Over the weekend, the Yankees announced their plans to downsize and restructure the club’s farm system. As part of a larger effort to contract Minor League operations, the Yankees ended their affiliation with the Charleston RiverDogs and will shift their Single-A team up north to Dutchess County, NY, where they will become the Hudson Valley Renegades. The Renegades play in Wappinger Falls, a village located around 60 miles north of Yankee Stadium.
Hudson Valley was previously a Single-A affiliate of the Tampa Bay Rays.
The RiverDogs and the Renegades share more in common than an association with the Yankees. The sports management and consulting firm The Goldklang Group owns both teams (Marvin Goldklang also owns a minority stake in the New York Yankees). That the two teams are run by the same sports management group isn’t especially fascinating, though the fact becomes more intriguing upon learning who comprises The Goldklang Group’s leadership. The firm has several partners and one of them is Bill Murray.
Murray owns a home in Charleston, and as a part-owner of the team, he is a familiar face at RiverDogs games. More importantly, he also serves as the team’s Director of Fun, and yes, that’s his formal title.
While Murray’s love for baseball and his hometown Chicago Cubs are well known, fewer fans are aware of his connection to the Yankees’ farm system. But his enthusiasm for the RiverDogs and Renegades — both as a stakeholder and fan — is less surprising, considering that Minor League Baseball and its silly promotions and entertainment have become inextricably linked over the years.
Does Bill Murray exert a powerful influence over Yankees’ prospects? It’s hard to say. But as Director of Fun, Murray appears to have worked quite closely with the Yankees’ minor league players. What has Murray accomplished in his role?
Did Murray train with Tanner Swanson in the offseason? Because he’s clearly perfected his pitch framing.
Here at The Joe for Riverdogs' Opening Day. Partial owner Bill Murray caught the ceremonial first pitch. pic.twitter.com/Q6FgNKM6oo— Grace Raynor (@gmraynor) April 7, 2016
Murray was there with the Baby Bombers in 2016 when Nestor Cortes helped the RiverDogs clinch the South Atlantic League South Division title and the Class-A Yankees affiliate’s first playoff berth in 11 years. (Does anyone else want to see Murray do an impression of Cortes’ delivery?)
On the heels of Nestor Cortes' gem, Bill Murray and RiverDogs celebrate first-half title. https://t.co/7guTZoxFoF pic.twitter.com/pYkigs8uyF— Minor League Baseball (@MiLB) June 15, 2016
The Yankees typically play one of the older Yankeeography episodes during extended rain delays. The RiverDogs have Bill Murray provide entertainment.
He got some hang time in with John Tecklenburg, Charleston’s mayor. Note: it’s hard to make out, but I believe—and love—that his name tag reads “William James ‘Bill’ Murray.”
Congrats to the Riverdogs on a successful opening night! Great to see Bill Murray and Mayor Tecklenburg hanging out. pic.twitter.com/TcyoHbwEd1— The Vault Charleston (@thevaultchs) April 8, 2016
He wiggled his own head in tandem with a Bill Murray bobblehead at a Hudson Valley Renegades game. And he also kept fans apprised on the RiverDogs during the 2013 offseason.
Perhaps we’ll be seeing more of Murray, now that the Yankees have a new home in the Hudson Valley.