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New position: Senior vice president, business operations, Tampa Bay Devil Rays, St. Petersburg
Previous position: Senior vice president, business development, Palace Sports & Entertainment, Auburn Hills, Mich.
David Auker is back at bat with the Tampa Bay Devil Rays, challenged with building the team's image and revenues.
In the role of the newly created position of senior vice president for business operations, Auker will oversee customer relations, public relations, community relations and corporate relations as well as ticket sales.
Auker was previously with the Devil Rays as they prepared for their debut in 1998, joining the management team in 1996 in marketing. He left in 1998 as vice president of operations. "I helped them get things geared up and left at the end of the inaugural season," he said.
Auker joined Palace Sports & Entertainment in Auburn Hills, Mich., which manages professional sports teams and entertainment venues. "Palace owned two amphitheaters as well as one of the business arenas in the area, the Palace of Auburn Hills," Auker said. "It's constantly ranked just behind Madison Square Gardens in terms of events, box office, attendance. And the amphitheater (in Auburn Hills) is also ranked No. 1 in the country."
Going from being responsible for multiple venues and multiple teams to the Devil Rays requires "the ability to get focused on one team and one venue," he said. "There's a lot to do here. Obviously, I think it is going to be both exciting and a great opportunity because of the direction the team is heading.
"From my standpoint, it's a wonderful opportunity to have a product, with the young team we have, and the area, which is rich in baseball tradition, and try to pull it together," he said.
The sports and entertainment industry has become "very sophisticated," Auker said.
Auker, 43, grew up north of Canton, Ohio, and earned a bachelor's degree in business administration in 1983 from Grove City College in Pennsylvania.
"I went right into sports, joining the Detroit Pistons, selling season and group tickets," he said. Auker stayed with the Pistons for seven years, then joined the Cleveland Cavaliers, where he stayed until joining the Rays in 1996.
"It's great to be able to come to work and have a passion for what you do," Auker said. "What we talk about on a day-to-day basis is fun. I get to talk about a baseball team or basketball team or, back up north, about a concert coming in.
"I don't know what I would do if I had to market somebody's widget," he said.
Auker's wife, Louise, and their three daughters, Emily, 11, Allison, 9, and Cameron, 3, still live in Michigan but plan to move to the Tampa Bay area after the holidays. Auker said he is busy looking for possible places to live - and horse stables. One of his daughters is an avid horseback rider.
During his first stint with the Devil Rays, Auker took up ocean kayaking, and he said he looks forward to getting back out on the water. "It's so peaceful, hanging out with the manatees and dolphins," he said. "That's a passion, too. I love that."