Rockhounds Named Top Minor League Franchise

The Midland Rockhounds have been honored with the 2007 John H. Johnson President's Trophy, given to the minor league franchise that most typifies a complete baseball franchise.

On November 19, Minor League Baseball awarded the Oakland A's Double-A affiliate, the Midland Rockhounds, with the John H. Johnson President's Trophy. The team will officially be awarded the trophy at baseball's winter meetings, held this year in Nashville, Tenn., on December 3-6.

The honor was bestowed on Midland for being the minor league franchise that most exemplifies a complete minor league franchise. The categories that were most closely considered were 1) long-term franchise stability, 2) contribution to the community, 3) contribution to league stability, 4) financial success of the franchise and 5) the overall contribution to the industry.

In the official press release from Minor League Baseball, the Rockhounds were praised for being "a quiet, but solid, success story despite operating in one of the smallest markets in Double-A baseball." The Rockhounds averaged a franchise-record 4,096 tickets sold per game in 2007 and more than 250,000 tickets sold for the season. The Rockhounds home market of Midland-Odessa has fewer than 200,000 residents.

The release noted that team owners Miles Prentice and Bob Richmond and GM Monty Hoppel have "built a strong relationship with the Midland community." Prentice and Richmond purchased the franchise in 1990. The team has played in its current home, Citibank Ballpark, since 2002.

"This stadium and this complex are a tribute to the partnership that exists between our team and this community," Hoppel said in a statement released by the team.

"This is a stadium that rivals any in the nation, and to have this kind of facility in a market this size is possible only because of the dedication of a group of people who turned a dream into reality. That's why this award is shared with them."

The Midland franchise has an active community service program. The team has focused a lot of its charity work on schools and youth-in-sports programs. Every off-season, the team puts on a highly successful off-season sports banquet that helps raise considerable funds for charity. Since 1991, the banquet has raised more than $300,000 for charity. The Rockhounds sponsor more than 80 fund-raising events a year.

Hoppel said that the award was to be shared with the community.

"My favorite sight at our ballpark is standing at the front gate and watching families come to the ballpark," Hoppel said.

"Kids with their parents or even their grandparents. I look forward to enjoying that for many years to come."

This was the first time that the Midland Rockhounds have been awarded the John H. Johnson President's trophy. The Rockhounds are only the third Texas League franchise to win the award, which was established in 1974. The Midland franchise has existed since 1973, when it was an affiliate of the Chicago Cubs. Since that time, the Rockhounds have had only three affiliations (Cubs, Angels and A's).

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