GJ Rockies’ Tim Ray selected Pioneer League exec of year

Grand Junction Rockies General manager Tim Ray, left, with manager Tony Diaz before a game this season, was selected the Pioneer League executive of the year Tuesday.

Almost one month after the inaugural season of the Grand Junction Rockies ended in the first round of the Pioneer League playoffs, Tim Ray is working on Year 2.

Later this week, he’ll be in Ogden, Utah, for the league meetings, and he is making adjustments in how the Rockies did things this past summer to make next summer better.

“We’re no different than any athletic team,” Ray said Tuesday morning after being selected the Pioneer League’s Executive of the Year. “After the season we got together with the ownership group and the staff to see what we can do better, what worked, what didn’t and move on.

“We’re already pumped up and excited for 2013. What excites us is the reception from the fans; they loved it. Tony Diaz said numerous times this was the best atmosphere in the league, and we take that to heart.”

After selling more than 1,400 season tickets in the first year since moving from Casper, Wyo., and drawing 101,496 fans to Suplizio Field this season, Ray is eager to see what 2013 brings. He knows there are things that need to improve, starting with eliminating lines at concessions and ticket booths.

“We know we made mistakes this year. My gosh, we made a bunch of them, but you learn from those, and that’s how you get better,” he said. “We need to figure out point of sale at the stadium. We cannot allow the lines when we have large crowds. We want large crowds. We’ve got to figure out how to better serve those people. They shouldn’t have to be waiting in line for that long to buy a beer and a hot dog.

“Our main focus is how to address that. We will and it’ll be better. That’s our No. 1 issue.”

Ray said he also wants to eliminate long lines to get into the stadium, whether that means opening gates earlier and encouraging fans to come early, perhaps allowing them to watch batting practice, or have some sort of entertainment.

Overall, though, he said the first year went better than he could have hoped.

“We could not have written a better first-year script,” he said. “Well, we could have; it would have been nice to win the whole thing, but it’s a great first step for this franchise. We were competitive, and that’s all we’ve ever asked, to be competitive. The rest of that takes care of itself.”

He credited his staff, starting with assistant GM Michael Ruvolo, and the group of interns for their work to make sure fans were taken care of, for the award.

The GJ Rockies’ ownership group, which includes Dick and Charlie Monfort, the owners of the Colorado Rockies, got involved and, he said, has a vision for the Rookie affiliate.

“I know it sounds crazy, but they truly want to become the best minor league franchise in the country,” Ray said. “Why not? That’s something to strive for.”

Seeing fans night after night at Suplizio Field was gratifying for Ray, especially after the last couple of seasons in Casper.

“Our fans created the atmosphere. They remind me of St. Louis fans, very well-educated,” Ray said. “I put that on JUCO, all the years hosting the national tournament. We do have educated fans to the point where very quickly our fans celebrated great plays by the opposition. It was refreshing.

“It was appreciated not only by the opponents and their players and coaches, but by our players and coaches. They would say, ‘Wow. We’re not received like that when we’re on the road. We get booed when we made great plays.’

“Here, they cheer it. It’s the sign of a great baseball town.”


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