Eric Edelstein has enjoyed a steady climb up the minor league ranks. He was just two years removed from Bowling Green State University when he landed his first general manager job in 2002 with the Jamestown Jammers, the now-defunct New York-Penn League that was one of the smallest markets in the minors. The following season brought him to Wichita, where he ran the Double-A Wranglers for three years before bringing it to a new ballpark and launching the Northwest Arkansas Naturals. Edelstein helped establish that franchise’s footing in a new market, earning Baseball America’s Freitas Award for overall excellence following the 2012 season.
Each of those experiences, Edelstein said, shaped his approach to the game and influences how he operates the Triple-A Reno Aces, where he now serves as president. Edelstein oversees operations of the Aces and Reno 1868 FC, which made its United Soccer League debut at Greater Nevada Field in 2017.
What follows is my conversation with Edelstein about how to succeed in minor league baseball, the different—and similar—approach to running teams in various-sized markets and the changing dynamic of the game. The transcript has been edited in spots for length and clarity.
Minor league baseball has developed a well-earned reputation for embracing the outrageous, from increasingly bizarre team names (you’re on the clock, Fayetteville) to over-the-top dining options (has anyone ever finished a Fifth-Third Burger?), to offbeat and sometimes-controversial promotions (gasp, Millennial Night).
The biggest draw early this season has been a promotion that’s hardly controversial but can still make for a wild afternoon at the ballpark. Education Days, in which teams partner with local schools to pack the park with kids for day games, are a way for teams to bring in big crowds on an otherwise quiet weekday while also building bonds in the community. Many teams develop baseball-themed curriculum used in their local school systems—the one developed by the Indianapolis Indians has become a staple in area schools.
These school day promotions have been a regular part of many teams’ promotional calendars for years, and for good reason. As our Attendance Tracker has shown this spring, the biggest weekday attractions in the minors has consistently been Education Day promotions. The Frisco RoughRiders drew 11,844 fans to Dr. Pepper Ballpark on May 21, their largest day-game crowd and fifth-largest overall in franchise history, for Education Day. One day later, the Indianapolis Indians attracted 12,279 schoolkids and teachers to Victory Field. One one weekday afternoon earlier this month, eight of the top 10 draws came on an Education Day promotions.
So, to find out a little more about this fad and why teams welcome fleets of yellow school buses to their parking lots each season, I emailed several general managers about the appeal of Education Day promotions. What follows is a selection of their responses.