Before baseball season began this year, representatives from Ripken Baseball Group visited the Columbia County Chamber of Commerce bi-monthly breakfast to talk about their new ownership of the Augusta GreenJackets minor league baseball team.
They found a receptive audience; Columbia County is a baseball community, and Chamber members know good business when they see one.
While the GreenJackets' first season under Ripken ownership is coming to a close, the relationship with Columbia County is just beginning. At Saturday's game, the Ripken group is scheduled to announce a cooperative initiative that will bring Ripken's brand of youth baseball and education to Columbia County. (See the letter today by Chamber Chairman George Duehring.)
This is a sure-fire home run: Ripken is a first-class sports business operation, and Columbia County's Chamber has increasingly built on its reputation as the premiere voice of business in the community.
For Columbia County, it couldn't be a better team. The twin state championships this year from Greenbrier High School (Georgia) and Augusta Christian (South Carolina), along with the Dixie Youth O Zone World Series championship from one of the county's Recreation Department teams, are just the latest examples of youth baseball success. It makes perfect sense for Ripken to choose Columbia County as the site for an academic and athletic partnership built around baseball.
Chamber Director Gordon Renshaw says the Ripken partnership will help the chamber fulfill its mission of improving the quality of life in Columbia County. Working through the Chamber's active Business Development Committee, the sports subcommittee also plans to use the initiative to help build a local fan base for minor league baseball - and, eventually, for local professional hockey. (The chamber should keep an eye on arena football, too.)
Details of the program, which will require a matching community investment of nearly $20,000, will be fleshed out at Saturday's game and in coming weeks, much of it after the minor league season and post-season has ended.
The Ripken reputation, and the chamber's leadership, ensure that Columbia County's youth will come out winners.
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