When Sugar Land Skeeters President and General Manager Jay Miller resigned last December to take a similar job in Wichita, Kansas, it left a huge gap on the top of the baseball team’s organization chart.
The Skeeters filled it by going back to their past. Right after Miller left, the team promoted Tyler Stamm to interim general manager and then made him the permanent general manager. In late March the team hired Chris Hill as president. Hill was the vice president from the team’s inception through the inaugural season in 2012. He was the organization’s first person on ground. He was responsible for the initial revenue generation for the Skeeters, including naming rights, skybox sales, ticket sales, and sponsorship sales, with a focus on stadium founding partnerships. Stamm, who was a sales intern that first year, was one of Hill’s first hires at the end of the season.
“I’m excited to get Chris back in here,” he said. “He was one of my very early mentors and he was, even throughout the years when he wasn’t here, he was always accessible, and I bent his ear on certain things and he’s guided me down the path. Chris has been a pretty vital person throughout my brief career.”
For Hill, returning to the Skeeters is like a homecoming.
“I think a lot of it is, this club for me, it’s emotional to me… I was the first one on site, and talked to hundreds of, thousands of people to explain what Minor League Baseball was, to explain what that promise to the community was all about,” he said. “And I loved it, it was a fantastic experience. It’s some of the best years I’ve ever had in sports.”
“We are thrilled that Chris has agreed to lead our organization,” said Skeeters owner Kevin Zlotnik. “We talked to many candidates, but Chris stood out with both his vast minor league experience and strong ties to the Sugar Land community. On behalf of my whole family, we cannot wait to see Chris elevate this franchise to even further heights.”
Just as the Skeeters have looked to their roots to find Hill, Hill is looking to return the Skeeters to their roots as well.
“Minor League Baseball is known to be a little bit whacky. I don’t know if we’ve been as whacky as we need to be, so there’ll be a little bit of that coming back. I’m a big fan of circuses, I like a circus going on, and it’s also having fun and having fun with the environment,” he said.
“We’re going to try to get back to our roots quite a bit being a Minor League Baseball team and understanding that’s who we are and what we do,” Stamm said. “More of the goofy stuff. We’ve got an ‘Office’ night planned, we’re going to do a ‘Game of Thrones’ night. So, we’ve done that in the last few years but we’re going to try and ramp that up. We’ve talked about bringing back visitor’s walk-up music. We used to play ‘Barbie Girl’ for a visitor who walked up, just kind of a goofy song that clearly they wouldn’t like just before they hit. Just more fan-engaging stuff. We’ve been playing the videos on the video board that make you laugh, just even more of that. Just pumping more juices into that kind of stuff.”
Hill recalls the craziness of the inaugural season and wants to bring a lot of that energy back for the Skeeters eighth season.
“It’s my job to create things that are interesting and new for people who either have never been here or who haven’t been here in a couple of years and so we’re constantly developing new and interesting things here at the ballpark. That was the promise we started with where you never knew who was going to show up. That first year Tracy McGrady, and (Roger) Clemens, Paul Wall, and all sorts of random celebrities rolling in out of the ballpark. There’s events at all levels and stuff. That energy’s really important,” he said. “What’s different is the club’s eight years old and so it’s a more mature organization and so I get to come in and find ways to make things new again.”
Capitalizing on popular television shows, the Skeeters will have an “Office” night and one for “Game of Thrones.” Hill is negotiating to bring in an actor from “The Office” to participate in skits and special events. On “Game of Thrones” night the Skeeters will have a bobblehead giveaway of manager Pete Incaviglia seated on the iconic throne.
“Those are the things I love in a game, the unexpected, the things you don’t get to see. The game itself is pretty predictable and it’s great. It’s the other things around it,” Hill said. “For the baseball fans we have fantastic baseball. We have good food – warm hot dogs and ice-cold beer, all the things you need in a game. For the non-baseball fans, it’s important that we have things for them. The bottom line goal is I want everyone when they leave the park to say they had a good time. It may be for seven different reasons and that’s fine. I just want them to have a good time.”
Hill is a native of Maryland and has spent more than 20 years working in professional sports and arena management. He started in Boise, Idaho (Short Season A- Anaheim Angels) and continued to the Wilmington Blue Rocks (Kansas City Royals High-A affiliate), Lake Elsinore Storm (Anaheim Angels Single-A affiliate) and Buffalo Bisons (Triple-A, Toronto Blue Jays) franchises.
Hill’s sports career highlights include producing the broadcast for the first game ever for the Colorado Rockies and Florida Marlins franchises. He designed the “Angry Eyes” Lake Elsinore Storm logo, which went on to become the top MiLB logo for 12 years running. He negotiated multiple stadium naming rights agreements and numerous regional broadcast TV schedules.
Since leaving the Skeeters in 2013, Hill has run his own award-winning communications firm, 180 Messaging. He and his wife, Christy, have three children, Caden, Siena, and Lauren, and have been residents of Missouri City for nine years.
Stamm, 30, is a native of Fort Worth.
“I ended up at A&M and I was actually a pre-med major; I was majoring in biology,” he said. “And then one of my friends said there’s a sports management degree and you’re going to take classes on sports. I thought there’s no way but I looked into it and it was true. So that summer after my sophomore year I switched. My parents weren’t thrilled. I went from being in a doctor style profession to sports. I’m just one of those people that, I’m doing what I love. The money is secondary to me. Baseball is my first love. This is what I felt I was meant to do.
“We had to intern to graduate in sports management, so I interned here and it just felt like where I needed to be from day one. I’m lucky enough, it was actually Chris who hired me full time. It’s really cool to see it come full circle and he’s back now,” Stamm said.
Stamm spent the inaugural season of the Skeeters as an intern.
“I went from sales intern to just sales person, to senior sales person, to assistant general manager, now to general manager. So it’s a steady progression over the years,” he said.
Stamm and his wife Jennifer have two dogs and a cat and recently bought a home in Richmond.