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Play Ball! Pro Baseball Returns to Sonoma County

The Sonoma Stompers will compete with the San Rafael Pacifics, the BayCal Lumberjacks, the Vallejo Admirals and two teams from Hawaii.

The Sonoma Stompers Baseball Club seal.
The Sonoma Stompers Baseball Club seal.

(The following information release was sent to Patch and is reprinted here.)


INTRODUCING THE SONOMA STOMPERS BASEBALL CLUB

SONOMA, Calif. — For the first time since the Sonoma County Crushers ceased operations following the 2002 season, professional baseball is returning to Sonoma County in 2014.

Introducing The Sonoma Stompers Baseball Club. Owned and operated by Redwood Sports and Entertainment, LLC, the Sonoma Stompers will compete in the Pacific Association of Professional Baseball Clubs, which shares a lineage with the Western Baseball League that the Crushers competed in.

The Sonoma Stompers will play their home games at Arnold Field in downtown Sonoma, and will compete with the 2012 Pacific Association champions, the San Rafael Pacifics. The BayCal Lumberjacks, Vallejo Admirals, Na Koa Ikaika of Maui and the Hawaii Stars round out the non-affiliated six-team league. The caliber of play will be consistent with what fans of the Crushers remember, with the level of play considered to be between Class A and Class AA of affiliated minor-league baseball.

(Get more information about the Stompers here.)

The Sonoma Stompers 2014 schedule has not yet been released, but the team will play between June and August.

“Sonoma County knows what baseball can mean to a community,” said Sonoma Stompers General Manager Theo Fightmaster. “This organization is extremely excited about bringing professional baseball back to the area, and continue the great tradition that the Sonoma County Crushers began in 1995. It's our hope that we can fill that void that's been missing in our community since they left.”

Team President Mike Shapiro believes the Sonoma Stompers can bring much more to the community aside from high-quality professional baseball.

“This is about, fun, low-cost family entertainment during the summer months,” Shapiro said. “The Stompers will play exciting baseball, give local kids an opportunity for summer jobs, and bring a lot of community benefits to Sonoma County.”

The Sonoma Stompers also will serve as a venue to promote local businesses through corporate partnerships, sponsorships and countless branding opportunities. In addition to working with the business community, the Sonoma Stompers will participate in a wide range of community activities, including programs with area schools, non-profits and service groups.


A BREIF HISTORY OF BASEBALL IN SONOMA COUNTY


For over as hundred years the City of Sonoma and Sonoma County have enjoyed a rich baseball heritage from pro teams like theRedwood Pioneers and Sonoma County Crushers, to semi-pro teams to high schools and youth leagues. Throughout the early days of baseball and into the 1940s and 1950s semi-pro town teams such as the Healdsburg Prune Packers, Santa Rosa Rosebuds and the Petaluma Leghorns dotted Sonoma County city ballparks. McNear Park in Petaluma, Doyle Park in Santa Rosa, Rec Park in Healdsburg hosted Sunday afternoon games. In 1932 and 1933 Joe DiMaggio played summer ball in Sonoma County.


The City of Sonoma has its own historic roots in baseball having hosted the Sonoma High School Dragons who began play in about 1914 and its own semi-pro “town teams” starting in the early 1920s.


From the 1930s through the 1950s the “town team” was known as the Sonoma Merchants and they played their home games at Arnold Field.  In the baggy uniforms of the era, the Merchants sold season tickets for $2.50 and a beer sold for $0.15.  They played teams from all over Sonoma County, like the Petaluma Eagles, as well as teams from Marin County and San Francisco.


TEAM OWNERSHIP AND MANAGEMENT


Redwood Sports and Entertainment, LLC owns the exclusive Pacific Association territory rights for Marin and Sonoma County. RSE is committed to providing the highest quality entertainment experience to its fans and to enhancing the quality of life in the Sonoma andSonoma County communities through community outreach program and identity campaign that promotes the partnership between the team and the community.


THE REDWOOD SPORTS AND ENTERTAINMENT MANAGEMENT TEAM

Eugene Lupario, Managing Principal Owner

Eugene Lupario graduated from the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor and was a top pick to work for the E&J Gallo Winery immediately out of school. Over the course of the next eight years, he took on many roles during his tenure, including time in the winery's Marketing Department in Modesto, Calif.

In 1996 Lupario left Gallo to help found Silicon Valley Staffing Group, where he is responsible for sales and recruiting efforts, and oversees the direction of the organization.

Lupario has coached in the Twin Cities Little League for most of the past decade, and is an active board member for the league. He also is involved with Camp Okizu — a Novato-based foundation that provides free summer camps for children with cancer.


Michael Shapiro, President 

Micael Shapiro is a veteran of over 25 years in the sports and entertainment industries. His career includes service as a senior executive and legal counsel of 5 sports franchises, with extensive oversight of all aspects of sports team management and operations, including legal, facility oversight, HR, and finance. Mike began his career as VP and General Counsel of the San Francisco Giants. He has served as Senior Counsel to the Atlanta BravesAtlanta Hawks and Atlanta Thrashers. He recently served as the Washington NationalsSenior VP for Business Affairs. 


Mike currently resides in Larkspur, CA with his wife. He has two sons, is Managing Partner of a sports consultancy, the Redwood Sports and Entertainment Group (RSEG); and teaches Team and Facility Operations at the University of San Francisco Sport Management graduate program.


Brian Sobel, Owner

Brian Sobel has been the principal consultant for Sobel Communications, located in Petaluma, for over twenty years. Sobel has many years of experience in the corporate and public sectors. In the public sector Sobel has served as a planning commissioner and vice mayor of Petaluma, California, and been a candidate for the California State Assembly. 

Sobel is past chairman of the Sonoma County Transportation Authority. Currently he is a member and past president of the 4th Agricultural District, appointed by the Governor of California. Sobel is also a member of the Golden Gate Bridge, Highway and Transportation District Board of Directors.  His non-profit services include duties as president of the Board of Directors of Northbay Ecumenical Homes and a corporate officer and trustee of the Cedars Foundation of Ross. Sobel is also past-president of the Board of Directors of the Petaluma Area Chamber of Commerce and is currently a director of the Bank of Marin, headquartered in Novato, California. 


Theo Fightmaster, General Manager

Theo Fightmaster was the Director of Operations, playing an integral part in the launching of the San Rafael Pacifics in 2012. For the Pacifics, he served as the director of media relations, ticket sales and social media. He also served as an account manager, acting as a liaison between the club and several of its corporate sponsors. 


Fightmaster was the College Beat Writer for the Marin Independent Journal where he also had the opportunity to cover the San Francisco Giants throughout the 2010 pennant race and postseason run and eventual World Series championship. More recently, he covered local government affairs as well as police and fire issues for The Ark Newspaper in Tiburon. He has won multiple awards for his work as a journalist.


From 2003 – 2007, he served as an associate production manager with Kwokman Productions, Fightmaster oversaw crews for ESPN live events, such as: Sunday Night Baseball, Major League All-Star Weekend, Monday and Sunday Night Football and various other live telecasts for ESPN, ABC and HBO. 


He is a longtime Sonoma County resident and the Vice President of the board of directors for Children Family Circle — a non-profit organization that provides childcare for low-income families.  He and his wife, Erin are Santa Rosa residents.  She teaches grades 5 and 6 at a non-profit charter school in Santa Rosa.


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