RiverDawgs' GM Jackson released

Citing poor gate sales and challenging circumstances, the Southern Oregon RiverDawgs released general manager John Jackson of his duties on Thursday.

RiverDawgs president Steve Jensen said it "just came down to a budget decision," adding that Medford's summer collegiate wood bat baseball team got off to a disappointing start financially early with a stretch of cold, wet home games and struggled to generate enough revenue to sustain Jackson's position.

Southern Oregon opened its season with 14 of its first 18 games at Harry & David Field.

"The season started off bad for us," Jensen said. "We had a slew of home games, which is normally fine. But we had cold, windy nights the first week of the season, kids were still in school, graduations going on. Attendance at the beginning of the year compared to last year was way down and that kind of hurt our bottom line."

Southern Oregon head coach Chris Wolf will now also serve as player personnel director, while Jensen and sales and marketing director Greg Roberts will focus more on the business side of operations, Roberts said.

"It's going to be GM by committee," Jensen said.

Jackson was hired last summer as a full-time general manager with hopes of taking the team to "the next level," Jensen said in an August 28 article in the Mail Tribune. In its 10-year history, the club had never had that position.

Jackson, 43, is a Grants Pass resident. The former major college and minor league professional player had been an assistant coach at Everett Community College in Everett, Wash., for eight years and ran a baseball academy there for 10.

Jackson said things did not work out the way he and other members of the front office had envisioned.

"Someone had to go," Jackson said. "They weren't going to break up the team. It's a business decision. I understand.

"I put in a lot of time and hours and the production wasn't fruitful enough. It is a tough economy and tough environment to sell advertising in. We tried to raise the overall recognition of the team in the community. It just didn't pay off at the gate."

Roberts said the focus now is on turning around the franchise on a shoestring budget.

"It's a by-product of the current situation," Roberts said of Jackson's release. "We'd love to see everything turn out a lot different.

"Ultimately, the root cause was the economy more than anything else. It is a fight for anybody out there right now, including for us. You do the best you can."

Jensen declined to say how much Jackson was paid, but he said in August that a customary salary range for the position is $40,000. Jackson was hired specifically to help recruit college players to fill out the roster and work on fundraising projects and advertising and sponsorship packages.

Southern Oregon's attendance has been much lower than what the franchise hoped for, averaging about 200 spectators each game this year, Roberts said. The goal was to draw around 400 to 600 fans.

Jensen lamented the situation.

"I would say in this situation that John brought a lot of good things to the table as far as the college coaches and pro scouts and was able to bring some good players to our roster," Jensen said. "Probably his biggest drawback was being new to the area as far as being able to raise funds and promote the team like we wanted. It just came down to putting the team on the road and playing out the rest of the season.

"Hopefully down the road he can hook up with another ball club because he brings a lot to the table."

There is still plenty of optimism within the RiverDawg franchise, especially with the addition of a beer garden.

The City Council last week granted permission for the squad to bring in a concessionaire for nine weekend games this summer.

The RiverDawgs will host the Alaska Goldpanners on July 13. Roberts said the beer garden will be open at Harry & David Field and that the important date has been tentatively tabbed as a midseason fundraiser with several coinciding activities set.

Southern Oregon next hosts the Sonoma Seals at 7 p.m. Sunday night in a nonleague game at Harry & David Field. The promotion is a family day where youth baseball players can attend the game free with a paying adult.

On Monday, the team travels to Grants Pass to take on Sonoma at 7 p.m. at All Sports Park. The contest is an opportunity to showcase several members of the team with connections to the area, Roberts said.

Jackson said he is thankful for the opportunity and understanding of the situation.

"In the end, you have to make up your travel budget," Jackson said. "Everything is based on gate. When you go on trips for road games, with hotels and meals, and when you are not getting the gate you had expected in the budget process, something has to go."

Southern Oregon split with the Humboldt Crabs on Wednesday.

For more information on the team, visit soriverdawgs.com or find Southern Oregon on facebook.com by searching "RiverDawgs."

Reach reporter Dan Jones at 541-776-4499, or email djones@mailtribune.com

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