North Johnson had such a fine career in Single A that when it came time for promotion within the minor leagues, he skipped a rung all the way to Triple A.
The Myrtle Beach Pelicans' record-setting general manager has accepted an offer to take over the Gwinnett (Ga.) Braves, Atlanta's Triple-A affiliate. Johnson spent three years with the Pelicans, who established the highest single-season attendance marks in franchise history in 2008 and 2009.
Johnson, who was not available for comment, couldn't turn down the allure of leading a franchise at the top rung of the minors, Pelicans owner Chuck Greenberg said. The decision had nothing to do with ongoing efforts by a Greenberg-led investment group to buy the Texas Rangers, the owner said.
"The Braves approached him a few weeks about taking this position," Greenberg said. "As a guy that has been in the game for over 30 years, the thought of running a Triple-A franchise had always been appealing to him. We have such a great relationship with the Braves that at this stage of his career, the opportunity was attractive to him."
Johnson came to Myrtle Beach from the Rancho Cucamonga (Calif.) Quakes in 2005 after earning executive of the year honors from the California League. He was a central figure in the Pelicans' rebirth under an investment group led by Greenberg.
The Pelicans have upgraded their stadium, will host the California-Carolina League All-Star game this year for the second time in three seasons and have thrived in a crowded market under Johnson's leadership.
"He represented the values of our organization so well and did a terrific job," Greenberg said. "I'm happy for him, but I'm also excited about the future of the Pelicans moving forward. We've got a great staff in place and a terrific organization overall. We're going to miss North, but we're very excited about finding someone who can take the work he did and elevate us to an even higher level."
The Pelicans have been inundated with applications of people seeking to replace Johnson from across the minors, Greenberg said.
"We've already established an outstanding organization that puts on a memorable experience for fans every night," he said. "What we're looking for is somebody that will come in with a tremendous amount of energy. ... We want to expand our base in the business community and help get us to the next level."