.”
Given the changing face of Minor League Baseball, I asked Gabe how Williamsport has been able to hold its head above water.
“I’d love to say that it has been easy, but it isn’t easy for a city and area of our size to support professional baseball in this day in age. We are one of the smallest places that still has minor league baseball. Number one is having a short season team. People still ask about those days when Williamsport had a full season team. There is no way. A full season team could never succeed here. Before we ever arrived here, those teams didn’t succeed. They failed. That is why they all left. To have a team here that is right for the community is very important. And that is short-season baseball.
“Number two, we came in and quickly realized what the potential was and then lived within our means. We are not the ‘coolest’ of the 160 minor league baseball teams. We don’t have all the great amenities that others do because we are in a stadium that was built in 1926. We don’t do things just to look cool to our brothers and sisters in minor league baseball. We do things that we feel are beneficial to the fans, and the fan experience that we can afford with what we have to work with.
“This is a for-profit business. People don’t think about that, and we don’t hide that. We are proud to say that virtually every year we have been profitable. Not necessarily highly profitable, but on the right side of the ledger. There are many other teams out there that are a lot ‘bigger, cooler and sexier’ and more famous, but you would be surprised how many of them literally hemorrhage money. We, Doug Estes and I, and the whole staff run this like it is our own business. We’ve never had an owner that was ‘over our shoulder’ all the time telling us what to do and how to do it. So it has been incumbent on us to run it. We do it based upon, ‘Can we afford it and is it worth doing?’ We all take pride and make our decisions accordingly.”
“This year, business-wise, things are going real well. This will probably end up being our best off-season regarding sponsorship and pre-ticket sales, and this comes off last season, which was our best ever. So far, so good. With all the other things that have happened here over the last year and a half, we’re real excited about the future.”
Even though the Crosscutters season will not begin until June 15th, this Saturday’s annual ‘Backyard Brawl” featuring high school teams from Loyalsock, Montoursville, South Williamsport and Williamsport, will be the last games played at Bowman Field until the Cutters open the season.
“The use of Bowman Field by high school and college teams will stop May 19th”, Sinicropi noted. “That is predicated and governed by Major League Baseball and the City of Williamsport. In all the years we have been here, we have never had anything to do with what pre-season games are played on the field. The City has always had the final say on that, and now with the Philadelphia Phillies and New York Mets second Little League classic being played here in August, they have partial jurisdiction as well. Those decisions come down from on high.”
Last season the team instituted a change in tickets sales, which required fans to purchase a ticket for a specific seat location rather than allowing grandstand open seating. While somewhat controversial, Gabe responded to the change.
“Overall, I think the ticketing change has been received very well. A year ago it was 50/50, and we had fans that said they didn’t like what we were doing and were never coming back. There are some of those people I know that decided to come back to a game and thought it was really good. It was a change. But if you just think about it, there is probably nowhere else where it is not like that. I think it provides a more comfortable and convenient way to watch a game. The fan doesn’t have to worry about getting up and going to the concession stand and having someone sit in their seat. By and large, people are getting used to it, and the stadium looks and functions better.”