Osipoff: RailCats owner Salvi yearns for first title
April 18, 2012 11:18PM
Patrick Salvi, attorney for parents of Jayson Dansby , 3 years old, who was killed riding the one at "Go Bananas" in Norridge , Illinois speaks to the media. | Al Podgorski~Chicago Sun-Times
Updated: May 21, 2012 8:45AM
Two times, the RailCats have tasted the sweetness of winning a league championship.
Neither time was Pat Salvi their owner.
And as the 2012 season, his fifth running the franchise, draws closer, he’s getting increasingly antsy about hoisting the hardware.
“It’s not like I’m going to fire him (manager Greg Tagert), but he is under pressure,” Salvi said. “He has a contract — a good contract — through 2013. It’s not an ultimatum. But the expectation is to get us a championship.
“I really think the team is looking good on paper. There’s been a real strong push by Tagert to win the championship. I expect us to be challenging for a championship every year. I really want to win one. I’m getting impatient. He knows that. He’s as competitive as anyone. He’s regarded as a top manager, but but he has to produce like a top manager.”
Having left the Frontier League as its career leader in wins, Tagert took over the RailCats in 2005, and promptly — and beyond improbably — led them to a title, after the 2004 team had set the Northern League record for most losses in a season. The RailCats added a second championship in 2007.
Salvi bought the team in April of 2008.
And while the RailCats made the title series in both 2008 and ’09, running their streak of reaching that stage to a remarkable five straight seasons, and made the playoffs in 2010, they have not won a championship since ’07. Last season, their first in the American Association after the disintegration of the Northern League, they missed the playoffs, ending a run of six straight postseason appearances.
As he embarks on his fifth season as an owner, Salvi continues to expand his sphere of influence and knowledge. He has ongoing concerns about the RailCats’ geographic isolation, but generally likes the state of the American Association.
The Shreveport-Bossier Captains were sold, and have become the Laredo Lemurs, though Salvi said they will have to “hustle to get their ballpark done.” And the Fort Worth Cats will not play this season, leaving the league with 13 teams in three divisions, but were expected to return for 2013.
“The teams in the North are the most stable — us, Winnipeg, Fargo, Kansas City, Wichita, St. Paul, Lincoln and, to a lesser extent, Sioux City and Sioux Falls,” Salvi said.
“I’m more in tune with the stability of the league and the franchises. And I’m much more in tune with the quality of the commissioner’s office and how leadership affects success. With the Northern League, there was a lack of leadership and some instability with the franchises — the Schaumburg Flyers, Joliet JackHammers, Rockford RiverHawks, Lake County Fielders. It hurts the league, and independent baseball. I’m still a fan of independent baseball. But we have to concentrate on the quality owners, and the sufficient capitalization of all the teams. We have to have an adherence to strict rules and regulations, and doing everying in a business-like fashion. You can’t always worry about that next franchise or market. You have to start thinking about limiting the number of franchises in the league to maintain the value.”
With just five franchises in the Can-Am League, the American Association will participate in interleague play this season; Miles Wolff is the commissioner of both leagues. The RailCats are scheduled to play 11 road games against three Can-Am teams in July, covering some 2,600 miles, and a four-game home series against the Newark Bears in June. Their annual fan trip is slated to include New York City as part of the series at the New Jersey Jackals, managed by Joe Calfapietra, who held that position with the RailCats in their inaugural all-road season of 2002.
“It’s just a good fit from a scheduling standpoint,” Salvi said of the American Association/Can-Am League crossover.
Adding to his RailCats ownership, Salvi founded the expansion Schaumburg Boomers that will begin play in the Frontier League this season, and in February bought the North Shore Navigators, a college wood bat summer league team based in Lynn, Mass., that will play in the Futures Collegiate Baseball League.
“I own two other teams now, so I’ll be spread a little thinner,” Salvi said. “But I’ll still be spending the majority of my time with the RailCats. There’s no loyalty lost, or love lost, by having other franchises. It’s been fun learning the college wood bat model, and the Frontier League model. But I still have very high expectations for the RailCats.”