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A Friend in Fruend

During this winter’s coldest stretch, last week’s annual Williamsport Crosscutter Hot Stove Banquet served up before a sell-out crowd was a reminder that baseball’s spring training opens next month, and the locals MLB Draft League campaign is not that far behind.

The brainchild of Cutters VP of Marketing Gabe Sinicropi, the annual event gave attendees the opportunity to share an evening of baseball tales from an entertaining lineup of guests. On hand were former Pittsburgh Pirates pitcher and broadcaster Kent Tekulve, Muncy’s Ed Ott [Ed. Note: Ed Ott was unable to attend due to illness], a teammate of Tekulve’s during the Buccos’ glory days, Chris Carlin, current ESPN radio host, and Rutgers University football voice, who began his broadcasting career with the Williamsport Cubs in 1994; and beloved ESPN baseball analyst Tim Kurkjian an annual Williamsport visitor during the Little League World Series.

The term “hot stove” is an old reference to the off-season period in baseball after the World Series, when teams negotiate contracts with players and/or make trades. It dates back to a time when baseball fans would ward off the chill of winter by gathering around a hot stove and talk about their favorite teams and players.

An article I recently read about the Crosscutters’ principal owner, Peter Freund, caught my attention and formed my own ‘hot stove’ moment with Sinicropi.

That article, published in the Boston Globe, detailed Fruend’s relationship with a group called Diamond Baseball Holdings (DBH), a group that officially added the Worcester Red Sox to its portfolio of minor-league baseball teams. It piqued my curiosity as to what this action might have on our own Crosscutters.

Sinicropi was kind enough to explain Freund’s association with the Crosscutters’ operation.

“Peter is the principal owner of the Crosscutters. He heads up a fairly large ownership group of about 12 individuals, including local ties with Doug Estes, our vice president/general manager, and Alex Campbell (son of former Hope Enterprises CEO Jim Campbell), who now lives in Florida. He has been leading the ownership group beginning with the 2015 season.

“The company that Freund owns is Trinity Sports Holdings (TSH). In addition to the Crosscutters, TSH is part owner of the Charleston River Dogs and a minority owner of the New York Yankees and soccer teams in Memphis and East London.

“He also works for and is the CEO of a relatively new company called Diamond Baseball Holdings (DBH). That company has a stated goal of owning fifty affiliated minor league baseball teams. It came into existence after the reorganization of minor league baseball when minor league teams dropped from 160 to 120. Currently, DBH has gained ownership of 29 teams at all levels of minor league baseball.

“Our relationship with Peter from the start has been great. He allows our staff to do what we’ve been doing. We couldn’t ask for anything better. He stays out of the way, and we get to do our own thing. When we need something, Peter is there to help us. Now, with his involvement with DBH, quite frankly, the only thing that has changed is he has less time to devote to the teams TSH owns. In our case, that isn’t a problem because he has let us run with the ball since he bought the team.

“It has been interesting to watch from the outside all the things that he has been doing since his involvement with DBH, but as far as his relations with the Crosscutters are concerned, I don’t see anything changing.”

As the CEO of DBH Fruend’s group, the latest purchase of the Class AAA Worcester Red Sox now includes 10 AAA teams, including the Scranton/Wilkes Barrer RailRiders. Nine AA teams are included, among them the Altoona Curve, and ten Single-A teams, one being the Crosscutters opponent Hudson Valley Renegades from the former NY-Penn League days. The group’s interests include three of the top four Boston Red Sox affiliates.

Freund was already a minor league owner of the Crosscutters and the Charleston team when his family’s packaging business was sold. Soon after, MLB commissioner Rob Manfred brought him in to consult on the reorganization of the minor leagues a few years ago.

When the family business was sold, Freund realized what he wanted to do: run minor league baseball teams.

Like his ownership relationship with the Crosscutters, Freund and DBH operate with a hands-off policy at the local level.

“When we go into a community, we know that the general manager in town is the guy at the Rotary Club. He is the guy giving back to the community. He’s the person that’s meeting all the partners and the sponsors. So, it is really important for us for that to remain intact at the local level. We want to make sure the ballpark becomes a cornerstone of the community.”

The Crosscutters’ local leadership appreciates Freund’s light-handed management.

“From his first season in 2015, Peter deserves a lot of credit for helping to keep baseball in Williamsport,” Sinicropi explained. “We enjoy a great relationship with his TSH group and look forward to working together for many years to come.”