Locate Finger Lakes Business Journal

Auburn welcomes Don Lewis, Bob Ohmann as new Doubledays owners

LOCATE Finger Lakes Congratulates Bob Ohmann for his continued support of quality baseball in the Finger Lakes region. Thanks Bob for your significant contributions to the quality of life in our region.
– Mike Nozzolio, Chairman, LOCATE Finger Lakes.

AUBURN — Don Lewis and Bob Ohmann were already familiar with each other through their teams’ collegiate baseball league rivalry.

Now the pair will lead the next chapter of Auburn baseball.

Lewis and Ohmann are the heads of Auburn Baseball, Inc., which recently agreed to a deal with the city of Auburn for use of Falcon Park, which will see Auburn join the Perfect Game Collegiate Baseball League this summer.

On Friday, Lewis and Ohmann were joined by Auburn City Manager Jeff Dygert and Mayor Michael Quill to introduce the new edition of the Doubledays Friday at the Hilton Garden Inn. The team, which is maintaining the nickname of the former New York-Penn League franchise, begins play this June at Falcon Park.

By joining the Perfect Game league, Auburn ties a bow on an arduous process to secure baseball’s future in the city. Earlier this year, Major League Baseball officially seized control of the minor leagues and did not include 40 cities, including Auburn, in its new farm system.

“We took very serious the assignment that we had to try and keep baseball in Auburn,” said Dygert, who has served as the point guard for the team’s transition. “This really felt like a great fit. You’re gonna see these guys work really hard to put together a quality program.”

Lewis’ resume includes his ownership and presidency of the Mansfield Destroyers of the New York Collegiate Baseball League, while Ohmann is owner of the Geneva Redwings, another Perfect Game team.

Lewis and Ohmann both alluded to Falcon Park’s shine as the main attraction for bringing a Perfect Game team to Auburn. Because of a renovation that began in 2018, the ballpark now features a pristine turf field, while the facility as a whole should rank among the league’s best.

When it became apparent that Auburn’s future in the New York-Penn League was in doubt, Lewis and Ohmann immediately became interested in bringing a new flavor of baseball to a city that’s long supported it.

“Bob and I knew Auburn was a great market and that Major League Baseball had pulled out their team. Looking around the city of how much they missed baseball, with the beautiful facility they have over at Falcon Park, it was kind’ve a no-brainer,” Lewis said.

Auburn Baseball, Inc.’s rental agreement for Falcon Park runs for three years from 2021 to 2023, with an option to extend the deal for three more years after that. The ownership group will pay the city a total of $35,500 throughout the life of the three-year agreement.

Five percent of gross revenue from advertising and 10% of team merchandise sales will also be paid to the city.

Auburn Baseball, Inc. was also encouraged by city officials to keep the Doubledays nickname, which has been in use since 1996, instead of rebranding the team. Due to the “rich tradition,” the D’days nickname is here to stay.

“All these towns keep switching team names every other year,” Ohmann said. “We didn’t want to do that to the fans. Auburn is a proud city. Shoot, they’ve been in baseball since the 1800s. We really wanted to embrace the area.”

Once the hand-shaking is finished, the real work begins for Lewis and Ohmann. Auburn did announce two-thirds of its coaching staff, which will be led by John Russo and Ben Julian, but the team is still looking to add a pitching coach.

There is also the issue of who will play. Ohmann acknowledged that most teams have their rosters in place by October, but because the rental agreement with Auburn did not come into focus until February, the team is behind the eight-ball in that respect.

The Doubledays are still actively searching for host families for the players, many of whom could be traveling into Auburn for the summer from out of state.

Auburn’s interest in the New York-Penn League team faded in recent years, with the Doubledays finishing last or second-to-last in attendance in each of its final five years in the league. One of Lewis’ and Ohmann’s goals will be to have the Doubledays as an active participant in the community, even at functions not necessarily related to baseball.

“Our players are going to be involved, our mascot is going to be involved,” Lewis said. “We’ll be at all the parades, we’ll be involved in the community. We’ve already got a lot of fun promotions hooked up with some sponsors. (The players) will be in the stands signing autographs, they’ll be at the gate handing out information.”

Added Ohmann, “We want fan participation. There’s a lot of things you can do to keep up enthusiasm at the stadium.”

Auburn is scheduled to open its season June 5 against Geneva. Season tickets for the season range from $50 to $149, while game day general admission tickets will cost from $5 to $11. The Doubledays will play 28 home games and 26 road games, with the postseason in early August.

One of the benefits of the Perfect Game league, compared to the New York-Penn League, for avid fans will be the accessibility of all games. All 16 teams are located in New York state, with franchises ranging from Niagara to Albany.

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