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  • BASEBALL

    Medford's WCL team hires new GM

    Fans can also submit ideas online in a name-the-team contest
  • Medford's newly born West Coast League baseball team will be raised by the community, general manager Chuck Heeman envisions.
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  • Medford's newly born West Coast League baseball team will be raised by the community, general manager Chuck Heeman envisions.
    First things first, baby needs a name.
    The community can vote on or submit their ideas for franchise names at mailtribune.com/nametheteam. The naming contest, which features prizes, started Tuesday and runs through Oct. 26.
    The contest and other updates were discussed at a press conference on Tuesday afternoon at Harry & David Field, where the squad will play.
    Medford secured the franchise in the top-tier summer wood-bat college league in June. It will take the place of the Far West League's Southern Oregon RiverDawgs beginning in 2013.
    Several advancements have been made since the big announcement: the hiring of Heeman, who leads a bare-bones staff that looks to soon grow; the team secured a lease for Harry & David Field from the City of Medford; and Heeman expects to name a head coach and start signing players by next week.
    The 53-year-old Heeman, a veteran of nearly 20 years in professional baseball, was the GM of the WCL's Klamath Falls Gems the last two seasons.
    During Heeman's time with Klamath Falls, the Gems were named the town's Chamber of Commerce Business of the Year in 2011. The Gems drew an average of 1,163 fans a night that season, ranking them first among all new teams and 46th overall among college wood-bat teams in North America.
    In 2012, the squad drew 1,216 per game.
    Klamath Falls currently holds the WCL single-game attendance record (4,156), set on July 22, 2011.
    Prior to that, Heeman worked with the Arizona Diamondbacks as director of stadium operations for the franchise's AAA team in Tucson, followed by three years as operations manager with the MLB club in Phoenix.
    Heeman has also served as GM of the MLB-affiliated Burlington (Iowa) Bees and as GM for two independent baseball teams — the Cook County (Ill.) Cheetahs and Merrillville (Ind.) Muddogs. He was also GM of the Flint (Mich.) Generals, a minor-league hockey squad.
    Heeman was born in Detroit, Mich., and grew up in Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio. He earned his bachelor's degree in park and recreation management from Arizona State University in 2010 and is a veteran of the U.S. Air Force.
    Heeman said his goal for Medford is to lead the league in attendance and make the playoffs in 2013.
    "We put the goals here a little higher," he said.
    Heeman was joined by his wife Mayra and sales representative Kyndra Miles on Tuesday. Mayra will work as the team's sales representative and administrative assistant and Miles as a sales representative.
    Medford Youth Baseball Society, led by Gary Miller, and Consolidated Sports Holdings International, Inc. — the team's parent company — have begun a $500,000 project to improve and add to the field.
    The project at Harry & David Field will include adding additional seating, a party deck and a children's play area. Heeman said that passersby will start to see quicker progress on field improvements now, with hopes to have everything complete by mid-April at the latest.
    The first step in the project is the arrival of additional fill dirt to raise the seating levels along the left and right field lines to match the current concrete area in height. The right-field berm will then be graded and topsoil and seed installed before the winter months arrive.
    The capacity should be nearly 2,200 after the upgrades.
    A head coach will be named by the middle of next week, Heeman said. He will interview five candidates in the next two days.
    "You've got to have the right guy," Heeman said.
    Heeman said the franchise is already about 11/2 months behind in signing players, but he hopes to get some by next week. Heeman said he wants to have at least 60 percent of the roster made up of upper-level Division I athletes.
    Medford will play in the WCL West with Bend, Corvallis, Cowlitz, Kitsap and Klamath Falls. A schedule is being worked on, with around 32 home games planned, Heeman said.
    The staff is made up of just the Heemans and Miles so far. Chuck Heeman said he will utilize members of the RiverDawg staff and will rely heavily on Miller and an advisory board that will be announced within the next few weeks.
    Those who vote for the name that is chosen will be eligible for the grand prize drawing. The prizes include two season tickets for the team's first two years, an authentic team jersey autographed by the 2013 squad, the chance to throw out the ceremonial first pitch on opening night and gifts and concession vouchers.
    The first 250 contest participants win two tickets for any regular-season game this season.
    Reach reporter Dan Jones at 541-776-4499, or email djones@mailtribune.com
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