Lexington County Blowfish GM makes instant impact

Posted 9/20/23

Tony Baldwin was no stranger to Coastal Plain League baseball or even the Lexington County Blowfish before joining the club last summer.

As someone who worked as the vice president of marketing …

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Lexington County Blowfish GM makes instant impact


Tony Baldwin was no stranger to Coastal Plain League baseball or even the Lexington County Blowfish before joining the club last summer.

As someone who worked as the vice president of marketing with the Florence Flamingos and the Macon Bacon, he was familiar with the Blowfish organization and what Lexington County had to offer. One year after taking the job as the local summer collegiate wood bat team’s general manager, he was named the league’s Executive of the Year, having played a crucial role for the franchise that won its second straight Organization of the Year award and won a Petitt Cup for the first time since the team relocated to Lexington County. Noah Adcock-Howeth, the voice of the Blowfish, was awarded Broadcaster of the Year.

The move to Lexington corresponded perfectly with another opportunity within the Baldwin family. His wife, Martha, had an opportunity to work at Lexington Medical Center for a doctor that she previously worked with in Macon. So when that opportunity came up, Baldwin and Blowfish co-owner Bill Shanahan got to work discussing a role for Baldwin with the Blowfish.

“All of a sudden, all of the pieces of the puzzle started coming together,” Shanahan said. “Vicki [Shanahan, the team’s wife and co-owner] and I and Tony and Martha got together and talked about the Blowfish and the community and all the great opportunities there would be and it worked out. It just kind of came together. It’s kind of like putting chocolate and peanut butter together.”

Baldwin had already connected with the Shanahans during his time with the Flamingos and Bacon. On a trip to Lexington to help the organization with digital advertising, Shanahan surprised him with a gift.

When Shanahan asked him his favorite baseball team, Baldwin revealed that he is a Washington Nationals fan. Shanahan asked if he knew who Mark Reynolds was. As a fan, Baldwin was familiar. In the 2018 season, Reynolds played 86 games for the Nationals and hit 13 home runs.

Shanahan then revealed to Baldwin that Reynolds is his son-in-law.
“So he presented me with an autographed Mark Reynolds baseball bat, which I was not expecting,” Baldwin recalled. “That was a pretty cool thing. I still have it in my house and Bill and I kept in contact.”

The first objective for Baldwin in his new role was to capitalize on the well-established family atmosphere that the Blowfish are known for.

“Without a doubt, it has a very strong family feel to the stadium itself when you come to a game,” Baldwin said. “There’s a lot of families that come and the fact that Lexington County was growing so much or is still growing so much, you know, you have to keep that momentum going.”

Baldwin wanted to attract more group ticket sales outside of families who became regulars.

“We needed to get more groups in the ballpark in terms of finding more larger groups that could come out and hang out, have a good time at the ballpark,” he explained.

Part of that plan involved putting together unique promotions including themed jerseys for the players to wear and bringing in multiple attractions to shake up what can sometimes be a long, monotonous season.

“So with the jersey thing, those are actually really fun discussions in the office. You know, we sit there and we start spitballing and brainstorming and everything is on the board,” Baldwin said.

This season, they came up with specialized “Hooties” jerseys to honor the team’s namesake, the Columbia-reared band Hootie and the Blowfish. They also wore farmer-themed jerseys that resembled plaid shirts with overalls. As ever, the team’s themed jereseys were auctioned off for charity.

When it comes to keeping people engaged with the product on the field, it takes more than a winning baseball team to keep fans’ attention. So Baldwin helped incorporate some fun activities in between innings. During the homegrown home run promotion, certain Blowfish players milked goats on the field and partook in sack races around the bases. At the season opener and at the Coastal Plain League All-Star Game, local celebrity Abraham the Camel came onto the field and chugged multiple bottles of Mountain Dew. Kids were often frequently broguth down onto the field to chase Blowfish mascot Blowie or race him around the bases.

“We want them laughing, we want them joking around, we want them having a good time and smiling,” Baldwin said of the crowd. “That’s why you’ll see a lot of promotions where kids get a chance to get on the field because a lot of people that we meet with ... they talked about, ‘Oh I had so much fun getting on the field back when I was a little kid at the Blowfish game.’”

The promotions and jerseys were fun, but one of the biggest highlights was the team winning the Petitt Cup championship. Sure, Baldwin liked seeing the players enjoy the success, but if you observed Baldwin after the championship run, you could tell that he enjoyed the championship just as much with the team’s interns and part-time staff who show up to the ballpark everyday and put in hard work to help make Blowfish games memorable.

“That’s a huge reward for them and for all of us to reach the end of the season. It doesn’t just end with a win or a loss, it ends with a championship and not many teams around the country, obviously, can say that,” Baldwin said. “We talked about it at the first of the year, telling them, ‘Hey, the last home game is Aug. 5 but there’s a chance with the team we have put together this year that we can make the playoffs and we think we can go pretty deep in the playoffs so we’re expecting that extra week.’ So as you get to that time, it’s a long season in a short amount of time because we have so many games in a couple of months, but when they heard we were going to make the playoffs, everyone just clicked another level and they got motivated and excited to see what the team could do.”

Reflecting on his recent award, he said it’s special a special feeling, but he went on to emphasize the experience the Shanahans have built in Lexingotn and how he’s just helping add to it.

“There’s just some special things going on in Lexington County with the Blowfish and we’d love to share that with everyone,” Baldwin said. “Yes, that Executive of the Year award is really cool and it’s something I’ll cherish knowing it was my first year as a general manager and being able to earn that award. But it was really special with the way everything happened this year, the way the season ended with a championship, the Organization of the Year award, the Executive of the year Award, our Broadcaster of the Year award, I mean, it’s a really cool thing. We had a lot of special things happening.”

Lexington County Blowfish, Tony Baldwin, Bill Shanahan, Vicki Shanahan, Coastal Plain League


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