Express Alumni Update: Doug Raftery
From the NWL to the MiLB and USL, Doug Raftery GM of Reno 1868 FC, has seen it all and is the topic of our Express Alumni Update today, presented by Lakeland University.
Raftery joined the Express days after graduating from Hood College in Maryland in 2012 as the team’s play-by-play broadcaster. By 2013, Raftery was operating as the team’s Director of Broadcasting and Media Relations, writing post-game recaps, feature stories, working with local media, and also on sponsorships, ticket sales, group sales, and special events.
Raftery later became the Senior Director of Corporate Partnerships for the Reno Aces, the Triple-A affiliate of the Arizona Diamondbacks, and Reno 1868 FC. Raftery was then elevated to become the Vice President of Corporate Sponsorships for the two teams prior to his promotion to Reno 1868 FC General Manager in 2019.
Take the time to read our conversation with Raftery below to learn more about his time with the Express and what drives him as a sport professional.
Q/A – Doug Raftery – General Manager – Reno 1868 FC
Eau Claire Express: When did you know that you wanted a career in the sports industry?
Doug Raftery: When I was a kid, I grew up in New Jersey as a New York Yankees fan. I would listen (with my dad) to John Sterling on the radio whenever we were in the car traveling to sports tournaments…typically soccer ones. It was neat being captivated for hours and I really latched onto the story-telling side of broadcasting. That’s where it all started.
ECE: Where did your journey take you after leaving Eau Claire?
DR: I was fortunate to get a phone call from a colleague who I got to know in my time in college who worked for the Frederick Keys, who played about five minutes down the road from my institution. He let me know he was on his way out. I was extremely interested and soon joined the Keys as a radio broadcaster and sponsorship account manager. I progressed to Director of Sponsorship after my first year, and then in late 2016, got the opportunity to take the Sr. Director of Corporate Partnerships job with the Reno Aces (Triple-A, Diamondbacks) and Reno 1868 FC (2nd Division soccer, San Jose Earthquakes affiliate). From there, I stepped in the VP role of the department, and then April 2019 joined 1868 FC as the General Manager.
ECE: What is a typical day in your position as General Manager?
DR: There certainly isn’t one. I am connected throughout the organization…meeting with our leadership team on building-wide strategies, our marketing and PR team, ticket sales, sponsorship sales, community department, graphic design, and game entertainment/video production. I also work hand-in-hand with our 1868 FC coaching staff on off-season and in-season needs and team operations, and work with the San Jose Earthquakes on logistics and player movement.
ECE: You have hopped between positions in both the baseball and soccer industries, what connects you to these sports?
DR: When I first started my career, I thought baseball and broadcasting was where I wanted to go. During my final year in Frederick, I simply lost the fire within to broadcast…the traveling got to me pretty good. Still love the idea of broadcasting, just not the travel that went with it. I enjoy baseball as a sport, but played soccer in college and have coached throughout the years as well. That’s the reason Reno was exciting to me – it had baseball as a backbone, but at the time, soccer hadn’t started…2017 was the first year. I stepped in November of 2016 and thought it was cool to build soccer on the sponsorship side while having a backbone of baseball included…same ownership group, possible crossover of partners, etc.
ECE: With an uncertain summer ahead of us, what keeps you motivated?
DR: This isn’t fun – certainly for the world – but our industry as well. I think knowing that we WILL play again is motivating. How are the things we accomplish now not only going to affect 2020, but 2021, 2022, and the future? Can you better yourself and your organization at the same time? Knowing that we aren’t perfect in any area always keeps me going…wanting to learn new things, understand what other teams/clubs are doing, and pushing my team to think outside the box keeps us motivated.
ECE: When games begin again what are you most looking forward to?
DR: The fans. It’s the reason we do what we do. Very grateful for those who spend their money to support our club and be a part of it.
ECE: What memories from your time with the Express stand out to you?
DR: I loved the area, Water St., Carson Park, the people, everything. From a staff standpoint, I really enjoyed working with the crew from a part-time position first to a full-time position. Andy Neborak at the time was a fantastic resource who pushed me professionally, Jeff Wolf upstairs in the press box was great, while I really got to know Chris Thompson well, who is now with the Portland Timbers…we still catch up. Dale Varsho was simply the most accessible manager from a media and personal standpoint I’ve ever worked with (and I didn’t know that until I had to work with many others). Paul Schomer in the press box and the magical PA voice of his. And Bill Rowlett always provided feedback that allowed me to progress in my role. The flexibility given to help at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire for their women’s soccer program helped get my soccer career off the ground, which I very much appreciate. The Santolin’s (especially Barb) were fantastic from a host family side, and I could name various listeners of the broadcast who made my time their very special.
ECE: What advice do you have for interns or young professionals?
DR: Work hard. Don’t look back and think “what could have been?” To be frank, there is no direct message or avenue that works for everyone. It’s your own personal story. I was a radio broadcaster now turned General Manager – everyone takes their own path. I think it’s important to really focus on an area you want to be involved in…do that really well…and then shadow/dabble into other areas to understand them. Once you put in the work in one area, other opportunities will open. I still consider myself a young professional and am learning every day…understand your weaknesses (they’re ok to have) and tackle them. Oh, and document. Take pictures. It’s neat to see where you’ve been.
The Eau Claire Express are a member of the finest developmental league for elite college baseball players, the Northwoods League. The Northwoods League is the proven leader in the development of elite college baseball players. Having completed its’ 26th season, the Northwoods League is the largest organized baseball league in the world with 22 teams, drawing significantly more fans, in a friendly ballpark experience, than any league of its kind. A valuable training ground for coaches, umpires and front office staff, over 230 Northwoods League players have advanced to Major League Baseball, including three-time All-Star and 2016 Roberto Clemente Award winner Curtis Granderson, three-time Cy Young Award winner and World Series Champion Max Scherzer (WAS), two-time World Series Champions Ben Zobrist (CHC) and Brandon Crawford (SFG) and World Series Champion Chris Sale (BOS). As well as 2019 Rookie of the Year and Home Run Derby Champion Pete Alonso (NYM) and MLB All-Star Jordan Zimmermann (DET). All league games are viewable live via the Northwoods League website. All league games are viewable live via the Northwoods League portal. For more information, visit www.eauclaireexpress.com or download the new Northwoods League Mobile App on the Apple App Store or on Google Play and set the Express as your favorite team.