Except for one brief detour, Bobby Holland has always been about baseball.
Holland, 38, is well into his seventh season as general manager at the Ripken Experience in Myrtle Beach, bringing a wealth of experience with him. He majored in sports management and played baseball at Old Dominion University in his home state of Virginia on a D1 scholarship – and was the winning pitcher for the 1996 Colonial Athletic Association championship game over James Madison University, sending his team to the NCAA regionals at Clemson that year.
“I was a baseball player that thought I was going to play baseball for the rest of my life,” he laughs. “I found out the hard way when I graduated that I was going to have to get a real job.” And that he did, including a three-year stint in various roles with the Richmond Braves, at the time a Triple-A affiliate of the Atlanta Braves.
For 18 months, Holland changed course and went to work for the entertainment industry behemoth, Live Nation. “I was the marketing director in Washington DC/Baltimore area – and I kind of got a crash course in concert marketing,” he says. “I would be working on Stones, U2 – Eminem, Billy Joel, Elton John – Ozzfest – you name it. It was definitely an interesting business.”
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But he came to an epiphany at Ozzfest.
“I was standing on the soundboard watching the mosh pit and people punching each other listening to death metal at 9 a.m. on a Sunday at Nissan Pavilion in Bristow, Va. I couldn’t help but ask myself ‘what the heck am I doing’ in terms of what I was doing with my career at the time. My wife and daughter were in church and I’m standing in the middle of Ozzfest. It was a bit of culture shock to say the least.”
Prior to coming on board with Ripken, Holland was general manager for the Potomac Nationals, High Class A affiliate of the Washington Nationals. In the back of his mind was the thought that he always wanted to live at the beach and work in baseball, and he got wind of the GM opening at Ripken at the baseball winter meetings in 2007 in Nashville, Tenn.. “I just kind of threw a Hail Mary and somebody caught it,” he says. “I went through about a three month interview process and have been here ever since.”
Holland and staff are in the middle of weekend tournaments and will be doing 10 weeks of summer week-long tournaments kicking off on June 8. “We had 72 straight days of programming between Presidents Day [Feb. 17] and the last week of April.” This involved more than 350 college and high school baseball and softball teams playing more than 1,000 games. As for the summer tournaments, he says that the Ripken Experience [ www.ripkenbaseball.com] expects to host 500 teams from across the U.S. and from Australia and Canada. “We have a team coming this summer for the third time from Melbourne, Australia,” he says.
The Ripken Experience now boasts nine baseball fields, having recently added two more diamonds based on classic yards, Ebbets Field and Crosley Field.
As we expected, Holland is involved in every nuance of the complex – putting together monthly financial statements, helping out with marketing, sponsorship sales, overseeing the food and beverage and retail departments – facility operations and grounds crew. “In this business there is never a dull moment. It varies as the year goes on. The best plan is just to make whatever the baseball schedule is your plan and call audibles as the day goes on.”
But this former pitcher knows the value of the team.
“We have a great staff here – a really talented staff, actually. Typically, there is a lot of turnover in minor league baseball and other sports – but we have had the same staff here for the last six years. I think a lot of the reason that this place has been so successful is because of the relationships we have been able to build through our staff. It’s a fun place to work.”
Holland lives in Carolina Forest with wife Amanda Holland, who we featured in a Working 4 a Living profile in 2013. The Hollands have three children, Hannah (10), Grayson (8) and baby Brooks.
“We’re really in a happy place right now,” says Holland. “I love Myrtle Beach. The people down here are genuine. We want to keep growing the complex and hopefully continue to build more fields, bring more teams in, build out fast-pitch softball next year and add week-long softball events for girls – giving as many kids the opportunity to play baseball in Myrtle Beach as we can.”