Building Greensboro Baseball with a look at Ownership Groups from over the years

Posted by Andy Durham on July 6, 2020 at 1:00 pm under Professional | Comments are off for this article

From the modern-day era of Greensboro Minor League Baseball…Going back to 1979, and up to the current-day edition of Greensboro Baseball…

It got me thinking this over this past Fourth of July Holiday Weekend…Thinking about the ownership and management groups that have run Greensboro Minor League Baseball over the years, going back to 1979….

The thing that got me thinking about it was when somebody asked me about Richard Sterban…Sterban is the bass singer for the Oak Ridge Boys band/musical group and he was a one time part-owner of the Greensboro Hornets minor league baseball team, back in 1979…

Sterban and the Oak Ridge Boys were on the Grand Old Opry Show, this past Saturday night, on Circle TV/WFMY TV 2.5…..

The 1979 Greensboro Hornets minor league baseball team was led by Larry Schmittou, from Nashville, Tennessee…Schmittou brought minor baseball back to Greensboro in 1979…Schmittou had an ownership group made up of many businessmen and country musicians, primarily from the Nashville area, with Sterban, Conway Twitty, and Jerry Reed, being big players…

Schmittou himself had a very solid sports background, especially in baseball…He coached the Vanderbilt Commodores college baseball team, and he owned numerous baseball teams and other sports franchises….
(Schmittou is now 79 years old.)

Some background on Schmittou, the Greensboro Minor League baseball owner, back in the late 70’s and early 80’s…

Larry Schmittou is an American entrepreneur and former baseball executive and coach. He owns S&S Family Entertainment LLC, which operates a chain of bowling centers in Tennessee, Kentucky, Ohio, and Indiana.

From 1968 to 1978, Schmittou was the head coach of Vanderbilt University’s baseball team, the Vanderbilt Commodores. From 1978 to 1996, he owned shares in several Minor League Baseball teams, beginning with the Nashville Sounds. He also owned shares in the Daytona Beach Islanders, Eugene Emeralds, Greensboro Hornets, Huntsville Stars, Salem Redbirds, Salt Lake City Gulls, Wichita Pilots/Wranglers, and Winston-Salem Spirits baseball teams as well as a minor league hockey team and minor league basketball team.

Schmittou’s baseball general manager in Greensboro, beginning in 1979, was Tom Romenesko…

Tom Romenesko was with Greensboro from 1979 until 1981…Romenesko was an outstanding GM and he brought in the San Diego Chicken and other entertaining acts, to add to the baseball experience, at the old War Memorial Stadium…

Romenesko, behind Schmittou’s backing, knew what it took to build back baseball in Greensboro….

After an absence of 10 years, minor-league baseball returned to Greensboro in 1979 amid considerable skepticism. An energetic young general manager named Tom Romenesko knew it would take more than just the game to lure people to Memorial Stadium. Thanks to a barrage of promotions and outstanding teams, Greensboro fans set South Atlantic League attendance records. One of Romenesko’s favorite nights was “sundae Sunday,’ with kids digging into an ice cream sundae that ran from home plate to first base and having to be hosed off afterward. Romenesko was the Sporting News Class A Executive of the Year in 1979 and ’80. He moved on to the front office of the San Diego Padres, has worked for the Mets and Angels and was a special assignments scout with Houston.

Part of the Greensboro Hornets’ early success and their business game plan unfolded, as we share these notes with you…

The team ran promotions virtually every night in 1979. A Used Car Night drew 8,215 fans to World War Memorial Stadium. A visit by Hall-of-Fame pitcher Bob Feller attracted 5,000. On August 22, 1979, the Hornets broke the stadium attendance record when 12,602 fans showed up for a game.

When Larry Schmittou bought the rights to Greensboro Hornets, it cost him $25,000 and then Schmittou’s group sold the Hornets for a reported $900,000 in 1989 to Raleigh, North Carolina businessman Steve Bryant. Not a bad return on your investment…

Team Ownership Groups going back to 1979….
1979-1988: Larry Schmittou, Conway Twitty, Richard Sterban, L.E. White, Cal Smith…

1989-1993: Steve Bryant

1993:Bill Collins group took over ownership, buying the team from Steve Bryant…
Carolina Diamond Baseball Club:
Principal Owners: William Collins Jr., William Collins III, John Horshok, Bill Lee, Tim Cullen, Harry Rhodes, George Nethercutt.
Chairman: William Collins III.

1994:This is when a local group of businessmen and women bought ownership shares in the Greensboro Baseball team, with Bill Lee, being the leader of this local group…(The Bill Collins Northern Virginia Baseball ownership group, remained the primary owners of the team, but they wanted to get local owners involved with the team).

William H./Bill Lee, a Greensboro resident and president of Periodical Management Marketing, Inc., of High Point.(Bill Lee now deceased.)
The Tri-White Baseball Group: consisting of former Greensboro district court judge Charles L. White, his wife Caramine White and his sister Mary J. White.
Mary D. Leeolou, a Greensboro resident whose brother, Bill Collins, III, is president of American Baseball Capital, Inc.
Port TeleConsult: consisting of Stephen R. Leeolou, husband of Mary Leeolou and CEO of Vangard Cellular of Greensboro.
Porter B. Thompson, a Greensboro businessman.
Bat Barristers: consisting of Greensboro attorneys E. Steve Schlosser, Jr.; Locke J. Clifford and Harry H. Clendenin, III.
State Street Partners: a Greensboro development group consisting of Thomas L. White, Jr.; Jeffrey W. Kentner and John C. Harmon.
S. Tony Gore, a Chapel Hill resident and Vangard Cellular executive.
FMG, Inc.: consisting of Periodical Management Marketing executives Jack L. Johnson, P. Randall McGraw, Bob Shupe and George Turnbull, all of Greensboro.
Mike Sullivan, a Greensboro businessman.

1999:Greensboro Baseball LLC took over control and ownership of the team, and this group led by Cooper Brantley, Len White and Jim Melvin as majority owners controls the team today, along with minority ownership partners, who retained ownership shares from the previous ownership groups…Copper Brantley is the primary owner and operating partner of the Greensboro Baseball LLC group today….

We mentioned Tom Romenesko being the General Manager that got the spark plugs working way back in 1979, with all of his major promotions and nights filled with a carnival-like atmosphere, creating a fun-filled form of entertainment, that had not been seen before on the Minor League Baseball level…At least not here in Greensboro, in previous Minor League Baseball installments…

A roll call of more of the General Managers that ran the Greensboro Baseball teams over the years….

Tom Romenesko…John Hopkins, Skip Wiseman, Rick Jacobson, John Dittrich, Marty Steele, John Frey, Bill Blackwell, Donald Moore…
(If your name was John over the years, you had a good chance to work for/with this franchise. John Hopkins, John Dittrich, John Horshok, John Frey, and on John Frey’s staff he had John Tudor and John Parisi.)

Major League Affiliations:
Pittsburgh Pirates (2019–present)
Miami Marlins (2003–2018)
New York Yankees (1990–2002)
Cincinnati Reds (1988–1989)
Boston Red Sox (1985–1987)
New York Yankees (1980–1984)
Cincinnati Reds (1979)

Nicknames:
Greensboro Grasshoppers (2005–present)
Greensboro Bats (1994–2004)
Greensboro Hornets (1979–1993)

The Greensboro Grasshoppers team moved into a new stadium – First Horizon Park – in 2005…..


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