Team president John Katz was named SAL General Manager of the Year while Abby Naas, vice president of marketing and public relations, is the league’s Female Executive of the Year.
“This recognition would not be possible without the dedication and hard work of our entire front office staff throughout the season,” Katz said. “I’m honored to be chosen out of a group of so many incredibly bright and talented executives around the league, and appreciative of the award.”
It is the first GM award for Katz, who was named the Executive of the Year of the Carolina League in 2006 and California League in 2000. He has overseen the New York Mets SAL affiliate since October 2008, and was honored by the Mets with the 2009 Sterling Mets Minor League Executive of the Year Award.
Naas has twice been named the Midwest League Female Executive of the Year in 2010 and 2014 with the Fort Wayne TinCaps. As the SAL recipient, Naas is now a nominee to be nationally recognized as the Rawlings Woman Executive of the Year Award for all of Minor League Baseball. That award will be presented during the 2017 Winter Meetings in Orlando in December.
“2017 was a thrilling season in Columbia and I’m humbled by the recognition from the league,” said Naas. “I can’t thank my co-workers in the front office enough for their tireless contributions throughout the year. It’s truly a joy to be able to work with them on a daily basis.”
“Abby is incredibly deserving of the Female Executive of the Year Award,” Katz added. “Abby has been instrumental in building our brand from day one with the Fireflies, and took the lead in planning some of this year’s highlights, such as Total Eclipse of the Park and Purple Game 2.0. It is truly an honor to have Abby as a key member of our senior management team.”
Katz and Naas, along with the Fireflies front office and senior management teams, have overseen the growth of Columbia’s first professional baseball franchise in over a decade. The Fireflies moved into Spirit Communications Park in April of 2016 and, in each of the first two seasons, have set a new attendance record for a Columbia professional baseball organization. The Fireflies have hosted 576,168 fans for games and tens of thousands more for non-game events. The team’s per game attendance average rose from 3,785 fans per game in 2016 to 4,773 a night this year, a 21% increase from the inaugural season.
Naas was named one of the 11 Women of Influence by the Columbia Regional Business Report. According to CRBR, the award is given to young women who are setting the pace in their professional careers as well as working to make the Midlands a better place.