April 24, 2014

Elyria
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Crushers move quickly to name Jeff Isom as new manager

AVON — Lake Erie Crushers managing partner Steven Edelson and the team’s front office wanted to act quickly in their search for a manager to replace John Massarelli.

Mission accomplished.

Jeff Isom was hired as the second manager in Crushers history Tuesday and was formally introduced to the media and the community Wednesday afternoon in the team’s clubhouse at All Pro Freight Stadium.

Isom is not only a veteran Frontier League manager, having guided the Canton Crocodiles, Washington Wild Things and Traverse City Beach Bums, but is also coming to the Crushers after six seasons in affiliated ball as a manager in the Milwaukee Brewers organization.

“While our main goal is to bring another championship here, our additional goals, alongside of that, is to become more entrenched in the community,” Edelson said. “We want to do more things, like build a bigger fan base and to expand upon what may be the largest youth reading club in all of professional baseball, with over 26,000 students.

“So we did a lot of careful work. I started looking at 15 different resumes, whittled that down to five, spoke with and did background checks on all five, and we narrowed it down to one. I’m happy to say that the one we narrowed it down to is the one we got. We’re very, very lucky.”

Isom, who resides in Lafayette, Ind., with his wife and two children, a 9-year-old son and an 11-year-old daughter, plans on spending at least three days a week in his office in Avon during the offseason to help prepare the team for the coming season, while also getting out and being active within the community. He didn’t rule out eventually relocating his family to the area, and said they’d spend the summer with him here regardless.

“First off, I want to thank Steven Edelson for this opportunity,” Isom said. “What a great opportunity this is. I’ve been in this league before. I’m familiar with it. I’ve had success here in this league. I’m looking to continue the success that’s been done here.

“I always go into the season with two goals. One is to make the playoffs. The second one is to win a championship. Hopefully, I can go and build off of what’s been done here in the past with the help of Steven, Dan Helm, Bull (Andy Barch) and the rest of the front office looking forward to getting that done.”

Edelson opened the press conference by speaking highly of Massarelli.

“John had been with us since we opened the door here, and he was responsible for our first championship,” he said. “He’s been a big part of the organization. But as things would have it, as teams get older and as you get more entrenched in the community, sometimes you’re looking for different things to keep your ship moving on the right road.

“We ran a process and what the process was was to look at the right combination of credentials on the field and what they’ve been doing off the field. Off the field has been very important to us because, as you know, every year we become a bigger part of our immediate surrounding community and we’ve been trying to branch out throughout the Cleveland area – to the west, to the east and to the south.”

Ironically, Isom and Massarelli’s paths have crossed before. Massarelli replaced Isom as manager of the Wild Things, following the 2003 season, and built off of the success Isom had started with four consecutive division titles.

“When I left Washington, Pa., after coaching them the inaugural season and the following season, he ended up taking over,” Isom said. “I took another job and he came in after me. Now, X-amount of years later, I’m taking over for him. It’s quite ironic.”

Isom came highly recommended by Helm, the Crushers’ vice president of business operations, and Barch, the team’s play-by-play voice and director of media relations. Both worked closely with him in 2008 with the Class A West Virginia Power. That season, the Power went 77-62 and won the South Atlantic League championship.

“I think (hiring Isom) has as much to do with our front office as it has to do with our field,” Edelson said. “I think we have the best people in place with their jobs here, and the league does too because we keep getting votes for it.

“It was important, but I didn’t get his name from them. I may like somebody a tremendous amount, but if they don’t fit in with the staff, it makes things harder on everybody. How people fit in here is a big deal. So once I got it down to a few people, I asked Dan and his staff how much they knew of each one, and obviously, they knew Jeff very well. You want to bring in people that can work together and be comfortable.”

Isom knows he’s inheriting some talented players on the roster and looking forward to building off of what the team already has.

“We’ve gone over some initial talks with some of the players that will be here for next season,” Isom said. “In fact, that’s what I’ve been doing for the last two hours. What I’m going to do is take some time with it. I’m trying to get all the information I can on each player and decide what the best fit is for each player for our team.

“It’s been six years since I’ve had to build a team. With the Brewers, they basically tell you, ‘Here you go. Here’s your players.’ I’m going back and tweaking some things on my strategy on how I’m going to go about building a team, but at this point in time, we’re just looking over the roster and will make some decisions here shortly.”

Along with some of the people he will be working with, one of things that sold Isom was the facilities at All Pro Freight Stadium.

“This is an outstanding facility,” he said. “They didn’t cut any corners. They went high-end on everything that they did here. This is a very nice place, and any time you get a nice place like this, it makes the players easier to get. I know, speaking to some of the other managers in this league, they’ve said this is the crown jewel of the league and the best place to be.”

Isom is looking forward to meeting with hitting coach Dave Schaub and pitching coach Chris Steinborn. He said he is open to retaining them and will make decisions about his staff based off of those conversations.

Contact Dan Gilles at 329-7135 or dangilles73@gmail.com.