SALT LAKE CITY — As the Bees get underway with their 25th year in Salt Lake, there have been three main figures that have been a presence at the ballpark since at least 2005: legendary radio broadcaster Steve Klauke, the only radio voice in franchise history; Jeff Reeves, the only public address announcer in franchise history; and Marc Amicone, who has been the Bees’ general manager since 2005, when Larry H. Miller purchased the team.
Miller and Amicone met while playing softball — Miller’s No. 9 jersey that hangs in the Vivint Arena rafters is his softball number — and shortly after Miller purchased the then-Stingers, Amicone was appointed general manager.
“I was excited, I couldn’t wait. I said, ‘When can we start? Let’s get going,' so I was really, really excited,” Amicone said.
That excitement is still as fresh as ever as Amicone enters his 15th year as general manager of the club. In 2017, Amicone — the 2009 Pacific Coast League Executive of the Year — was named president of the team. Listening to Amicone speak, it’s clear that he’s passionate about the Bees and baseball in Utah.
Amicone, who played college baseball for Utah, jump-started his sports executive career as the general manager of the Salt Lake Golden Eagles hockey team. Amicone was named International Hockey League’s Executive of the Year in 1987 and 1988, as the Golden Eagles captured back-to-back IHL titles.
Amicone’s experience with the Golden Eagles taught him one of his most important lessons — how to be calm.
“Just to keep kind of an even keel. It’s a long season, and there are ups and downs, so it’s good for everybody to be calm and steady … The calmer I can be, the better it is for everybody else,” Amicone said.
After the Golden Eagles, Amicone went back to his alma mater, where he was director of marketing for the University of Utah athletic program for 16 years before getting the call from Miller to be general manager of the Stingers.
As general manager of a minor league baseball team, Amicone’s role is different from most pro sports GMs. The Los Angeles Angels, the parent club of the Bees, make all roster decisions — from the players on the rosters to the coaches. Amicone says that he does have conversations with the Angels, but Amicone’s role is in the business and operations side.
Fans are one of the main focuses of Amicone and the Bees organization. The best part of Amicone’s day at Smith’s Ballpark is walking around and talking to fans.
“It’s very, very rewarding when you see people out here smiling and having a good time. They may have had a rough day at work or mom or dad may have had a rough day with their kids that day, whoever it may be taking care of the children, they can relax a little bit. It’s fun to see friends and neighbors just here having a good time,” Amicone said.
It doesn’t matter if you like baseball or not — in fact, a lot of the Bees’ marketing is geared toward the experience of the ballpark. One of the big marketing campaigns is centered around the Smith’s produce race — a promotion during the middle of the fourth inning where people, dressed as various fruits and vegetables, race around the warning tracks, usually culminating in at least one person tripping over the bullpen mound on the third base side. Radio commercials are about the experience of a summer night at the ballpark. The Bees try to make a night at Smith’s Ballpark enjoyable for everyone — whether it’s their first baseball game or their thousandth.
“We think it’s a very valuable asset to the community. It’s a scenario where you don’t live or die by wins and losses. Whether we win the championship, people aren’t really on the edge of their seat over that … I think we provide a wonderful option and a fun place to be, no matter what sport you may like — and, even if you don’t like a sport — it’s a fun place to come with your family and friends … you can come and have great food and enjoy a night out in the sunshine,” Amicone said.
Amicone mentioned that the ballpark is a great option for a first date, and that many fans have come up to him and mentioned that their first date was a Bees (or Stingers, Buzz, Trappers or Gulls) game and that they’re married now.
The Bees, just one stop away from the MLB, provide high-level baseball. Triple-A features the best players not in the majors, and with Salt Lake being just a quick flight away from Anaheim, Angels players can make rehab appearances. Some of the brightest stars in baseball have made appearances in Salt Lake, including Mike Trout, David Ortiz, Torii Hunter and John Lackey.
“I think from a fan’s perspective, it’s a big thing. We want to believe also from a participation standpoint, for kids, that it’s a big deal. Brennon Lund is here, who grew up watching the Stingers — he’s probably too young to have watched the Gulls — but the Stingers and Bees for a while, probably emulating those guys and wanting to be here,” Amicone said.2 comments on this story
Driving Amicone is the desire to make Larry and Gail Miller proud.
“It’s almost like a piece of my family. Our family lives and dies with what’s happening at the Bees game all summer long. I personally really enjoy knowing how much Larry and now Gail (Miller) enjoy baseball and enjoy being here, so it means an awful lot to feel like we’re maintaining this team in the standards that he would enjoy and the great asset we are to the community. We want to do something that makes Larry proud all of the time, and also Gail and the family,” Amicone said.