02/08/2006 6:17 PM - The Northern League of Professional Baseball announced the appointment today of James W. (Jim) Weigel as Commissioner of the League, effective immediately. The announcement was made by Michael Tatoian, President of the Gary SouthShore RailCats and Chairman of the Commissioner Search Committee of the eight-member board of owners.
Weigel (pronounced WHY-gull, pictured at left), a 25 year veteran of Major League and Minor League Baseball management, replaces Mike Stone, who had previously announced his intention to retire from baseball. Weigel was elected to the position by unanimous vote of Northern League owners.
Weigel has enjoyed a successful and uniquely diverse career in professional baseball and brings broad experience in the industry to the top leadership position of the Northern League.
He has served as a Major League marketing director and is credited with the discovery and introduction to baseball of the Famous Chicken in San Diego. He also brings a successful tenure in baseball operations, serving as a Major League Director of Scouting and Player Development, where he oversaw the signing and development of Hall-of-Fame shortstop Ozzie Smith and future hall-of-famer Tony Gwynn as well as all-stars Ozzie Guillen and John Kruk.
Additionally, he has enjoyed tremendous success in minor league franchise management, serving as VP/General Manager of the Oklahoma City 89ers and Lansing Lugnuts. In Lansing, he oversaw the inception of the franchise that reached the one million mark in attendance faster than any club in minor league history and set an all-time minor league baseball record for merchandise sales.
Most recently, Weigel has served as baseball sales manager for a leading sign/video/display company.
In announcing the appointment, Tatoian echoed the leagues excitement with the addition of Weigel and his unique blend of experience.
"Jim Weigel's vast experience, his proven business success, his passion for baseball, and his ability to relate to our grass-roots fans will allow the Northern League to continue to maintain its position as the independent professional baseball leader in fan-friendly entertainment and per-game attendance, said Tatoian.
We also extend our thanks to Mike Stone for his service to the league and wish him the best.
Weigel began his career in professional baseball in 1971 with the Tulsa Oilers, the Triple-A affiliate of the St. Louis Cardinals. One year later, he was named Director of Promotions for the major league San Diego Padres, continuing with the club as Marketing Director over a five year tenure. Weigel became known for his creative promotions and the development of one of the first corporate sponsorship programs in Major League Baseball as the Padres showed yearly increases in attendance from 1973-77.
In 1977, Weigel was promoted to Director of Minor League and Scouting Operations for the Padres where he remained through 1981. During his tenure, he revamped the Padres farm system and oversaw the signing and developing 48 future major league players.
In 1982, Weigel returned to his native Oklahoma to become Vice President & General Manager of the Oklahoma City 89ers, the Texas Rangers Triple-A affiliate, where he led the franchise to 12 consecutive years of increased revenues and profits. The 89ers were named American Association Organization of the Year in both 1985 and 1992.
In 1995, Weigel moved to Michigan to become Vice President & General Manager of the Lansing Lugnuts, a new franchise that became one of the most successful first year teams in minor league baseball history. In 1996, their inaugural season, the Lugnuts drew a record 538,000 fans as a Single-A franchise, averaging over 7,000 fans per night. In both 1996 and 97, Lansing finished among the top five in attendance among the more than 200 teams in all of Minor League Baseball while finishing first in minor league retail merchandise sales both these years. Weigel was named Midwest League Executive of the Year in 1997.
Following the 1997 baseball season Weigel returned to Oklahoma to form his own business, Champion Sports Marketing. In 1999, he entered the sports scoreboard/video display industry and served as National Baseball Sales Manager for Trans Lux, Barco and Colorado Display Systems.
I am honored to be elected as Commissioner of the Northern League, the premier independent professional baseball league in North America said Weigel. I am looking forward to being part of the leagues growth as we expand into new markets while continuing to offer high-quality and affordable family entertainment and exciting baseball in our existing cities.
The Northern League Office will relocate to Weigels hometown of Norman, Oklahoma for the 2006 season.