Steve DeSalvo, general manager of the Mississippi Braves, is currently in his 29th year with the Braves organization, having started when the minor league team was based in Greenville, S.C. He is a man with a passion for the sport.
“I love baseball,” he said in a recent meeting. “My dream job was always going to be in baseball….not football, basketball, or any other sport.”
He attended St. John’s College, where he majored in sports management, but to his knowledge, he’s one of the very few sports management grads who actually stuck with it and made a successful career in baseball.
“In the very early stages, I might have questioned my choices a little bit,” he said. “But when I pulled up to the park, my doubts went away.”
He started his career in Daytona Beach, and he laughs when he recalls his first day on the job.
“I pulled into town and headed for the park,” he recalled. “When I got there, the general manager sent me down to the concession area to cook hot dogs. Well, I had done that kind of work before, so I just jumped in and did the job.”
From Daytona Beach, he worked in a number of other markets including Auburn, New York, Florence, S.C., and Tucson, Ariz. In Tucson, he received a call from the Braves, and has never looked back.
While the Braves had great success in Greenville, with great seasons and teams, they ultimately decided that a move was necessary because the Greenville Stadium was too small, and the team was unable to negotiate a bigger facility with the city of Greenville.
“So we packed up and moved to Mississippi,” he said. “The first season was 2004, and it’s been a great move for us. We have a wonderful facility, and we have everything we need.”
The Mississippi franchise is actually owned by the Atlanta Braves, which Steve says is “pretty rare in minor league ball.”
“In some ways, this can be a tough market,” he said. “But we’ve had some great years here, and we love this area, and there are many rewards to living and working in Mississippi. The people are great here.”
Attendance at Trustmark Park in Pearl has been growing in recent years, last year topping 211,000, which was the team’s best since 2008 (before the economic crash).
In addition to providing great sports to the state, the Braves also make a significant contribution to the Mississippi economy.
“We have 20 full time employees on staff, and we usually employ about 350 part-time people for seasonal help, he said. “When you add to that the vendors and suppliers who sell to us, the traffic for local hotels, restaurants, and retailers from people coming to see us play, as well as our players and the visiting teams, plus the service contracts we have, and so on, it’s a pretty big number.”
“With Bass Pro Shops, the new outlet mall, and the Braves, this area has really turned into a great high traffic opportunity for business,” he suggested.
The Braves also “put a lot of money back into the community” in terms of supporting worthy causes, providing fund-raising opportunities for non-profits, and other activities.
“I’m proud of how we support the Jackson area and our state,” he said.
What kind of season does Steve expect in 2015?
“Well, there are people who have said to me that if we don’t win 100 games, there must be something wrong,” he said with a smile. “I can’t guarantee that, but I am expecting a great season, because there are some great players coming into the organization. We won’t necessarily know our full roster until the very last day of spring training, but we do know there is some great potential.”
How does he feel about the new Biloxi team?
“We think this would have the makings of a great new rivalry,” he said.
Given the issues with the construction of the Biloxi stadium, and the fact that it will not be ready for opening day, Steve has arranged for the Shuckers to play some of their “home games” at the Braves facility, notably the series from May 6-10, and season ticket holders of both the Braves and Shuckers may attend those games without additional cost.
“We work hard here to provide the best sports opportunity we can,” he said. “We have great events planned all summer. It’s a great family thing, and you can get tickets for $6-$15. Try to find that kind of a great deal in other professional sports.”
All in all, this looks to be a great year for the Mississippi Braves. Especially if they win 100 games.
Steve is featured in a video on the MBJ YouTube channel at www.youtube.com/mbjournal.
Contact Mississippi Business Journal publisher Alan Turner at email@example.com or (601) 364-1021.