Longest running ownership group in team’s 73-year history, Top of the Third, puts Visalia ballclub up for sale
By Reggie Ellis
VISALIA – The longest running ownership in the history of Visalia baseball is getting out of the minors.
Top of the Third, the ownership group of the Visalia Rawhide since 2002, announced last week that the ballclub is for sale. Top of the Third has retained sports investment bank Park Lane to advise on the transaction.
“We have thoroughly enjoyed these 17 years as stewards of the Visalia ballclub. Coming off a successful 2018 season and Northern Division Championship,” said Team President Tom Seidler. “At the same time, we have decided that it is the right time to hand the ball over to new ownership.”
Rawhide General Manager Jennifer Reynolds said the Seidler-O’Malley family, which owns Top of the Third, is selling their only Minor League Baseball (MiLB) franchise to focus their energies on the family’s major league investment in the San Diego Padres. She said the family has committed to retaining ownership and operations of the team until it finds a buyer. Reynolds said there is no timeline in place but the front office team expects the Advanced A ballclub to sell sometime next year.
“We are beginning the process to find new ownership for the ballclub to continue the great seven-decade tradition of professional baseball in Visalia,” Seidler said.
Top of the Third’s 17 years of ownership has brought unprecedented stability to minor league baseball in Visalia and invested more than $1 million into the city-owned ballpark. That tenure includes the second longest MLB affiliation as the ballclub will enter its 13th season with the Arizona Diamondbacks after recently signing a two-year extension. The Rawhide has also enjoyed on the field success under Top of the Third. Since 2002, Visalia has sent 122 players to the majors, the most of any Class A franchise in that time, including All-Stars like Evan Longoria, Justin Upton, Trevor Bauer, Adam Eaton, Paul Goldscmidt and Mark Scherzer. They have also won the California League Northern Division four times in 2006, 2014, 2016 and 2018. Since rebranding as the Visalia Rawhide 10 years ago, the team broke a 62-year-old attendance record in 2009 and again in eight of the last 10 seasons.
Top of the Third, which has owned the club since 2002, is just the eighth group to operate the Visalia minor league team since its inception in 1946 beginning with the Chicago Cubs and including the New York Mets, Don Drysdale and the City of Visalia.
Reynolds, who has been with the Rawhide for 12 seasons, said the ballclub are already moving forward on the 2019 season announcing four additions to the front office staff this week. Markus Hagglund will take over as the team’s new Director of Groups and Ticketing, Jake Davis is the team’s Merchandise Manager, Joe Ross is the new Community Partnerships coordinator, and Brady Hochhalter is promoted from Ballpark Operations intern to Ballpark Operations Assistant. Returning to the front office after a short time away is Assistant GM, Charlie Saponara, who previously spent seve years with the Rawhide.
Hagglund previously worked with the Stockton Ports, the Hickory Crawdads, the Portland Sea Dogs, and the Quad Cities River Bandits. Prior to his work in MiLB, Hagglund was involved with the University of Iowa Athletics Department focusing on ticketing and NCAA compliance. After majoring in Sport Management & Political Science at the Metropolitan State University of Denver, Davis spent one year as the Merchandise Assistant with the Tulsa Drillers.
Ross is a Tulare County local who was born and raised in Lindsay. He graduated from Lindsay High School in 2004 and has spent time living in Southern California & the Bay Area. He comes to the Visalia Rawhide with a background in Real Estate, sales, marketing, and event planning. Hochhalter – Graduated from Bethesda University in June of 2018 with a bachelor’s in Sports Management and joined the Rawhide as a Ballpark Operations Intern shortly thereafter.
“I’m proud to say that the Rawhide staff continues to get stronger and stronger each season,” said General Manager Jennifer Reynolds. “We continue to strive to be better each year, and fresh blood helps us all stay creative, and at the top of our game. We are excited that Markus, Jake, Joe, and Brady are joining our experienced staff with a vast knowledge of their own, and I’m looking forward to hearing their ideas & getting them involved in our great community!”
The new full-time staff are joining a veteran staff with over 35 years of combined experience. In addition to Reynolds and Saponara, three other front office staff have each spent five years with the ballclub.
The Visalia Rawhide play Class A Advanced in the California League and are the only professional sports team in Tulare and Kings counties. On April 4, 2019, the Rawhide will open their 73rd year of play and 13th as an affiliate of the Arizona Diamondbacks. The Rawhide will defend their 2018 Northern Division Championship and continue providing competitive baseball and affordable family entertainment. To be a part of the 2019 Visalia Rawhide season, please contact the Visalia Rawhide Ticket Office at 559.732.4433, visit us online at rawhidebaseball.com, or follow us on Facebook (TheRawhide), Instagram (@VisaliaRawhide), and Twitter (@VisaliaRawhide).