ODP rubs some the wrong way

NEWARK, N.J. — There is no questioning the fact that Opening Day Partners knows how to run successful baseball franchises.

The organization, formerly known as Keystone Baseball, has been incredibly successful over the last eight-plus years running Camden, Lancaster, York (the Revs’ Sovereign Bank Stadium appears above) and Southern Maryland in the independent Atlantic League.

But along the way, ODP has acquired a reputation for making rash decisions when it comes to baseball operations. The organization adopted Baseball and Sports Associates — an agency that procured talent for four different teams, including York, in 2007 — and that moved backfired badly while creating an incredible conflict of interest.

And ODP has also shown a willingness to shake up its staff and remove its managers on the field. Last season, ODP made the first mid-season fire of an Atlantic League manager in league history when Lancaster let go of Frank Klebe.

That came after the organization let Wayne Krenchicki, a Trenton, N.J. native, walk after six seasons as the Camden Riversharks’ manager.

Krenchicki, now the manager of the Newark Bears, still has a bobble-head doll of himself on his desk decked out in Riversharks’ garb. And there’s a touch of bitterness in his voice when he discusses the way he was ushered out the door in Camden after leading the ‘Sharks to the Atlantic League’s best record from 2002 to 2005. 

“Once my contract was over, they brought in who they wanted to bring in,” said Krenchicki, 54, an eight-year major league veteran and a No. 1 pick of the Baltimore Orioles in 1976. “Basically what it boiled down to, I thought (Jon) Danos (ODP’s President) had a really nice relationship with (Joe) Ferguson (Camden’s current manager).

“But you’d think a guy who grew up 40 minutes from the Camden area would be an attractive person to have there. I guess they didn’t care.”

Krenchicki (whose bobble-head appears here) earned a bit of vindication last season when he guided Newark to the Atlantic League title in his first season in the Bears’ dugout. He’s also kept Newark competitive throughout this season, although a lack of consistent pitching will likely keep the Bears out of the playoffs. Still, Newark has the league’s best overall record at 72-64.

“I’m more than happy here and it probably wouldn’t happen (going back to Camden),” Krenchicki said. “It was curious to me. It shocked me. I’m not sure what the right word is to use.”

Krenchicki also said he was offered the opportunity to become BASA’s director last year. He turned down the job to stay on the field and Adam Gladstone, now the York Revolution’s director of baseball operations, was brought in to head BASA. 

Gladstone struggled to find talent for Bridgeport, Camden, York and Lancaster as affiliated signings and a sour player market left little talent available. BASA’s four teams had a combined record of 242-262 a season ago.

But to ODP’s credit, it ditched the agency this year — reinstating new directors of baseball operations for its franchises. Although Keith Lupton (Lancaster), David Keller (Camden) and Gladstone (York) were already on the organization’s payroll in different positions. Butch Hobson (Southern Maryland) was the only new addition to the expansion Blue Crabs and he also serves as Southern Maryland’s manager.

“We handle the baseball operations department. And, of course, in affiliated baseball the parent club handles all of that stuff,” Danos said earlier this year. “(In affiliated baseball) Players are employees of the Major League Baseball club.

“It’s actually a great thing. We have more control over the performance of the team, for better or worse. Instead of sitting back and watching it all take place before us, we can push some buttons to attempt to improve the situation should the team not be performing well.”


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