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Devil Rays' executives step up to the plate

By PAUL SWIDER
Published March 20, 2007


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When the Tampa Bay Devil Rays changed management structure in 2005, the shift was more than just tailgating and new concessions, team president Matt Silverman said. The organization started joining the community.

"The team should be a community asset," Silverman said. "We encouraged the executives to become more active in causes that are close to the corporate goals."

Silverman said he and others from the front office have gotten more involved in education, economic development and family issues through groups like the Tampa Bay Partnership, the Pinellas County Economic Development Council, Boys and Girls Clubs and America's Second Harvest. He said they even started requiring players with long-term contracts to donate time and money. But others in the organization are also pitching in.

"I had always wanted to get involved in the community, but I never knew how," said Brian Killingsworth, 29, the team's director of marketing and promotions, who is participating in Leadership St. Pete, a program the St. Petersburg Chamber of Commerce runs to develop future leaders. "It's really opened my eyes, helped me to see things from a fresh perspective."

Killingsworth and a colleague are the first team executives to enter the leadership program, which has groomed the likes of Gov. Charlie Crist and St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Baker. Killingsworth had an edge because he is a native of St. Petersburg, but Mike Carpenter wanted to join the program to learn about the community.

"I've only been in the state six months, so this is really a crash course," said Carpenter, 31, the team's senior finance and business analyst. "It gives me a different perspective, from teachers to lawyers to cops."

The chamber program offers a series of seminars organized by participants in the program. Carpenter was involved in a seminar about community diversity while Killingsworth will help organize the local government seminar.

The Leadership St. Pete group is in Tallahassee attending a seminar about state government.

"We want to be good corporate citizens," said Suzanne Murchland, the team's director of community relations," so we have to be good community leaders."

The team's been around for nine years, but this is the first time active staff have joined the leadership program. Team general counsel John Higgins went through the program in 1983 before the Rays existed.

"I'm very impressed with what they bring," said chamber CEO John Long of the team's leadership participants. "Every day people say it's a different operation over there. It all starts with leadership."

Carpenter, a Boston native, said he's eager to put his University of Chicago MBA to work on issues of community finance as well as that of the Rays.

Killingsworth said he is learning about mass transit through the program and is fascinated by the possibilities of light rail that could connect Tampa to Clearwater to the Devil Rays with an existing track that runs in front of Tropicana Field. He said he plans to push community leaders on making such connections.

Both men are former baseball players and are drawn to the team. They said they recognized that the team benefits from their involvement, but they joined the program out of personal interests. Silverman said both gains are legitimate.

"It creates a connection that fuels support," he said. "It's a symbiotic relationship."

Paul Swider can be reached at 892-2271 or pswider@sptimes.com or by participating in itsyourtimes.com.

[Last modified March 20, 2007, 00:34:27]


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